La Compagnie Acquires An Airbus A340 (Sort Of)

Oh man, oh man, oh man…

For almost a year now I’ve been writing regularly about La Compagnie. Last summer they launched all business class flights between Paris and Newark, and I had the chance to fly them on one of their very first flights.

La-Compagnie-4

Up until recently they only flew between Newark and Paris, while as of last month they launched service between Newark and London. There’s only one small catch — La Compagnie actually only has one plane to operate both routes. So they’ve been handling that in two ways:

But it gets even better than that. Laura just left the following comment on my recent post about La Compagnie canceling flights:

We have tickets with La Compagnie for tomorrow night (May 17) out of Newark to Luton. I just received an email that the flight will be operated by a Portuguese charter airline, HiFly.

They say this will be a business class service, but I’m nervous. I don’t know anything about this airline. I’m also nervous about coming back. Our return flight from Luton to Newark is in two weeks. Will they have their act together by then? Any insights from anyone would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

At first I thought this was a joke… but nope. Here’s part of the seatmap for tomorrow’s flight between Newark and London:

A340-300-6

There’s nothing quite as efficient as running a narrowbody all business class airline and operating a gas guzzling A340 in a 757’s place, eh?

A340-300

Looking at hifly’s website, my guess is that the flight will be operated by this ex-Emirates A340. It features a first class cabin:

A340-300-3

A340-300-4

A business class cabin:

A340-300-1

A340-300-2

And an economy class cabin:

A340-300-5

The flight will also be operated by Hifly crews (both pilots and cabin crew), so I’m curious how they execute an “all business class” service.

This just keeps getting juicier — I’m almost tempted to try and book this flight! For a airline run by really experienced industry executives, this is quite embarrassing.

If you’ve flown La Compagnie recently or plan on flying them soon, please do report back with your experiences!

Comments

  1. To be fair, hifly does also have a a340 with herringbone seating, but only 45, should be very interesting.

  2. According to what criteria will they allocate the seats? Every La Compagnie customer has the right to have the exact same seat, which creates an unsolvable problem as all those who won’t have the First/Business seats will be (understandably) angry. It’s really hard to believe that this airline is run by industry experts…

  3. When I first read your headline I thought perhaps they had purchased one of Malaysia Airline’s Airbus’s

  4. Maybe they’ll sell the 4-seat rows in the coach cabin as an upgrade – to a true flat bed!

  5. They are still selling tickets at the fully refundable rate of $3217.80 one way
    Newark-Luton on 5/17
    No mention of aircraft changes on their website.

  6. Get your rear end on that flight and report – the flying public demands nothing less!

  7. I’m going to bet they offer the people in “economy” the entire row and call it “business” this is a joke of an airline.

  8. Mr Aviation expert:
    Would you be so kind as to elaborate on the following allegation:
    “and operating a gas guzzling A340 in a 757’s place”

    Any info will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  9. Looks like they have 49 premium seats on their A340, 74 on their 757.

    I guess this means they’re running low load factors?

    🙂

  10. @ Minos:

    B757: twin engine narrowbody
    A340: four engine widebody

    Feel free to Google “Boeing 757” or “Airbus 340” if you’d like further information.

  11. Book it! Book it! It’s one of those quirky once in a lifetime experiences that will generate a great story.

  12. if they were half smart they’d sell the Y cabin at discount prices “flash sale” style … Plenty of demand on that route

  13. @lucky –

    Why don’t you reach out to them and seek an explanation of how they intend to operate their “all-business” service offering on this flight? Also, what is their long-term plans in light of this development?

  14. Go get that flight, man! The flying public demands it!!! (stolen from Flyinrian lol)

  15. Eponymous Coward, you have won my Best Post of the Day prize!

    And then don’t forget that there’s also the expense of operating a big plane when all you have is a little plane’s worth of passenger load.

    On a more serious note, and I don’t have the time or patience to research this, but I can’t for the life of me imagine how La Compagnie’s shenanigans could be legal under the DOT rules. A last minute equipment substitution? Mais oui, c’est permis! But this sort of pre-plannned scheduling of stops for non-stop flights and advertisement of services that simply won’t, and can’t, be delivered is a bit puzzling — at least to me.

  16. Can this be the aircraft that was involved in TLVgate and caused Saudia to end their business with Hifly?

  17. Yo Benny you ever plan on booking a business class seat on Hainan airlines? Interested to see a trip report.

  18. @Nachshol – That’d be really mean against La Compagnie.. The other one was an A333 and this is an ex-EK A343.

  19. Maybe LaCompagnie just subcontracted out some seats to HiFly in business class. However, economy class will be populated w/ regular charter/package tour passengers.

  20. Well they do have the plane\planes that was on the Saudia contract?

    Hifly is the outfit that Norwegian uses when their 787 goes tech, Hifly will give the service level that the airline hiring them specifies.

