La Compagnie Cheap Business Class Tickets Paris To New York

In mid-June I wrote about La Compagnie, a new airline offering all business class service between Paris and Newark. If there’s one lesson you’d think the airline industry has learned over the past decade, it’s that independent all business class transatlantic airlines don’t work. There’s a reason that all of the independent ones have gone out of business.

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Why La Compagnie’s business model is flawed

La Compagnie started service this past week between Paris and Newark, using their 757-200 aircraft. The aircraft has 74 angled flat business class seats. If you’re going to offer an all business class transatlantic product, it needs to at least be competitive. And this product simply isn’t. Lets look at the other players in the market:

  • Delta: all their aircraft on the route feature fully flat beds
  • OpenSkies (owned by British Airways): all their aircraft on the route feature fully flat beds
  • United: all their aircraft on the route feature fully flat beds
  • Air France: they just launched their new business class product on this route, and within a couple of years will exclusively have fully flat beds on the route
  • American: they’re in the process of installing fully flat beds

If you’re a new player to the market, it’s absolutely bizarre to me that you’d come in with an uncompetitive product.

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Quite possibly the most laughable part of their plan is that they’ll have three flight attendants for 74 business class passengers. I’ve talked to flight attendants from a variety of airlines about this, and they all laughed their asses off. Typically in business class you have one flight attendant per 10-12 passengers, so to have one per ~25 passengers is just insane, especially on such a short transatlantic flight where people want to maximize sleep. On the eastbound flights they’ll be lucky if they finish the dinner service by the time they reach Paris.

Amazing La Compagnie business class fares

Okay, now that I’m done ragging on them, let me point out how ridiculously good their fares are. Over summer they’re charging less for business class than many carriers are charging for economy class.

The fare is 500EUR one-way for the lowest restricted fare, regardless of which side of the Atlantic you’re originating on. These fares are available last minute with no minimum stay requirements.

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So a roundtrip fare is ~1,100EUR (~1,500USD) including all taxes, fees, and surcharges.

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And it gets even better than that. If two people are traveling, they have a special for 1,776EUR roundtrip for two people, which is a discount of 226EUR.

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That brings down the per person fare to 888EUR (~1,200USD).

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If you live in New York or Paris and want to fly transatlantic, this is a value that’s really tough to beat. Now, I wouldn’t book too far in advance because I’d be shocked if they’re around for more than a few months, but in theory this is a hell of a deal.

Ready to book your La Compagnie ticket? Too bad!

Amazingly enough La Compagnie still doesn’t have a website in English or one that works in the US. So if you’re in the US you’ll need an IP (or friend) in Europe to book your ticket. Unbelievable to be operating an airline between two markets without passengers in one of those markets being able to book tickets.

La-Compagnie-Website

La Compagnie’s founder

Fun fact. La Compagnie was founded by Frantz Yvelin, the same guy that founded L’Avion several years back, an airline which did exactly the same thing (all business class service between Paris and Newark).

That airline ended up being purchased by British Airways to add to their OpenSkies operation, which was one hell of a lucky break for them, since the airline wasn’t making any money.

It’s fascinating that the same guy would do exactly the same thing again. Is he hoping to get lucky and sell to British Airways again? It sure seems like the OpenSkies operation isn’t exactly profitable for British Airways, so I doubt they’d bite again.

Bottom line

I’m sure La Compagnie will have no problem filling planes at these prices, but even with a 100% load factor they’d be losing a lot of money. No one in their right mind would pay full fare business to fly La Compagnie over one of the airlines that offers a superior product, more frequencies, and better reliability.

That won’t stop me from flying them in the meantime, though!

So, who’s ready to give La Compagnie a shot?

Comments

  1. As your informant for the L’Avion angle – let’s say Air France / KLM doesn’t consider Newark – Paris a core market. And thus may be willing to get creative.

