Before the big inaugural flight of OpenSkies this coming Thursday, I wanted to make a quick post about my thoughts of them before the trip, if for no other reason than to see how my perception of them differs after the trip.
We’ve seen premium transtatlantic airlines fail recently– EOS, Maxjet, Silverjet, etc. The first thing I asked myself when thinking about OpenSkies is what makes them think they can survive, especially considering that the conditions for a start-up airline are now worse than ever, not only in terms of fuel prices, but also in terms of the slowing economy.
I’ve blogged about the failure of these airlines in the past, and the one thing I ultimately think caused them to fail is their lack of partnerships with other airlines. This is where OpenSkies has the advantage, being partnered with British Airways, not to mention the whole OneWorld alliance. By being in an alliance that big they don’t necessarily need all their customers to be loyal to OpenSkies, but by connection just loyal to OneWorld or BA. Furthermore, their costs should be lower than most start up airlines, because I assume (although have no clue, other than logic and space constraints), that check-in and lounges at JFK will be handled by BA.
Another thing I think will work in the advantage of OpenSkies is that they’re not all business class. While an all business class airline sounds nice in theory, I have to wonder what kind of load factors EOS, Maxjet, and Silverjet had. By mixing up their 757’s with 24 BIZ seats, 28 PREM+ seats, and 30 ECONOMY seats, it seems like they can tailor to more markets, which is a great idea in today’s industry, not to mention have nearly double the capacity of EOS. I think by doing this they can achieve higher load factors in each cabin, and overall maximize profitability. The one cabin which I find to be really innovative is the PREM+ cabin, which features 52″ of pitch, and based on the pictures I’ve seen looks as good, if not better, than most business class products from US airlines. I could see that as a popular choice for those not necessarily willing to pay for business class, but still willing to pay a premium.
Furthermore, their marketing department is in full swing, which is always a good sign for a start-up airline. OpenSkies has a pretty nifty blog, and in my opinion is off to a good start by putting 20 FlyerTalkers on the first flight. Let’s face it, FlyerTalkers love to travel, and this has generated a lot of goodwill, excitement, and most importantly buzz around the inaugural flight. They’ll have over 20 people on the first flight ready to report on the product, so as long as they bring their “A” game (which I can’t imagine them not doing on the inaugural), I think they’ll be looking pretty darn good to most. Lastly, they offer a pretty innovative service, a concierge team (see blog link above), which consists of ten people, all with really fancy names. Ten people seems like a lot considering each plane holds under 100 people, so it’ll be interesting to see how successful that is. If it’s done properly I’m sure the team could be profitable in and of itself through commission from those they recommend, but otherwise I doubt it’s a huge selling point for the airline.
So suffice it to say I’m pretty impressed by their product, but the ultimate test comes on Thursday. What I’m most excited about is the thought of being one of the first passengers ever on an airline, and to see how the crew performs. I can only imagine that they’ll bring their best game on the inaugural, as it all goes downhill from there (let’s face it, it’s true). If they’re good on the inaugural they have a good chance at success, but if they’re bad on the inaugural I doubt there’s much hope. That being said, I’m sure they’ll do well.
Expect a full trip report shortly after the flight!