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Sam flies La Compagnie from Luton to New York in Business for £500 …. and the risk if you copy her

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Back in February I wrote about the launch of La Compagnie.  This is a French airline start-up which offers an ‘all business class’ service from Luton to New York Newark.

The firm originally launched a service from Paris to Newark in July 2014.  The Luton route began in April 2015.  It uses an old Boeing 757 with 74 angled lie-flat seats in a 2×2 configuration.  IFE is provided via a Samsung tablet handed out by the crew.

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There are currently just four flights a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  Flight times are also not ideal, leaving at 5.45pm and landing at 9pm.  The return flights depart Newark on the same days, departing at 10.30pm and landing at 10.30am the next day.

La Compagnie launched with an exceptional deal – £1,000 return for TWO people.

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Reader Sam was one of a number of HfP readers who jumped on this offer when I wrote about it.  She did not write a full review but did provide me with the photographs in this article.  She was very positive about the whole experience and would thoroughly recommend it.

It seems, though, that Sam might have been lucky.

The US site One Mile At A Time has developed a mild obsession with La Compagnie and has been covering their ups and downs, mainly downs.

For example, they recently chartered an ex-Emirates A340 to operate the Luton service as their Boeing 757 required unexpected maintenance.

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So …. yes …. La Compagnie was operating an ‘all business class’ service using a three class (First, Business, Economy) ex-Emirates aircraft.  No idea how that worked out ….  For extra fun, the plane was chartered from a Portuguese company with a Portuguese cabin crew who apparently spoke little English.

More seriously, the company has been cancelling a number of Luton flights recently.  When you’re British Airways, cancelling the odd New York flight is not exactly a crisis as there is roughly one departure an hour each evening.  When you are doing four flights per week, it is a big problem.

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As Ben explains here, on some days the Paris flight stopped in London to pick up passengers with the London flight cancelled.  On other days, the Luton flight was cancelled outright and passengers asked to move to another day.

Whilst Sam enjoyed her trip, the airline currently seems too unreliable to recommend.  If your schedule is totally clear and you would book flexible hotel rooms (or redemptions), it might still be worth a look.  If you are the sort of person who locks in non-refundable hotel rooms to save money or is very restricted in the dates you can travel, I don’t think the risk of your plane not turning up is worth taking.

Comments (15)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Max says:

    I suspect most passenegers going to NYC are either on business trips or short city leisure breaks. Losing a day or two due to cancelled flights could be a real issue. I would not risk it.

  • Dan says:

    If they cancelled a flight would they be obliged to put you up in a hotel until the new flight departed ?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, in theory. You would get the Euro 600 of EU comps as well.

      • Polly says:

        It doesn’t look at all spacious in those photos, presume that was their own aircraft. Worth booking on the chance you get a later flight, plus the euro compensation, iIF you are flexible on dates. But IMHO not worth it if it’s a time dependent trip. Love to know who they put in F on that replacement aircraft. Bet that was a cat fight!

  • TrollBasher says:

    I cannot see this venture lasting long and certainly winter might see it catch a cold.

    A colleague also secured the 2 for £1,000 deal and got ensnared in the tech 757 debacle.

    When they eventually flew, it was on the Hifly ex-Emirates A340 with a grand total of 17 passengers on board; that’s one expensive subcharter.

    With the current schedule and small fleet inflexibility, I cannot really see who it would appeal to; the risk of disruption outweighs the cost savings in every instance.

    He is still waiting for his compensation.

    Best avoided IMHO.

    • Rob says:

      17? I’ve no idea what you pay to charter that sort of plane but the fuel bill alone would have been huge.

      • TrollBasher says:

        PrivateFly will do you an A340-300 LUT-JFK return for £156,000.


    • RK says:

      The chances of getting EU compensation out of this airline seems slim. Sounds like this airline will be out of business before you can push hard enough for claims to be paid out. I would not book this airline without sufficient insurance to cover the risk of the airline going bust. I do not know why all business airlines cannot succeed but they all seem to fail miserably.

      • TimS says:

        Some of the (many) reasons all-business airlines tend to fail include the following:

        Few aircraft so little capacity if one goes tech or goes in for routine Mx checks.
        Likewise, chartering replacements for the above is very expensive, especially if the down-time is non-routine.

        To get the custom, the airline usually needs to fly from major airports (expensive landing/handling fees/apron parking & difficult to get decent slots) or be cheaper than the competition (by using smaller/cheaper airports and cutting margins).
        For example, LGW charges £7.89 per 5 minutes for parking an aircraft like an A340, or up to 3x that during April-October so just imaging what LHR charges! Parking charges soon add up if an aircraft is under-utilised, as new, niche airlines usually are.

        Such airlines are also generally very crew-heavy as they usually either have to carry additional crew to cover long duties, pay for crew to night-stop down route or pay for them to deadhead back with a competitor as otherwise they’d take up a revenue seat.
        Alongside this, the nature of the start-up business usually means that they use agency crew to ease training issues & cover illness etc, which is more expensive than having 100% own crew.

        Also, ground ops/maintrol staffing levels are not massively different whether you operate 1 plane, or 10 planes so the fewer planes you operate, the more expensive the ground ops becomes per aircraft/flilght.
        The small fleet also means you also can’t benefit from economies of scale or bargaining power when it comes to things like other catering, IFE, handling, CUTE etc.

        All of these things squeeze margins and ensure that it doesn’t take much to go wrong (cancelled flights, delays etc) before the money dries up and the airline folds.

  • Gemma says:

    We fly out to Newark regularly as we have family in new Jersey we stay for 2-3 weeks with no need to book hotels . This type of gamble could pay off for us !

  • Rich says:

    How old are the BA 747s? How old are the open skies B757s? Dig dig dig, knock knock knock…
    At least Compagnie are trying, so what if a plane from Paris diverted to pick people up?
    What’s wrong with using an emirates Airbus? Presumably everyone would have been seated in J or F.
    Portuguese crew? The Portugese are our oldest Allies.
    I am expecting issues at BA soon from what I read of airframe shortage, flight deck shortage, cabin crew issue between Mixed fleet, euro fleet, Gatwick etc, not to mention the outsourcing of ground handling all over the place….
    It is unrealistic for any airline to set up from scratch and have the weight of a legacy airline.
    I, for one, am delighted that some companies still try, with fond memories of EOS, Silverjet etc.

    • TimS says:

      I can assure you there isn’t a shortage of flight crew in the UK at the moment, especially widebody crew. BA are just overly fussy and reject perfectly good pilots for little or no reason!

      • Rich says:

        A shortage of BA flight crew…. And I know all about the BA pilot (non) selection process, and their disdain for even RAF pilots that had clocked up many hors on former BA Tristars!

  • HIDDY says:

    EOS and Silverjet were better run than this outfit and look what happened to them.
    If they’re still running this service in 2016 I’ll eat my beret.

    • Rich says:

      Hiddy, I would like to see that. Whether they are here or not, it is good to see new outfits trying…

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