MIAMI — The all-business class, luxury carrier La Compagnie, has announced an order for two Airbus A321neo set to replace the airline’s aging Boeing 757-200s on its Transatlantic Paris (CDG) – Newark (EWR) flights. The new Airbus airliners are expected to be delivered by 2019.
— La Compagnie (@_LaCompagnie) September 21, 2017
The premium carrier is the only survivor of a Premium Class-only craze that began in the early 2000s, which saw a flurry of startups and quick failures, including Maxjet (MY, 2003-2007), Eos (E0, 2004-2008), and Silverjet (Y7, 2006-2008).
Today, La Compagnie operates two Boeing 757-200s fitted with just 74 seats on the premium Paris-New York route.
Airbus takes the win
Back in January, the airline’s co-founder and former CEO, Frantz Yvelin, told Airways that the aging Boeing 757s were soon due for replacement and that both Boeing 737-9 MAX and the Airbus A321neo were being contemplated as candidates.
“We don’t want to alter our business model or think ‘too big’,” explained the CEO. “So we’ll remain with single-aisle aircraft with a size similar to the 757,” he said.
Yvelin said La Compagnie would be “making a decision within months and in a couple of years we’ll have a last-generation fleet in the air.”
After today’s announcement, however, it’s clear that Airbus takes the win with its A321neo, the model that has ripped a large share of the middle of the market (MoM) segment from Boeing. The A321neo remains as the best-selling MoM aircraft in history.
As far as Boeing is concerned, failing to find a proper replacement for its successful Boeing 757 program continues to pay its toll by giving away business to its European counterpart.
The origins of La Compagnie
It took four years to launch this boutique airline. Frantz Yvelin, the co-founder and former CEO of La Compagnie, told Airways “The idea of a new model of Premium Class came to me during a flight from the U.S. to Europe back in 2005,” he said.
“That evening, I found myself stuck in the middle of the central row of seats aboard a wide-body airliner for what were going to be 11 painful hours. Before takeoff, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could be upgraded to Business Class and she replied that, for €4,000 (US$4,400), she could find me a seat up front.”
“That’s when I started to reason about a model of the cabin that could be both comfortable and affordable. A sort of ‘democratic Business Class’,” he revealed.
Yvelin and his new business partner, former Swissair and Jet Airways COO Peter Luethi, raised €62 million (US$69 million) and in October 2013 officially created La Compagnie.
La Compagnie dry-leased two Boeing 757-200s; one from Icelandair Group and the other through lessor Aercap. The cabins are arranged in a 2-2 layout.
The seats, designed and manufactured by Contour, offered 62in pitch and seat-recline of 155 degrees. Flight entertainment was carried on 12.2in screen Samsung Galaxy tablets, and the menus were developed by Michelin-starred chef Christophe Langrèe.
Lie Flat in sight
Currently, La Compagnie’s Boeing 757-200s aren’t fitted with fully lie-flat seats.
Yvelin told Airways that, “we have reasoned about the possibility of offering lie-flat-180° reclining seats, but that would require more space for each row of seats and would reduce capacity by approximately 20%. Consequently, ticket price would be increased by 20%, and that would be the end of La Compagnie and its ‘democratic Business Class’.”
However, the A321neos will be fitted with fully flat seats, an all-new entertainment system, and Wi-Fi connectivity—a major upgrade to the current hard product.
La Compagnie hasn’t revealed further details on the new hard product’s branding and configuration.
Optimizing La Compagnie
In December 2016, La Compagnie merged with French Low-Cost Carrier, XL Airways. Both Paris-based carriers now formed the new XL Airways-La Compagnie Group, led by CEO Laurent Magnin.
Magnin said in a statement, “Since the merger with XL Airways, less than a year ago, we are working on optimizing La Compagnie’s performance. The acquisition of these A321neo aircraft, more modern and efficient than the current Boeing 757, was essential to accelerate the company’s development and enable us to enter the market on a long-term basis.”
While La Compagnie will continue to focus on the premium Paris-New York all-business class route, XL Airways will carry on with its high-density Airbus A330 fleet flying to more than 10 long-haul destinations in North America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean.
Expect an update as soon as the airline reveals details on the configuration and hard product branding of their new Airbus A321neos.