MIAMI – La Compagnie’s first Airbus A321neo has been spotted at the Airbus facility in Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport, performing Rejected Take-off Tests (RTO) ahead of its upcoming delivery.
The aircraft, currently registered D-AVZP, will then become F-HBUZ and is expected to be delivered this year.
The Origins of La Compagnie
Back in 2017, the airline’s co-founder and former CEO, Frantz Yvelin, told Airways that its ageing Boeing 757s were due for replacement and that both the Boeing 737 MAX 9 and Airbus A321neo were contemplated as candidates for its replacement.
“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 that 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.”
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.
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. It took four years to launch this boutique airline.
“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.
New Routes Ahead
The new aircraft will come in time for expanded portfolios from the carrier. The new A321s will feature 76 lie-flat B/E Aerospace Diamond seats in a 2-2 configuration, with high-speed WiFi available at no extra cost.
A new Rave system with a 15.7” touchscreen will also complement the airline’s hard product, including noise-canceling headsets and an amenity kit.
The carrier will become the first French airline to operate the Airbus A321neo. Services between Nice and Newark begin this month, operating seasonally between May and October 2019.
The airline is also hoping to attract New York-based passengers to the Côte d’Azur summertime events with five flights per week, aiming to feed the world famous Cannes festival.
“The goal is not to cannibalize Delta,” the only carrier operating the route, said La Compagnie’s commercial director, Jean-Charles Perino, “but to stimulate the market.”
Perino says that Delta’s availability is often maxed out during summertime, with plenty of space left for La Compagnie’s niche product between both markets.
Delta launched the New York (JFK) to Nice service back in 2015, as part of its joint venture with Air France-KLM. Up until today, this was the only flight operating between both cities.
During summertime, travel between the US and Europe is often quite expensive, even for economy class travelers, says Perino.
It remains clear that as La Compagnie receives this new aircraft, further growth is definitely on the way.