I’ve written extensively about La Compagnie, the new French all business airline which operates a single 757 exclusively between Paris and Newark.
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:
And for $2,599 they’re selling roundtrip all-in tickets for two people:
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…
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.
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…
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)