Executives-only airline to take off?



A second airline is bidding to launch a Stansted-US service - exclusively for business passengers - further boosting the airport's bid to become a genuine hub for regular routes to multiple Stateside destinations.

Newlines Airways has pledged to follow Continental into Stansted. The new airline plans to launch a twice daily, business-only service to New York's JFK by the end of this year, possibly under the AIR 2000 brand. However, it still has to clear a number of CAA regulatory hurdles.

Newlines expects soon to close a 25 million second round of funding. Positioned to bridge the gap between business and economy class, the start-up airline plans to offer a single class airline service flying Boeing 757-200s to JFK.

Newlines does not envisage direct competition with Continental, which launches its London-Newark/New York service on May 2, but a pricing battle does look inevitable.

A spokesman for Newlines said: 'Continental offers a more traditional economy/business-class service, whereas we are targeting a very specific traveller. There will be no more competition between ourselves and Continental, than with any other airline.'

Continental already has plans to increase the frequency of its own service from one flight to two a day within the first six months of operation. It knew about the possibility of a rival service during talks with Stansted, and feels it is best placed to make the service pay.

A spokesperson said: 'If Newlines does start a service, we wish them luck. As one of the world's largest and most admired airlines, with a strong track record in the UK market and our unique New York hub, we do not fear competition from anyone.

'We are very pleased by the forward bookings for our Stansted-New York service and confident that the service will be profitable.'

According to the CAA, there are four million passengers flying annually between London and New York - 30% of whom are business travellers. Newlines is targeting a 3% share of the premium market - estimated to be worth 1.2 bn annually.

The International Passenger Survey forecasts this market to grow in excess of 25% over the next four years. Newlines leads its assault on the market with a strong balance of experience in the airline and luxury sectors.

Alongside founder and CEO Julian Cook, who worked in the aviation team at Chase Manhattan, is chairman Sandro Arabian - former CEO of Ebel Watches, which he sold to LVMH in 1999.

A leading airline executive involved in two successful UK start-up airlines, one of which a British Airways Franchise, will be joining the board shortly.

Newlines has leased planes from GATX Capital, a route licence has been obtained and provisional slots have been secured at the airports concerned. As a mark of its ambition, Newlines is predicting more routes to Washington, Boston and Chicago within the next four years.

For the launch service, specially configured aircraft have been designed by renowned industrial designer Marc Newson and will seat 80 people - half their maximum capacity. The CAA will want to be satisifed about a number of financial, safety and logistics issues before rubber-stamping the new Stansted service, in line with its normal procedures.

Caption: Transatlantic hub at last being created for fast-growing Stansted photograph courtesy of the BAA Picture Library of BAA plc