    Hope Le Compagnie is better at writing contracts the Norwegian, from what I have read Hifly first showed up without any content loaded on the IFE system on a ex-Emirates bird for the first runs with Norwegian since it was not in the contract.

  21. If you look on their website, they also have an ex-Virgin Atlantic A340, 9H-SEA, that would be rather comfortable.

    As well as two (CS-TFX and CS-TFW) with inflight bars!

  22. Just when I think I’ve heard it all. I’m supposed to fly them in 2 1/2 weeks and am beside myself. There is no way I am getting on HiFly. There Business Class looks hideous.

  23. I just e-mailed Peter Luethi and asked him for a clarification regarding HiFly and if they plan on having their aircraft on the route any time soon. I’ll let you know what he says.

  24. Actually, why doesn’t La Compagnie just buy an A340? They are so cheap to acquire, I’m sure that the purchase price would outweigh the high operating costs. La Compagnie is buying 757s, so they like old planes.

  25. I’m really curious to see how that unfolds! You should book the flight! I’m sure it would make an interesting story!

  26. @lucky –

    Just do it Ben! Do we need to get a Kickstarter campaign going for you on this?

    Really, you could justify it for the ratings alone!

  27. Yes! You have to fly on this service! How often is there an opportunity to fly business class on a strange airline like HiFly!

  28. Most probably they will be opting for European style business class in the economy section with one seat unoccupied between 2 seats.

  29. maybe they are using hiflys x Virgin Atlantic A340? At least they will have 45+ seats of the same class / quality and fly the rest vacant? The cost of running may be cheaper as it is not flying at max weight = less fuel? Either way dodgy and don’t think we will see them within the year
    http://www.hifly.aero/en/a340/9h-sea

  30. @ Craig — The seatmap does seem to pretty clearly indicate that it’s not the Virgin Atlantic configuration.

  31. @Corey

    Book Norwegian B787 Premium class and hope it goes tech and your chances are good you will get the Hifly experience.

  32. @ Nolan — While they would be cheap to buy/lease, from an operating cost perspective it would be virtually impossible to turn a profit on them long term, unfortunately.

  33. @ him — Well because as of now they only seem to be using the plane for a few flights. It’s not worth reconfiguring a plane for just a few flights.

  34. @ Bill — Hah, based on the seatmap it doesn’t look like it, though I guess you never know. Now THAT would be interesting!

  35. @ Rob — I assume they haven’t sold more seats than there are first/business class seats on the plane. But how they assigned first vs. business class seats on the plane is beyond me.

  36. There are still 4 seats available in J class, $3827.80, B0 007, operated by HI FLY Transporters Aereo, “752 – no configuration set”

  37. Ben, I was looking @ the Hainan website and SPG. Transfer from SPG to Hainan is one to one, plus you dont need too many miles to do roundtrip per the Hainan redemption chart. It would make an interesting trip report plus something new.

  38. Firstly a very big thank you to you Ben as you seem to be the only channel tracking and providing info on the very interesting twists and turns at this fledgling airline.
    This post is so far down the comments that I doubt if anyone but you will read it but I would still like to put a little historical perspective on the these events.
    Over 30 years ago an airline started operation with just one aircraft from the very unfashionable London Gatwick airport to the also unfashionable New York Newark. Most people thought it was doomed to fail as the Laker Skytrain had before.
    Running just one plane meant that they had tech issues and the resulting delays, cancellations and equipment changes from time to time but in those pre-internet days few people (other than those directly affected) knew anything about them.
    I experienced those problems myself, in 1986 I flew in a replacement plane (a very shabby Martinair DC-10) from Gatwick to Miami because the new airline’s 2nd aircraft was in for maintenance.
    You will have guessed by now….that “new” carrier was Virgin Atlantic.
    Despite the rotten replacement flight I continued to use Virgin in the early years because the product was so much better than the other options.
    For those not old enough to remember, transatlantic business class on BA and other flag carriers in the 80’s was about the same as current US domestic first (and I don’t mean transcon!!) Virgin invented J class as we currently know it.
    From all I have read in your blog it seems to me that La Compagnie are trying their best to do the right thing. OK so there have been unexpected problems (stuff happens when you are trying something for the first time) but it seems they are doing all they can to give people the service they have promised – even if that means leasing an A340 and flying with the back end empty.
    We live in different times now from the 80’s and it is important that people know what is going on so do keep up your excellent reporting. But, where we can, lets try to give La Compagnie a break.
    If Branson’s early operation had been exposed to scrutiny it most likely would not have looked good either. Yet, in the end, Virgin proved to be the standard setter that others have had to live up to. Who knows, maybe in 30 years you will be sat in the La Compagnie Clubhouse at Heathrow. Impossible? Perhaps, but who could have guessed how well VA would succeed.
    I am booked to fly La Compagnie in July – Hopefully I will eventually look back as having again played my part (as I did 30 years ago) in supporting an innovative airline that were moving forward the standards (for the price) and, above all, making flying fun!!

