La Compagnie To Fly Newark To London Starting March 2015

I’ve written extensively about La Compagnie, the new French all business airline which operates a single 757 exclusively between Paris and Newark.

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La Compagnie cabin

I was on one of their first flights between Paris and Newark, which was rather amusing, to put it mildly.

There were several things that made La Compagnie especially fascinating:

  • La Compagnie was founded by the same guy that started L’Avion, which was later bought by OpenSkies, which also operates between New York and Paris
  • La Compagnie didn’t seem to have any timeline for when their first flight would be — they just claimed it would be “soon… very soon”
  • Their social media was kind of disastrous at the beginning, like them claiming on Facebook (in English!) that they couldn’t communicate in English for “legal reasons”

After my flight on La Compagnie I had the chance to speak with their Deputy CEO, who had some interesting insights into their goals.

La Compagnie is adding a lot of value for consumers

As I’ve freely admitted, there’s one thing I was wrong about. La Compagnie has kept around their amazingly low fares.

They’re still selling roundtrip all-in tickets between Newark and Paris for $1,499:

La-Compagnie-Fare-1

And for $2,599 they’re selling roundtrip all-in tickets for two people:

La-Compagnie-Fare-2

There’s no denying that adds value to the market. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. But for the occasional traveler flying exclusively between New York and Paris, you can’t argue with the price. That’s typically only marginally more expensive than economy, or in some cases even cheaper, especially close to departure.

La Compagnie is achieving an over 50% load factor

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about La Compagnie’s future. The CEO is claiming they’re achieving load factors of over 50%:

The Paris-Newark flights now operate six times a week and probably will go to daily service in January. Mr. Yvelin said the percentage of seats filled on that route in the first three months, normally a ramp-up phase, exceeded 50%, and the November load factor is “definitely a few points above that.”

Now, that’s not horrible for a start up, but they’re also basically giving away tickets. I think there’s a reason they’re focusing on the load factors and not the yields, because I’d be willing to bet the yields paint a completely different picture. It’s great to achieve over a 50% load factor on a 757 with 74 business class seats, but if they’re mostly being sold for $750 per direction including all taxes…

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La Compagnie seats

La Compagnie will fly between Newark and London

La Compagnie will be taking delivery of a second 757 shortly, and all along they had announced their plans to operate a second daily flight between Newark and Paris. That makes sense, given that it’s a French airline with French crews. If there were any expansion beyond that market I actually figured it would’ve been out of Paris to other points in the US, Canada, the Middle East, etc.

But it seems they’re changing their strategy, as they plan to launch service between Newark and London as of next March:

It plans to take delivery of its second 757 next week, which will enable La Compagnie to link Newark with a London airport. Mr. Yvelin said he arranged for takeoff and landing slots at London’s Gatwick Airport but also is exploring service from either Luton or Stansted, two smaller London-area airports, instead.

He hopes to start selling tickets on the London flights in December and to start flying by the end of March, probably five times a week initially.

This is certainly an interesting move. Will La Compagnie hire US crews? UK crews? Or will they cycle their French crews onto longer trips, whereby they’d work Paris to Newark to London to Newark to Paris each time?

Either way, at least in the short term this route will add value for many people flying between New York and London. There’s not presently a business class “discount” airline flying between the two markets, so it’ll be nice to have that addition. If the route ever gets off the ground, that is.

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La Compagnie dinner service

What this new route says about La Compagnie’s future

I don’t think anyone will disagree that La Compagnie would have preferred to operate a second daily flight between Newark and Paris instead, if the yields and load factors were there. Ground handling costs are much lower if you limit the number of airports you serve. At the same time, if you’re achieving a roughly 50% load factor (which isn’t bad for a startup), is there really room for a second daily flight?

The fact that they’re putting their second plane on a new route isn’t good news from their perspective, I’d think, or else this would have been their business plan from the beginning (which surely they had thought out carefully before taking tens of millions of dollars from investors).