  2. To be honest, were I in the US wanting to go to Europe, I’d go La Compagnie in a heartbeat given the rates. I mean, it’s way inferior, but look here, at least you pay less for a J seat than a Y seat on a more premium airline (and let’s factor in UA and DL are the only better players for Biz as AA runs their 757 and 767 while AF hasn’t launched their new product yet).

  3. Hi Ben,

    I found your commentary on this new airline start-up quite interesting. You assume that the airline simply can’t succeed if it does not have a competitive business model, and that it seems foolish to start up a venture like this. You also mention that he previously founded L’Avion on the same business model which also didn’t last, although he sold it to British Airways.

    Initially I found your position persuasive and I fully agreed with it. La Compagnie simply didn’t make sense. But I was intrigued and looked into it.

    So here’s something for you to ponder:

    Frantz Yvelin created L’Avion when he was 28 years old and he sold it to British Airways shortly thereafter for $107 million. I don’t know what his ultimate vision is with La Compagnie, but looking at his track record to date, I certainly can’t call him stupid. Can you?

  4. @ Craig — Not at all calling him stupid, he’s clearly a brilliant guy. I’m intrigued, I just don’t get the angle. And I do believe he got REALLY luck with L’Avion. They weren’t making money and British Airways simply bought it so they wouldn’t have any competition in the all business class market between New York and Paris (which they’ve since scrapped by adding premium economy and economy).

  5. If I lived in the NY/NJ area, i would be all over this. Yes it’s an inferior business class product compared to other airlines, but I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. Given their prices, I think you should be looking at this as an AMAZING product for economy ticket prices.

  6. I have wondered this before, what is the fascination with NY (Newark too) and Paris? It is a great city no doubt, but if you want to capture business people and even celebrities out of NYC, why not London? I have to assume it has to do with landing slots. BA does this with JFK to London City. Not being an airline guy I plead ignorant on this point, but it seems NYC/London could use this, and maybe make a go of it?

    Sam

  7. Frantz Yvelin has funded the new airline with ÔéČ30 million of outside investment, so he’s not funding it himself.

    Suffice it to say that when this new carrier goes belly up, he’ll be out nothing but a reduction in pride, not net worth, and the investors will be left holding the bag. I wonder how anyone could have convinced investors that this was a business case that had any merit to it.

    Mind you I *hope* he succeeds – any competition helps to put downward pressure on prices. But I just don’t see it succeeding.

  8. Just tried booking EWR-CDG from a French IP but I can’t figure out how to book one way – doesn’t give that option. Any help would be appreciated…

  9. This is a great alternative for non-elite coach flyers looking for something better at a similar price point.

  10. I’d definitely fly them. This is about how much a coach fare on Delta would be, give or take a couple hundred bucks. I’d much rather be in an angled seat on this airline than an economy seat on Delta for 8 hours. I don’t fly enough or have the ability to credit card churn as much as I’d like, so this is a more realistic avenue for me since I’m saving my miles to go to NZ. I honestly think they’ll find a niche of people like me who simply can’t afford to spend $5000+ per person for “better” business products.

  11. Lucky,

    I think you are making the wrong comparison. This isn’t a product for a business customer that needs a large route network, already has status, and can get reimbursed for business class tickets (the main customers for business class on the majors). The product looks to be for a customer that is paying cash for what is ultimately a short flight and wants an experience that is better than economy. These prices and the service look more similar to international premium economy, which is OK for short flights. The question is whether the prices charged are enough to make the flights profitable – it doesn’t look like that is the case.

  12. They have one plane? Sure it’s crazy cheap, but how often is it going to get cancelled?

  13. Lucky, it looks like you forgot United from your list of other players. Everyone loves to hate them, but they serve JFK-CDG with a full flat business class product (even if their are some negatives about their service).

  14. @ Neil S. — Supposedly they have access to a spare Icelandair plane. Which is funny, because Icelandair doesn’t even have a real business class product, but just some domestic first class seats and then coach seats. I’d love to see that aircraft swapped in!

