La Compagnie alone still operates the burgeoning Paris-New York line, exclusively in business class, and has almost returned to its pre-pandemic turnover. The French aircraft manufacturer recorded a turnover of €75m in 2019 and announced a temporary close at €69m for the 2022 financial year. Having successfully brought together business and leisure customers, the company is banking on its outstanding gastronomic offering – constantly Renewable – Loyalty Leverage. An overview with Anne Crespo, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, La Compagnie
How was the recovery and return to ‘normal’ for La Compagnie?
Ann Crespo : Coronavirus and the “travel ban” decided by the United States have grounded two new Airbus A321neo aircraft for 2019. We have shown great resilience during this turbulent period and have emerged from this crisis stronger. Government aid, a loan guaranteed by the French state, and the establishment of charter flights have enabled us to keep our heads above water. The pandemic had the effect of delaying our profit target, but we hit it in October this year after a very good summer. Sales are up strongly with occupancy up from 75 to 85% on our flights this summer. More than 65% of our sales in 2022 come from the United States, and the remainder from France and Italy as we opened the Milan-New York line in April 2022.
Our turnover will reach 69 million euros in 2022 compared to 75 million euros in 2019. We now have to deal with winter, hoping for continued renewed growth.
Has the image of travelers using La Compagnie changed?
La Compagnie’s clientele is very heterogeneous and evolves according to the markets and the season. While our American customers are more “leisure” customers traveling as a couple or as a family, our French and Italian customers are similar. Between 35 and 59 years of age, from start-ups, SMEs and SMEs in tech, fashion or luxury. Our convenient offer and location in the three international fashion capitals of Paris, Milan and New York also allows us to attract interest from the art and design circles. However, the share of large corporate business travel continues to grow.
Today’s traveler experience is being deteriorated by airline staff shortages, technical problems, frequent strike movements… Meanwhile, prices are skyrocketing – in low-cost companies including – how do you navigate this turbulence zone?
Our fares remain very attractive, around 30% lower than traditional business class fares. The services are the same. Priority skipping the line, lounge access, generous baggage allowance (two bags of 32kg each are included in the ticket price). What passengers find most about La Compagnie is company on a human scale, with boarding/disembarking in less than 15 minutes, with service that is attentive to the smallest detail and that focuses on the onboard experience through the attentiveness and eventfulness that sets us apart from our competitors. We pay special attention to the gastronomic experience offered on board by inviting talented chefs to create our menus as part of the Chefs & Co. program.
In November, we launched our new menus with Breton star Chef Nolwen Currie in the spotlight. In December, two-star Parisian chef David Totin takes over from New York chef Franco Sampogna in February. Our 100% organic wine list, carefully selected by the experts of Bettane + Desseauve, is selected according to our chefs’ recipes.
Ann Crespo: We pay special attention to the gastronomic experience offered on board by inviting talented chefs to create our menus as part of the Chefs & Co. program. ”
Is it still profitable in the current situation to offer a flight experience in line with business standards at low prices?
We have the enormous fortune of being the only 100% business class French airline on the Paris-New York line, which is a significant competitive advantage over our competitors that fully meets the demand of our demanding customers, who are looking for a personal and high-quality travel experience. We don’t have to finance cheap green seats. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, we are profitable for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The outlook is good and we are also considering strengthening our fleet by 2024, which is the year we expect to return to 2019 levels.
What shows and devices are you planning for at the end of the year?
We introduced a Black Friday promotion which allowed our travelers to book their tickets for holidays one month in advance at an attractive price of €1200 return. We haven’t planned any new commercials. On board we will be presenting Christmas icons chosen by our partner MK2 throughout December, as well as dishes created by David Toutain (two Michelin stars). On the menu: pressed beef, potatoes and eggplant caviar plus monkfish stew, lemongrass, coconut and carrots with lemon balm.
The chef will be on board our flight from Paris to New York on December 24 to present his creations in the company of Maison Belleur, which will accompany the truffle and caviar dishes for the occasion. On December 25, pastry chef Jan Couvreur will present all our travelers with coconut chocolate. Beautiful Christmas gifts presented to our passengers!
Do you plan to open new services in other regions?
Initially, we want to focus on what we’re already doing, namely continuing to provide our connections to New York from Paris and Milan, as well as from Nice on a seasonal flight. Then we will think for a second about opening new routes from Europe, with new aircraft arriving hopefully by 2024.
What are your plans for 2023?
In the coming year, we will continue to operate our successful connections to Newark Airport from Paris Orly and Milan Malpensa. Direct seasonal flights between Nice and New York will resume from 15 April 2023. Until then, passengers from Nice can take advantage of our alliance with easyJet to book their flight to Newark via Orly directly on La. In 2023, we’ll continue to offer menus signed by celebrity chefs like Franco Sampogna, the newly featured Brazilian chef at his New York restaurant Frevo, who will be introducing Blanquette de Saint-Jacques et cauliflower in February. In May, Marseille chef Frédéric Duca will delight passengers’ taste buds with salmon marinated in espelette, orange and mayonnaise.
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