La Compagnie, a new boutique airline (remember those?) is launching flights between Newark and Paris on July 11. Though its layout is all business-class layout, flights are priced closer to what you might expect for coach.
At a news conference to unveil the new name and livery (the line had been using the working name “Dreamjet”), co-founder Peter Luethi said roundtrip fares would range from $1,800 with restrictions to a fully flexible $4,600, and that prices could go even lower during sale periods. A check of major airlines on the same route in July showed the cheapest fare was approximately $1,600 roundtrip and more than $2,000 for premium economy. The line is currently awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to advertise fares here, but already has the greenlight from French authorities to take reservations. It’s starting with one plane, a single-aisle 757 with 74 lie-flat seat-beds, which will operate five flights per week. The goal is to offer daily flights by November, when it takes delivery of a second jet.
If this all sounds familiar, it is: La Compagnie is the brainchild of French entrepreneur Frantz Yvelin, who founded L’Avion, another premium boutique carrier that served the same route. L’Avion was acquired by British Airways in 2008, which merged it into its OpenSkies subsidiary.
But Luethi, a former executive with both Swissair and Jet Airways, stressed that this isn’t just a rehash of a tired business model a la Maxjet and Eos, two upscale lines that are now defunct. “It is not déjà vu,” he explains. “We have a new model that will be more cost efficient.” According to Luethi, the airline is starting out with €30 million in financing from a group of more than 40 investors. It doesn’t aspire to be the most luxurious product in the sky, he said, but “it will be the best value, relative to price and comfort.” With industry consolidation reducing the number of players, “we felt the timing was right,” he said.
Among the touches the line hopes will set it apart: menus created by Michelin-starred chef Christophe Langree; access to business-class lounges at both Paris Charles De Gaulle and Newark Airport’s newly renovated Terminal B; individual Samsung Galaxy tablets at each seat with a wide range of entertainment, along with Wi-Fi access later this year; and cosmetics kits from Caudelie. Seating will be in a two by two layout, with some 60 inches of pitch, equal to most international business classes.