  15. One thing I would also note is that many carriers have been actively downgrading the coach experience on TATL flights. American’s coach cabin in their new 777 and British Airways’s coach cabin on their new 888 are both abominations (cramped 10 seat rows). Basically all carriers seem to be moving to the 10-across model when they can for these routes. This type of service is a nice alternative.

  16. Are they partnering with anyone? I’d love to try them, but first I need to get from/to AMS to/from CDG. Got plans to go to NYC in November, would be a great option!

  17. Lucky

    MaxJet was in this space from IAD/JFK to STN
    UK airports are all in the 19th century, but STN was way better than LHR for getting to places by car
    and to the city of London by the tube

    The prices were 999$ r/t and if you bought via Amex travels, 899$
    Yes, it was not a great product c/w LH F, but it was way better than economy for the same price or lower
    We were sad to see them go after having enjoyed a few trips

  18. I just flew a UA 757 from MAN to EWR and it was not THAT much better than Maxjet
    and the prices were outrageous
    I can live with an angled seat for that level of price difference

  19. Hey lucky, canada has not been blocked by the airline. canadians can start booking on the website.

  20. @ Rami — I assume @A was referring to EWR, which makes sense since that’s the exact route that La Compagnie is offering.

  21. I am currently France based and could be interested if I continue to be here. The complication would be that my US home base is IAH, so it may be more useful to visit NYC friends or vice versa. Or I guess I could be cash in miles for the last domestic leg.

  22. La Compagnie needs to do more marketing; this is a great service for cash paying travelers who want the comforts but not the cost of first/business class.

  23. I think the market is for frustrated economy travelers.

    I just found this, and find this all very intriguing. I travel to and from Korea once or twice a year. I am not rich by any means. But I have a tall torso, a bad lower back, and cannot sleep sitting up because of the discomfort. In the past 5 years I have purchased economy plus with mixed results. I’ve paid $140 for upgrades to economy plus, more money for additional luggage, more money when I had to change a departure, and the improvement in comfort was marginal. This has pushed me reluctantly will to pay more for more substantial comfort. The problem is, the value between economy and economy plus is too thin, and its impossible to buy an increase in comfort without more than doubling ones cost. I think there’s a market for people willing to pay more but not wanting to pay double: maybe 50% more.

    I have another trip coming up later this month. It set me off looking for affordable business class product, and really anything that reclines more than 38 is helpful. But for the most part, the lowest price business class seats are slightly more than double the business class seats, which is really more than I want to pay, but since I cannot imagine another painful 12 hour flight, I bought it nonetheless.

    Since the dawn of time, until about 50 years ago, long distance traveling has gotten better over time for all, including 3rd class passengers. In the last 50 years traveling is actually moving reverse. This sent me wondering, despite the roll out of new airplanes, the trend towards discomfort continues. Is there any way to bring comfort in flight to the masses? Would an all business class plane work? If all seats were one class couldn’t the price be brought down? What would make that economical.

    Along the way of trying to find my flight home, I stumbled upon these layouts by JAL – note the Business class suite/semicabin with independent access to the aisle for window seats and note the economy plus nearly equal to what Le Compagnie offers here:
    http://thedesignair.net/2013/03/04/a-closer-look-at-jals-sky-suite-777-interior/

    The JAL business class intrigued me. After some research I realize that a 2-4-2 alignment could be achieved in the new airbus 350 super wide bodies. Perhaps a planeload of seats in the style of JAL business sky suite on a a350 could be economical – especially on a transpacific flights.

  24. I just made the EWR-LTN booking for late September. Lucky’s article scared the hell out of me thinking that La Compagnie may not survive by then. I hope it won’t happen and at least they will last 2016 to fly me back to EWR in Oct. Should they fail to last what relief passengers like me will have any chance of refunds or fly on airlines acquiring La Compagnie in the same class on same dates at the same rate??

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