La Compagnie Is Still Canceling Flights To London… Why?

La Compagnie is the all business class airline operating flights between Newark and Paris, and as of a couple of months ago, flights between Newark and London. The airline launched last July, and no doubt has had some “growing” pains as they ramped up operations, despite being run by two seasoned airline executives.

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Unfortunately the operational challenges don’t seem to have become much better since they launched their second route between Newark and London. Due to a combination of late delivery of their second plane and routine maintenance on their first plane, they had some “creative” solutions to operating their schedule:

I spoke to La Compagnie’s Deputy CEO at the time, and he assured me that the airline would operate their Newark to London frequencies 6x weekly as of June 1, 2015.

But unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve received dozens of emails, messages, and comments from readers who have been notified that their July/August flights between Newark and London have been canceled “due to operational constraints.”

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I’ve reached out to La Compagnie’s Deputy CEO once again to get clarification on what’s going on, and received the following statement from him:

Yes, it is a fact that we have curtailed the operations between New York and London in the month of July and we have informed the clients that we automatically rebooked them to the day before or after at no charge. If a client requests to cancel the trip we offer full refund, likewise, should a client want to change the date to another time not adjacent to the day of our cancelation, we would also accommodate such requests.

I must admit that our ramp up program was a little too ambitious. We did experience delays in the performance of the C-check of our aircraft number 1, which resulted in operational irregularities and this has a ripple effect into July. The dates that are in the system are indeed the dates we will plan to operate and for the months to come we will gradually increase our services to six weekly operations. While our services to and from Paris will continue on a daily basis.

This is ultimately really disappointing on the part of La Compagnie. The most basic service an airline can offer is safe, punctual travel between two points. We’ve heard excuse after excuse. And I get it’s challenging to run an airline with only two planes… but I’m also not the one who took on that task. 😉

My guess is that the cancellations have more to do with light loads than a “ripple effect” from operational irregularities (or perhaps the “ripple effect” is that not many people are booking the flights, and therefore they’re not operating them).

I’ve cautiously recommended La Compagnie up until this point. I’ve explained that while they don’t have the best business class product, they represent an incredible value, as they charge a fraction of what the other carriers in the market charge. They’re basically charging slightly more than economy for business class.

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But reader Craig recently left the following comment on a recent post about La Compagnie, which raises a valid point about my “endorsement” of them:

I think we are approaching the time where you must consider taking the position of making a stern “No FLY” recommendation to your readers for La Compagnie!

After reading up on La Compagnie regularly and seeing the great number of cancellations and headaches it is causing, I can’t see how anyone can recommend an airline, not knowing whether you will be on a flight or not, or whether it will be canceled with almost no notice at all. I don’t think it matters whether the flight is an exceptional value, the staff is extremely pleasant or you can start out on their frequent flyer program with 10 credits. If you can’t rely on an airline to transport you, what good are they?

Perhaps some people have such flexible schedules that they can go any time the airline wants to put them on a flight, but I imagine the vast majority of people make hotel reservations, have time commitments, utilize positioning and connecting flights, and assume they will be flying within a few hours of their scheduled departure times, as opposed to a few days.

You, yourself, have questioned from the beginning whether La Compagnie can even sustain its business model for any significant period of time. You wonder what is wrong with their management. You call them an operational nightmare! Perhaps this is the beginning of the end.

So Ben — at what point do you think it is reasonable for a frequent flyer guru such as yourself to form an opinion that an airline is too unreliable to fly, and if so, should you share that opinion with your readers?

And I think Craig is onto something. While La Compagnie is operating their Newark to Paris flight regularly, that’s not the case for their Newark to London flight. So assuming you care about the day you fly (which I assume most people do, when they book a non-refundable ticket), I probably can’t in good conscience recommend La Compagnie in the market.