  39. Just flew La Compagnie last night EWR-CDG for the third time this year and was still quite impressed! The seats looked a little different which I pointed to the stewardess to which she replied “that’s our 2nd plane we’re using the other one to Luton” so not sure if they sorted the London flights out yet. The flight was almost full and service was good despite having only a few FA’s. Tablets are not connected to wires anymore they are charged and ready to use and the IFE has been vastly extended compared to a few months back. Everyone had a welcome drink and I think kuddos to Ben because it probably happened because of him! Overall a good experience not that far from legacy carriers business class BUT at such a value… I planned this trip just a few days ago and all business class direct flights were $10K+ while I paid for this trip $2K with La Compagnie. I’m flying this route 5-6 times a year at least so needless to say I hope that they do stay in business…coz then I’ll definitely be in business!

  40. Tomorrow night’s flight EWR-Luton just changed (via e-mail at 10:13am et – ~36 hours out) to HiFly A-340.

    Will report back on the seating. Needless to say, not excited.

  41. Just received this email from La Compagnie

    Dear Customers,

    We wish to inform you that due to exceptional operational constraints, your flight B0 007 from NY/Newark to London-Luton on May 20th 2015 will be operated with an Airbus A340 from HiFly.

    We chose HiFly, a Portuguese carrier, FAA approved, EASA and IOSA certified. It allows us as well to offer you a Business Class Seat alternative even though we will not be able to offer you our regular service. Our flying attendants will be on board to answer any of your questions and assist HiFly teams for inflight service.

    Our flight schedule remains the same:
    Departure NY/Newark Terminal B: 10:20pm Arrival London/Luton: 10:30am (+1)

    We apologize for this situation, and we will do our best efforts to match your expectations under these exceptional circumstances. We remain at your disposal, and should you need any additional information, you can contact us at:
    – Call center New York: 1 800 218 8187
    – Or via email: Contactny@lacompagnie.com

    Best regards,

    La Compagnie team

  42. Re: tomorrow’s changed flight:

    1. Apparently flight is not sold out so all passengers will be accommodated in the business section. No first class seats will be used
    2. Seat allocation not available
    3. Although it says regular service will not be offered, this (also) apparently refers only the plane. Regular crew and full service will be available. This remains to be seen.

    I spoke with the person in the call center and said that this must be very frustrating for them having to deal with this on such a regular occurrence, but she claimed that this was the fist time a plane change had happened, which from previous posts is clearly not true.

    La Compagnie probably needs to look up the meaning of the word ‘exceptional’. Maybe it means ‘daily’ in French.

  43. Currently sat awaiting a flight to London luton on la Compaigne in the same situation b00007
    Our flight out was cancelled with no notice, it was by chance I went to look at the itinerary online and found out about the flighty change
    Over 2 hours on the phone to the company and we boarded the plane the following day- but with NO vegetarian meal provided for us

    We received a limp salad with 2 cherry tomatoes, a pack of fruit (4 grapes one slice of pineapple and a slice of mango) and a yoghurt. It was not the dining experience I had i
    Anticipated to say the least

    I shall take plenty photos tonight and report back!

  44. Well I am home, we set off an hour late and arrived home late. My vegetarian meal was provided this time yet consisted of cold cooked vegetables on a lettuce leaf and berries. Surprising us vegetarians do not just live off vegetables

    The first class seats were taken by passengers. I enquired how they had decided to allocate these but no one could not wished to tell me.
    My business class seat was broken and the legs wouldn’t raise so sleep was rather uncomfortable. I sliced my elbow open on the chair in my sleep and was given a plaster- no antiseptic wipe- no accident report written.
    Breakfast was fruit, a croissant, some form of fruit strudel, I asked the steward what it was and they said they had no idea they just heat it up.

    I’m sure I have more to say on this- but I’m reasonably tired from a lack of sleep- some people took their covers and slept across the seats in standard class, a much more comfortable option than my broken elbow eating chair I am sure!

  45. Tonight’s flight from Luton (Friday 22nd May) that should have departed at 17:45 is now scheduled to depart at 23:45 some 6 hours delayed.

    I am flying with this airline on Sunday from LTN, I will report back my thoughts and findings, that’s if I ever get there with my family!

  46. On Wed 20th May I posted on La Compagnie’s Facebook page the following:

    “What has happened to your aircraft, why are you leasing an aircraft from HiFly in Portugal that is not an all business class service?”