When La Compagnie first started I gave them six months. I don’t think that was fair, given oil prices and the economy. Heck, Baltia Air Lines could be making money if they were flying right now. 😉

But when oil prices go up and/or the next recession hits…

Bottom line

As a consumer La Compagnie is awesome, as long as they stick to their current pricing scheme. Them operating more routes is great news.

Can’t wait to see how this plays out long term…

Have you flown La Compagnie yet, or would you fly them in the future between Newark and London?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. I would absolutely fly them if it worked out to either London or Paris. But, it’s not likely I ever will as I have not once had cause to set foot into Newark and it’s completely out of the way and unreasonable when I would first have to get to the New York area first. But, I love the idea. And if they ever expanded to Chicago, I’d give it a try.

  2. With the APD out of the UK that makes this decision all the more worrying…UK Business Class only’s have come and gone, STN didn’t work for Maxjet or Silverjet out of LTN.

    Can’t see it surviving…odd decision.

  3. Add the hassles and costs of schlepping to and from Newark and Gatwick and ask yourself is it really worth the savings?

  4. Actually, I hate that they’re flying out of LGW because it makes them look like LCCs. I loved how they flew out of CDG not ORY. However, EWR not JFK is totally worth it because avoiding the JFK hassle is just heavenly. Why not LHR-EWR?

  5. do they actually have a lounge at either Newark or Paris?

    i’d like for them to do well because i like the concept of all biz flight… sadly i have no plans to go to Paris any time soon.

  6. Ben,

    Have you heard about yesterday’s KLM fare mistaken between Rio and Europe for only 100 euro round trip? The fares were avaliable on expedia, KLM own website, kaykak and many others. Thousands of people bought it and now KLM is having a hard time trying to realize what to do.

  7. I think that high dollar business flyers can build the inconvenience of EWR and LGW into their schedules and expectations.

    I just cannot imagine that high dollar business flyers will ever build the risk of IRROPS and the impact of IRROPS into their expectations. They will insist upon flying carriers (AA, UA, BA, AF) who can adjust around anomolies.

    For this reason, I think La Compagnie will never rise above the level of a carrier serving leisure travelers who will pay more for greater comfort.

  8. I would definitely fly them EWR to London. I was about to resign myself to PE on Virgin or BA and wasn’t happy about it. This will be a perfect compromise. 0p

  9. If I lived on the East Coast, and was facing the prospect of paying for (Cattle Class) Economy on a legacy for a leisure trip, I’d jump at the chance to fly them instead.

  10. I dunno if you’re aware of this, Lucky, but fares ex-Europe to USA is so cheap that even La Compagnie can’t compete with it. You can fly ex-CPH to NYC, YYZ etc for 1200 EUR ai on *A JV. There is absolutely nothing that would justify flying with an airline like La Compagnie.

  11. We flew the inagural flight from Newark to London on La Compagnie on April 24th. I think they have learned from their experiences last summer when they started with the Paris route. The flight and crew were great. It was pretty neat as the owner of the company flew in for the ribbon cutting and reporters and people from the Port Authority were on hand for a press report. The flight was not full–perhaps 15-20 people, but it was great. I didn’t mind the lounge in Newark—thought it was very nice.
    We flew back on May 8th and it was a different plane than the one pictured in your reviews. Those seats were not at all comfortable. Although they were spacious there was no way to get comfortable for long and they reclined with the feet going down to the floor. This flight was almost full but was delayed leaving due to waiting on commuters from France? However it wasn’t that big a deal. The lounge in Luton was not impressive at all. Due to remodeling there were no restrooms in the lounge or near it. You had to climb a lot of stairs to get to it and then it was hot and not alot of seating. Not impressive at all!

    Overall La Compagnie was a great value for the money though and as I would not normally be able to fly business class I will definitely fly them again if I go back to London and Paris.

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