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Bottom line

I’ve questioned the long term sustainability of La Compagnie for a while, though this is just truly puzzling to me. At some point an airline has to actually operate flights as promised. They’re going after a niche market here, and I can’t help but feel like they’re giving many passengers a bad impression. And that’s not something you can afford to do when you’re going after a fairly small market.

So I suppose that’s my “word of warning” regarding La Compagnie… am I going too easy on La Compagnie, or am I being too rough on them? You guys tell me!

Comments

  1. Thanks for finally making the thumbs down call on La Compagnie!

    Maybe they will get their act together and maybe not, but for now, they are on my no-fly list! Glad to see they are on yours.

  2. “we automatically rebooked them to the day before or after at no charge”

    Such courtesy!

    At a minimum I’d expect they should do this and offer a free roundtrip ticket for future use.

    If of course there are future flights on which to use them.

  3. In case of cancellation, I would expect to be rebooked on another airline’s direct flight, on the original date, in business class. A day before/after or refund is unacceptable.

  4. If a person choses to fly with a company with only 2 planes and such cheap fares, it should expect bumps and bruises.
    This is even worse than those domestic low cost carriers (we all know who they are) that are about to charge for using the toilet.
    Just like everything in life, you get for what you pay, it’s just that simple.

  5. Looking at B0 100 from CDG to EWR, not a SINGLE flight in the past 2 weeks has took off and landed on time. The flight is scheduled to land around 1:45PM; the 7 day average according to FlightAware is 2:57PM. Unless youre really flexible with your timings and dont mind being delayed in the hellhole that is CDG, stay away.

  6. The only reason people are up in arms about this airline is that they’re claiming to be a J airline when they are not. Why dont they market themselves as ‘the worlds best premium eocnomy’ and settle for that? They can still charge more than Y (as its a much better product) but no one will be disappointed with what they receive as they were not expecting J. If they’re calling it J then people expect J.
    I would have thought if you had a one airplane airline and the C check was coming up around the same time as you were taking delivery of your second plane that you would get plane 2 to cover plane 1 during plane 1’s maintenance before launching a second route but thats just me….

  7. There is no way I would fly this airline, the gentlemen who made the comment about reliability is correct. What about safety? There is something going on here more than a plane being out of service. I don’t fly a lot anymore and I read your blog to see which airlines are worth paying for because I wont have miles. I expect you to be ruthless with these companies. Pull the pin Ben and send people away from this airline

  8. I flew with them in early June and enjoyed it, on the journey out we had the Airbus, that was better than their own plane. It’s not full business, but very close.

  9. You get what you pay for. Wonder how many pax are waiting for PeopleExpress 2 to resume scheduled service.

  10. That was a well balanced and accurate assessment of the current situation Ben and thanks for still being the only reference point on the web that seems to be tracking LC’s difficulties and their reactions to them. I fully agree that the reduction in the EWR/LTN schedule is most likely due a lower level of booking than expected.
    However I do want to add a few comments in LC’s defence:

    Although it was not mentioned in the statement from the deputy CEO it has been confirmed in a post on flyertalk and elsewhere that the airline is, in addition to rebooking, also giving free round trips to passengers who have been effected. In the case on flyertalk @Nancy has been able to book a new free return flight to Paris (a service which, as you say, is operating regularly and with reasonable load factors) even though it was only the LTN/EWR leg of her London trip that was delayed by 24 hours.

    People like @echino who in the event of cancellation “would expect to be rebooked on another airline’s direct flight, on the original date, in business class.” would be best advised to book in business with a legacy carrier who will certainly do that but, as we all know, it means excepting a very much higher ticket price to gain the privilege of that flexibility.

    There is no foundation for the suggestions made (not by you, of course!) but in the comments above that cuts in flight schedules indicates a possible reduction in safety standards. The line maintenance for LC at Luton is contracted to the independent British company Monarch Aircraft Engineering. Implying that their professional and licensed engineers would allow commercial factors to impinge on aircraft safety is inexcusable.