    They did not reply to my post, however, on Thu 21st May at 11:11am someone named Nathan posted the following in response to my post:

    “It looks like one of their 757’s was having a C Check Maintenance – this is generally 1–2 weeks out of action. According to Peter Luethi (co-founder) – the last HiFly A340 flight is scheduled for today with everything back to normal after this. Which I am pleased about as I will be on the London – Newark on 29th May (Next Friday). I think then this means your Sunday flight will be back to normal too.”

    La compagnie were VERY quick to reply to his post, just 30 minutes after Nathan’s post on on Thu 21st May at 11:44am (remember they ignored my post)! they replied to Nathan with the following:

    “Thanks Nathan, you perfectly summed up the situation. Everything is back to normal now and all our passengers will be able to enjoy the 100% business class experience on board of our aircraft. Hope you will enjoy it both !”

    So today Fri 22nd May I asked the the following:

    “Doesn’t look like everything is back to normal to me, today’s flight from Luton that should have departed at 17:45 is not scheduled to depart until 23:45 – I calculate that to be some 6 hours delay.

    So what’s going on then?”

    I don’t expect a reply from La Compagnie.

  47. La Compagnie have just announced this some 6 hours after they cancelled tonights flight (Fri 22nd May) from LTN to NY:

    “All passengers from this evening’s LTN cancelled flight have been re-booked on La Compagnie May 23 from Newark to Luton.”

    “All affected passengers from tonight’s LTN flight will receive complimentary round trip airfare and US $660 in the form of travel vouchers.”

    I was speaking to a passenger this evening on the return flight from NY to LTN and he told me that they are going to consolidate Firday and Saturday’s flights and he will (should) be flying to LTN on Saturday now!

  48. Mark- they ignore me on Twitter too, I was told that a representative of the company would call me regarding my issues- I am not holding my breath

  49. The Friday 22 May flight 006 which was to fly LTN/EWR 17:45 was a complete and utter debacle. The airline has no regard for the customers and repeatedly lied and had us effectively captive in a “lounge” that is under construction, without enough seats for all of the passengers, where the temperature was extremely warm due to the construction and poor layout of the air conditioning ducts.
    Here are bullet points of the evening:
    Arrive 15:40 at the La Compagnie check-in counter
    Greeted by Aiden, “Country Manager” Apologizes that the flight took off late from EWR and will be 1:45 late (would make it 19:30, but see it posted at 20:30)
    Advises go to the lounge and relax and enjoy.
    Lounge is in dis repair but the staff were excellent(Servisair staff not La Compagnie)
    Approximately 19:00 Hours the Captain, First officer and lead attendant ask for everyone’s attention
    Captain advises the plane was in for a C check, passed, but paperwork was wrong and they “hope” to still fly.
    Plane in Papillion, France and then needs to go to Orly for catering and items removed before the C maintenance. Will update us in an hour.
    30 minutes or so later he advises that the plane left Papillion and was in route to Orly and we had a 23:45 departure and perhaps earlier.
    When asked the Captain assured us the crew would not time out and if so there was a contingency plan.
    Provided 14 pounds per person for food voucher.
    22:00 hours, no updates, no La Compagnie personnel in site and then a few passengers asked the lounge staff to reach out to La Compagnie for information.
    We were then told they were on their way.
    In the mean time someone tweeted La Compagnie and received a phone call from New York saying the flight had been cancelled!
    about 22:45 we asked again where the La Compagnie people were as we were stuck there as they had our luggage and supposedly a plan…
    The lounge staff was assured they were on their way and they told the airline it does not take an hour to get to the airport from their office.
    Aiden the “Country manager” and several others arrive to inform us the flight was cancelled that it in fact never left EWR!
    We said what happened to Papillion and the C check, he said no one ever said that… we all yelled the Captain did!
    Options were pray and stay for the next day at 17:45 or request a refund (you are on your own to find alternate accommodations, they do not get involved)
    They offered hotel and cover costs but not if took a refund.
    We saw people outside after they finally took us through security to get our luggage (approximately 00:20 23 May) who could not find the La Compagnie people, the bus that was to take them to the hotel or anything.
    People’s 3 day holiday weekend was ruined and La Compagnie could care less!
    The total unprofessionalism, abandoning us in a subpar lounge and holding themselves out as a Business Class carrier is reprehensible!

  50. I’m flying with them on June 22nd from luton and back on June 29th. I’m really nervous it’s gonna go tits up… But very excited if it goes smoothly. The good reviews seem great and the bad reviews seem awful! It could go either way!

  51. The 757 La Camp purchased maiden flight was in April 2000. It has had 7 subsequent owners including Ethiopian Air and Norwegian Air….based on the previous owners and the time it takes to reconfigure, paint, transfer..etc. I would guess the plane is in pretty good shape and has less cycles than a “normal” 16 yr old plane….thoughts??

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