Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

My interview with Frantz Yvelin, CEO of low-cost transatlantic airline La Compagnie

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On Tuesday I spent 90 minutes with Frantz Yvelin, CEO of La Compagnie.  If the airline name is not familiar to you, La Compagnie is a low cost ‘all business class’ airline operating between Luton and New York (Newark).  It also operates from Paris CDG to Newark.

La Compagnie operates 74-seat Boeing 757 aircraft with ‘lie flat but not horizontal’ seating in a 2 x 2 formation.  Most importantly, it often sells its seats for as little as £450 each way based on two travelling.  If their Duo deal is not currently running, or you are travelling alone, fares start at just £500 each way.

La Compagnie 3

These are NOT headline grabbing fares which cannot be bought.  If you visit La Compagnie’s website, you will see that £500 each-way fares are available for the majority of flights, except at very short notice.

If you are planning on redeeming Avios points to fly to New York, La Compagnie could make you think twice.  Is it worth paying over £500 in taxes per person plus 100,000 – 120,000 Avios points when you could buy a cash ticket outright for £1,000 return?

Yvelin is an experienced operator in this market.  He founded L’AVION, the first European ‘all business class’ airline, in 2006.  British Airways bought the business two years later and it became the foundation for the Open Skies airline which still flies between Paris and New York.

Five years later, Yvelin decided to do it again with La Compagnie.  Flights from Paris to New York started in July 2014 and Luton to New York was added in April 2015.  Our chat marked the first anniversary of the Luton route.

La Compagnie 1

Yvelin is keen to highlight the fact that, frankly, many people were queuing up to predict the swift demise of the airline.  As it turns out, two years in, the Paris service is running at 70% – 90% load factors.  The London service is below that but is still in the ‘ramping up’ stage and will benefit from a frequency increase to six flights per week from May.

Frantz is the first to admit that the airline had initial teething problems, as well as an unlucky run of technical issues with its aircraft.  These seem to be behind it now, although you are always taking some risk booking an airline with one flight per day rather than 10 flights per day to your destination.

La Compagnie in-flight

The product is surprisingly accomplished given the price point.  Last year I ran a review of one of their first flights submitted by a reader, who was impressed.

There are no hidden charges for seat reservations, luggage or meals.  Piper-Heidsieck champagne is served, passengers get lounge access (the Aspire lounge at Luton which Anika reviewed positively here) and toiletries are from Caudalie.

La Compagnie 2

IFE is provided via 12 inch Samsung tablets which come pre-loaded with a wide selection of entertainment.  The airline is currently in discussions about adding wi-fi – the planes are already wired for it and a new satellite, currently settling into orbit, would allow a high speed connection that would be superior to existing products.  Of course, passengers already have a tablet they could use for browsing.

The main differentiator between La Compagnie and BA / Virgin is that your seat, whilst lie flat, slopes downwards at an angle.  For the day flight to New York, this is unlikely to make any difference whatsoever – I can’t remember the last time I wanted to sleep on a day flight.

It is more of an issue on the overnight return, but I have done a number of flights over the years on similar seats and, frankly, you will survive perfectly happily.  The thought of the large sum of money you are saving over flying BA or Virgin would keep you going!

And a frequent flyer scheme

Whilst not a member of any airline alliances, La Compagnie does have its own loyalty programme – MyCompagnie.  You earn points for each flight taken, with the number depending on your ticket type.  Points can be redeemed for future flights with the airline.  If you have a family, it is worth noting that every passenger over the age of 2 is allowed to earn points.

Just two fully flexible return flights is enough for a free one way ticket – although that increases to 10 if you are travelling on their cheapest £1,000 return tickets.

Going forward, a third Boeing 757 is scheduled to join the fleet in early 2017.  Whether this will be used for increased frequencies or new routes still appears to be undecided – the economics of London to New York, in terms of the inflated prices charged by the incumbent players, are not easily matched elsewhere.

The airline has done well to negotiate its first two years, albeit helped by a favourable fuel price.  If you are looking for a low cost but not necessarily low service way to get to New York in comfort, it is worth serious consideration.  HfP will hopefully be trying out the service soon so we can give you first hand feedback.

Comments (57)

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

  • John says:

    Where’s the interview? This is just a summary of their service….

    The schedule is LTN 17:40 – EWR 21:00, so wouldn’t call it a true “day flight” unless you’re normally nocturnal or you stay awake until 3am for a few days before flying. But sloping seats will do.

    Can’t find info about “MyCompagnie” on the website. Is it a completely free flight after 10 flights? That would make it an average of £909 return, which is even better than £1000.

    Lastly, initial teething is a tautology 🙂

    • Barry cutters says:

      Ok mr positive , it’s a good service and yes a flight to nyc leaving at 5pm is a day flight. I often use the 8pm ba182 out of Heathrow and that’s a day flight. Nobody sleeps otherwise it would make it hard to get in to much time , lands at 11pm and I go to sleep at my hotel, wake up early the next day and you don’t suffer at all. I do this every 2-3 weeks

    • RIccati says:

      British newspapers have interviews written up by the interviewer, it is different from the Q&A genre.