    As you say yourself flying with LC offers “incredible” value. The very worst that has happened to any passenger is a 24 hour delay (for which they have been compensated) and these longer delays have been almost exclusively on the fledgling EWR/LTN route which is only is it’s first few months of operation.

    Try to look forward a year or so and think of the benefit to passengers once the new route is operating with higher efficiency because of better load factors. This seems to have been the way the Paris service has developed. For those benefits to come in the end I suggest it is worth cutting LC a little slack short term.

    While I can understand your not wanting to recommend LC, please don’t take a positive stance against the airline either. Just keep doing what you do so well, giving us, your readers, the objective facts so we can make our own choice to either enjoy the space and luxury of an LC flight with the (slight?) risk of 24 hour delay or to pack in the back of a legacy carrier’s aircraft for about the same price and a (slightly?) more reliable economy service.

  11. We flew with them (LTN – EWR) earlier in the month and I can honestly say the entire experience was extremely positive. The highlights were the speed (entry/exit) through both airports, the service, the food and the overall comfort of the flight.
    Yes, if you compare it to true business on some of the larger airlines – then you might be slightly disappointed, but considering the price of the tickets (based on prices still available) – it really was excellent.

    Having said all that, it turns out that the flight on the following day to our flight was cancelled with people being moved onto the flight the day after. If that had happened to us, it would have ruined the entire weekend, making it hardly worthwhile going and therefore potentially costing $100’s in non-refundable hotel bookings. So we were quite lucky.
    I also notice that at least one person’s negative comments have been removed from their Facebook page, which I totally disagree with.

    I genuinely hope this route works out for La Compagnie, as not having to make the journey to LHR all the time is a major positive for me. I also prefer travelling on the smaller plane, with far less passengers to loose in the airport and far fewer people queuing at the gate / baggage carousel. I like the fact that it is affordable to travel ‘business’ when paying myself!
    They definitely have the right product, at the right price, but reading around on social media, it appears that, frustratingly, they make so many mistakes when it comes to basics such as customer service and punctuality…

  12. Having just had my flight cancelled I certainly would never fly them again. They have offered to rebook me on the following day’s flight but that is not an option for me. The other problem is that there is no customer service. Literally — there is no one to talk to — they gave me an email address and told me I would probably hear back on Monday (today is Saturday). I am not holding my breath. If you’re starting a new venture and want to build customer loyalty and you are having some disruptions in service at the very least have some good customer support!!

  13. I did finally hear from someone at the airline (after my Luton-Newark flight was cancelled) but they are only able to book me on a flight the following day. I told them I would even accept an economy ticket on another airline for that leg of the flight but they cannot do that. I disagree with the comment above that it is “only” a 24 hour delay. I scheduled my flight on a Sunday because I have work commitments on Monday so I cannot accept a 24 hour delay. It turns out the Friday flight on that weekend has been cancelled as well. I just don’t trust that my outgoing flight or rescheduled return flight won’t be cancelled in the end. Too much of a hassle as far as I’m concerned. Traveling is stressful enough without worrying about my flight being cancelled. I took a full refund for the ticket and booked on another airline.

  14. The problem with most of the comments here is that we are an incredibly demanding bunch that is absolutely not representative of the market as a whole. For one thing, 99.9% of regular people coming across frequent flyer jargon such as “J airline” will believe this “has to do with Japan maybe or something ?” 🙂

    Believe it or not, as annoying as it would surely be, it would never occur to me to complain *that* much about a 24 hour delay when I’ve literally just had a 70-80% discount over competitors’ regular prices. Keeping that in mind would certainly go a long way towards easing the pain of a lost hotel night, at least.

    Business travellers who can’t afford to miss a meeting and love to use words like “unacceptable”, should then just do what business customers always do : play it safe for now and pay extra for certainty.
    Just don’t be so sure that there isn’t another class of customers that will be more understanding of teething operational problems given the price.

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