What is La Compagnie? A chat with the all-business class airline's deputy CEO

La Compagnie may not have flat-bed seats between Paris and Newark. But it is cheap. Photos: La Compagnie. 

La Compagnie may not have flat-bed seats between Paris and Newark. But it is cheap. Photos: La Compagnie. 

Want to fly trans-Atlantic business class for the price of coach?

If you do, you have one option. It's La Compagnie, a French start-up with one airplane flying between Paris and Newark.

As blogger Ben Schlappig of OneMileAtATime has mentionedLa Compagnie is sort of a business class-light product. The seats aren't quite flat, service can be spotty, passengers in the window seats must climb over their seat-mate to reach the aisle and the food isn't fine dining. The airline put 74 seats on its Boeing 757, a relatively dense configuration for an all-business class airline.

But the prices are unbeatable. La Compagnie is charging as little as $1498 for roundtrip flights between Paris and Newark. It often sells promotional fares at even cheaper rates. 

In April, once the airline receives its second 757 - it is getting aircraft from Icelandair - it will begin flying between Newark and London's Luton Airport. 

Ahead of that launch, I spoke this week with Peter Luethi, the airline's deputy CEO. Here is some of what he said:

On why La Compagnie is adding London to its network. "It was always part of the basic business plan. Paris and London to New York are the two biggest city pairs over the Atlantic in business class. We decided to do it at this point since the second aircraft came in."

On the airline's basic business strategy. "We feel that there is a space for a 'not the best business class' but the best in price point."

On whether La Compagnie is worried another all-business class airline will start operations. "There is aways a chance that this could happen. If you go by this you would never start anything. We are more concerned sometimes that the big carriers might use predatory pricing and drop their prices to get the competitor out."

On responding to criticism that La Compagnie is just selling a premium economy product. "I would like to talk to those 'experts' because they don't know the product."

On why the product is more than premium economy. "When you have a 180-degree bed, when you have 74 people on a 757, when you have easy check-in, that is a totally different experience than an economy plus product. (Note: the airline's 180-degree bed is on a bit of an angle.)

On the relative success the airline had had since its 2014 launch. "It's a model that has been tested now. We have the benefit of almost 20 percent repeat customers. People obviously like what they have purchased and received."

On how full the airline's flights have been. "We do about 55 to 65 percent load factors."

On how lower fuel costs have helped. "It's nice to have. I think the question is how long is it going to stay. That is the bigger question mark for most of us."

On why La Compagnie put in 74 seats. "We came to the conclusion that more would be much too tight and and less of course would be a little bit too luxury. We feel we have a very good combination of seats available and comfort for the individual customer."

On whether the two-by-two seating makes it too hard for the window customer to reach the aisle. "We feel the space between the seats is big enough. We have an open layout and an open cabin. It makes it much easier. I don't remember having people complaining."


Want more information on La Compagnie? Watch this Wall Street Journal video. 


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