      • Rob says:

        We had 90 minutes, if I had written it up word for word it would have been in 20 parts :-)

        • Worzel says:

          Meanwhile, John, is working on his lecture on Tautology ! 🙂 .

        • Daz says:

          So retro writing Rob, you could’ve always recorded the interview on your smart phone – Ask siri 😉

    • Duncan S says:

      Info on MyCompagnie is right on the page!

      * Earn *
      Full Flex: 5 points
      Semi Flex: 3 points
      Best Buy: 2 points
      Promo: 1 point

      * Redeem *
      One-way: 20 points
      Round-trip: 40 points

      It’s unclear to me whether points earned are for a 1-way flight or a return flight. From the website:

      “Every flight with La Compagnie (one-way or round-trip, depending on your fare class) allows you to earn points”

  • Anthony Davis says:

    I have flown La Compagnie return to New York from Luton and it is fabulous. The point that people often miss is that economy/premium economy on major carriers is now so unbearable, due to high density seating, fewer toilets and peoples lack of manners, that an alternative airline such as this offers something far smarter, classier and more comfortable for around the same price. Honestly, I felt like a private jet passenger. The aircraft is beautiful, the staff French chic, and the service highly efficient.

    If you are just heading for points, stick to a legacy carrier paid for by your boss. But for everyone else, La Compagnie is very special.

  • whiskerxx says:

    Who maintains the planes?

    • RTS says:

      My question as well.

    • Rob says:

      ‘La Compagnie has decided to entrust the maintenance of its fleet to Icelandair Technical, a subsidiary of Icelandair and Europe’s main operator of Boeing 757s.’

      The planes came from Icelandair originally as well.

      • Will says:

        That’s not right Rob. One was a “lifer” with Thomson/Britannia. The other was originally with Iberia but spent most of its life with Atlas Jet of Turkey (being wet leased out to airlines like Saudi and Ethopian) before going to Titan who leased it to Icelandair for a summer.

  • James says:

    No luck getting a competition prize huh? 😛

    • Rob says:

      May be possible medium term. Those sort of promos make sense for a business with spare capacity to offer and no ability to match BA / Virgin on marketing.

  • Lumma says:

    Can you book the flights as true one ways for £500ish? Seems to me you could book one way to New York, use 34,000 avios & £60ish to fly iberia business to Madrid, then another 12,000 points back to London.

    Total cost under £600 and you could even book the flight back to London on the afternoon A330/340 iberia flight and have flat seats all the way.

    • Mark says:

      44,000 Avios have significant value though so it’s more than £600. At 1p/avios more like £1000 (i.e. similar to flying return with La Compagnie) though I normally expect to get more than that in terms of redemption value.

      So unless you’re very Avios rich it’s more a trade-off between the Madrid stop and a sloping flat bed.

      For couples collecting Lloyds redemption upgrade vouchers doing a WT+ to Club upgrade on the return leg with BA may also be an attractive option, albeit for less Avios and more tax.

  • Peter K says:

    While this does feel a bit like an advertorial, thankfully Raffles does still put relevant info in to help you make an informed choice as to whether you want to investigate further out not.

    There are many things I would never have the time to find myself that come up on these pages. Keep up the good work and never sell out or you’ll lose what makes HfP work 🙂

    • Rob says:

      It was a friendly interview, not the Spanish inquisition! Frantz wanted to make his case, and as I haven’t flown it I am not in a position to critique it. The HFP reader review I ran was also very positive.

  • Simon says:

    What’s the price difference for an airline between a slot at luton and one at lhr? Or gatwick for that matter.
    Luton seems *such* an effort to get to!

    • Rob says:

      Heathrow slots cost $20 million upwards because they are all taken and you need to buy one from another airline.

      Luton slots are free. Gatwick is full at peak times but Flybe only got £20m for its entire (well, almost entire) Gatwick portfolio.

    • Susan says:

      The effort is one of perception more than actuality – at 25 mins from St Pancras and a 5 min bus transfer it’s easily comparable with Heathrow Connect and quicker than GEX.

      Still in Luton though 😉

    • Mark says:

      Luton is a 20 minute drive from home :thumbsup:

    • Roger says:

      Horses for courses! 😀 I would probably have said something similar until I discovered that there is a direct bus from home to LTN Terminal.

      Imagine: using my Oyster card to get to a premium service.

    • Richard says:

      Luton is actually much easier to get to for some of us “northerners” that live in the feral wilderness beyond the M25. Gatwick on the other hand is a complete pain in the proverbial…

      Given the ridiculous costs some airlines charge to fly from Manchester long haul and that every other airport outside of London seems to exist only to shuttle people to/from the near continent, I’m quite interested in this and any potential expansion of Luton for more long haul travel.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks for the reminder! Looking to take a little shopping trip in the next month or two and had forgotten about this alternative.

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

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