You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the world who doesn't like flying business class, especially when someone else is paying. The internal debate always arises, of course, when you find the bill has your name on it. Many of us work on the sensible assumption that business class is too expensive, especially on a route like London to New York. The flight itself is only seven hours, so are all those special lounges, flat beds, premium dining options and queue jumping chances really worth £4,000?
Many years ago, we came to the conclusion that the perfect balance could be found in buying economy and forking out the extra money for an exit row seat. But with the recent launch of La Compagnie – a boutique airline that specialises in business class flights from London to New York at economy prices – our options suddenly seem to have a little more leg room.
La Compagnie's London to NYC flights launched on April 24, 2015, flying direct from London Luton to Newark, and Essential Travel was priviledged enough to be aboard the inaugural flight. To save you the trouble of searching the web for information, here's the Essential list – everything you need to know about flying London to NYC with La Compagnie. Get in touch if you want help making reservations, and keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for up-coming special offers.
La Compagnie has been flying Paris to Newark since July 2014. The new London Luton to Newark service offers an alternative for business and high-end travellers taking the ever-popular transatlantic route, and with 'the comfort of business class at an affordable price' as a company slogan, you get an instant idea of the kind of customer they're looking to please.
The airline is Frantz Yvelin’s baby. His first airline, L’Avion (destined to become Open Skies), was sold to the British Airways Group in 2008 for a cool €78 million. Peter Luethi, who is the company’s Deputy CEO, is ex-COO of Swiss Air and Jet Airways. This industry experience alone will do a lot to ease the worries that frequent fliers may have when considering their airline alegiances, but just to be doubly sure, Yvelin is quick to draw our attention to La Compagnie's 'excellent service where others are sliding'. As we chatted with him pre-flight, he talked about navigating clear of the rough business models and inconsistent routing choices he saw in failed competitors such as MAXjet and Silverjet. 'With a clear business model and strategy', Yvelin says La Compagnie will succeed where many others in the last 10 years have failed.
Yes, very seriously – and for good reasons, too. La Compagnie were offered slots at Gatwick and Stansted before deciding to call London Luton their home. Choosing Gatwick would have put them in direct competition with the more established players servicing the world's busiest intercontinental route, while Luton offered the airline a greater geographical catchment area than Stansted boasts.
While Luton may not be the preferred airport of choice for London travellers, the scheduled £110 million expansion – involving the addition of a multi-story car park, new terminal, boutique shopping and a dual carriageway – should go some way to altering perceptions. Seen in those terms, the match looks promising – a boutique airline for a boutique airport: La Compagnie and Luton, together at last!
The quickest and most effective way to get to Luton from anywhere in central London is to hop on the train from St Pancras to Luton Airport Parkway, and then get on the bus to the terminal. The fast train only takes 20 minutes, and here at Essential Travel, we can get you tickets for as little as £6 (or £10 if you're getting in the first class mood early).
From check-in, getting through Luton Airport is a quick and easy process as all La Compagnie passengers get priority boarding, fast-tracking them through security. (Essential tip: don't bother buying liquid bags – La Compagnie passengers get them free at check-in). The experience returning through Luton is just as pleasant, with non-congested immigration lines getting you from disembarkation to your baggage within an astonishing seven minutes.
Once we'd shared the briefest of moments with airport security and scratched our duty free shopping itch, we headed straight over to the business lounge to find out how La Compagnie planned to make us feel special. As a haven for high-end passengers situated above the hustle and bustle of the busy terminal below, the Aspire Lounge at Luton Airpot layers on 'the special' very nicely indeed.
A little bubble of tranquility, Aspire keeps the complimentary drinks and freshly prepared food coming all day long. In line with the airport's aims to become something a bit more boutique, it is currently undergoing a refurbishment which will see various new additions such as Snooze Pods and full Spa facilities added in the near future. Prepare to see the levels of special turned all the way up to 11.
Given that this was the inaugural London Luton to Newark flight, things began with an official cutting-of-the-ribbon ceremony (we assume this won't be a feature of every departure!) On boarding the Boeing 757-200, we were greeted with a welcome cranberry juice and champagne and shown to our seats, where pillows, blankets, amenity kits and headphones were laid out.
Each flight will carry 74 passengers, ably looked after by a three-strong cabin crew. But here's where the only downside came. At the risk of sounding like spoilt brats, we suddenly found that the sense of special – so prominent in the Aspire Lounge – dwindled a tad as we joined our co-passengers. While the red carpet service is maintained throughout, any sense of exclusivity dims as you realise that La Compagnie lavishes it on everybody. Great for everyone else, but not so great if you were hoping to feel a bit unique! (Third World problems – we know... but we're only trying to be honest.)
All of which brings us to the big question: how luxurious is a La Compagnie seat? While you shouldn't expect a traditional bed, these seats do recline to 180 degrees – great for getting the kip we were hoping for. With a pitch of 62 inches, there is plenty of space to stretch out, and more than enough leg room and space between you and the seat in front.
The aircraft is well-equipped for the modern-day business traveller, with power points in every seat and brand new Samsung Galaxy Pro tablets that you can move around freely, each loaded with movies, TV series, music, magazines, ebooks and other international digital media for your inflight entertainment. They've even seen fit to offer passengers every James Bond movie ever made! Fitting, for a flight with 'one or two rather special accessories'.
The menu was created by french chef Christoph Langree, previously at Hotel Matignon, the residence of France’s prime minister, and it shows. A tail of lobster salad came with deliciously soft French bread (and plenty of it!), followed by a choice of crusted lamb loin or Dover sole and salmon. We were just about full before 'le dessert au chocolat' arrived, although we managed to find a little extra room ('betsu bara', as they say in Japan – we used our 'second stomach!')
As a mid-flight snack, we were served a little taste of London – egg mayonaise finger sandwiches and fresh scones with jam and double cream – alongside even more mini deserts, accompanied by seasonal cheese and fruit selections. One thing's for sure: you will not go hungry on La Compagnie.
In short, La Compagnie offers a premium service. It is indeed Business class, although the lack of economy to compare it against makes it feel a bit like a no frills version. If value for money is what you are looking for you can't beat what is really an impressive offering – all of the above for a fraction of the usual business class cost. London to New York, in real style, never felt so accessible.
At Essential Travel, we have some incredible fares available with La Compagnie as they establish themselves on this popular route. Not only can we get you an amazing price for their business class service, we also offer a full door-to-door service getting you from home or work to London Luton, with a stay at one of the many New York hotels we work closely with. For more info, give us a call on +44 203 104 10140, or drop us a line via our contacts page. See you in NYC!
Essential Travel were pleased to be invited on to the inaugural La Compagnie flight from London to New York, and we look forward to working with the company directors to offer our customers real value. For more great offers, travel tips and city guides, all with a sustainable touch, stay in touch with Essential Travel via our Facebook and Twitter pages.