A new industry trend?
Now leaving Gate 4: scheduled BBJ service
BY KATHLEEN HANSER
Low-fare, no-frills airlines are the darlings of the aviation industry these days. They are popular, profitable and sprouting up everywhere from Australia to Germany. Ninety-seven percent of these carriers fly the Boeing 737 exclusively.
Now, the same airplane that has proven so successful for low-fare airlines has filled a new role at the opposite end of the spectrum namely, on regularly-scheduled flights for business-class travelers who want the comfort of a corporate jet, such as the Boeing Business Jet.
"The BBJ is typically bought by corporations or VIPs who want the comfort and amenities available from one of the most spacious private jets on the market," said Lee Monson, president of Boeing Business Jets. "But now, Lufthansa German Airlines has blazed a new trail by flying an all-business-class BBJ six days a week on its Dusseldorf-Newark route."
After the events of last Sept. 11, Lufthansa's daily Airbus A340 nonstop service between Dusseldorf and New York no longer proved viable, and Lufthansa discontinued it in October last year. Consequently, the region's many business travelers had to connect via Frankfurt and Munich, or even switch to competing airlines.
But by leasing a BBJ from PrivatAir, a luxury charter company based in Geneva, Lufthansa was able "to accommodate customer demand for a nonstop connection from North Rhine-Westphalia to New York," said Thierry Antinori, executive vice president of Sales at Lufthansa German Airlines.
The Dusseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia region is densely populated and a center of business and industry in Germany. Forty of Germany's top companies are based in this region, and many of their executives had become accustomed to flying regularly from Dusseldorf to New York nonstop. However, Lufthansa suspended its direct tri-class service on wide-body jets during the October 2001 to June 2002 period.
The leased PrivatAir BBJ not only gave these passengers the nonstop flight they wanted, but also exceptional onboard service and comfort. The BBJ is configured with 48 all-leather seats in a two-by-two configuration, compared with 126 to 149 seats on typical 737-700 configurations. The seat pitch, or distance between the seats, is 55 inches (140 centimeters) longer than the business-class seat pitch on Lufthansa's 747-400s.
Flight attendants deliver food on trays, as on private jets, eliminating the need for bulky carts in the aisles, and passengers can even indulge in a cappuccino if they wish. PrivatAir provides the pilots and flight attendants. The famous Swiss Hotel School trains the flight attendants, so passengers receive first-class treatment.
Travelers also avoid the long wait to board that comes with flying on a plane with hundreds of economy passengers. The ticket price is comparable to other business-class tickets across the Atlantic.
"The feedback so far is very positive," Antinori said about Lufthansa's early experience with the service. "A non-stop flight that includes special services is meeting our customers' expectations."
PrivatAir manages a fleet of some 50 airplanes ranging in size from a Beech King Air to an executive Boeing 757 and operates out of Europe and 16 bases throughout the United States. In addition to the 757, PrivatAir's other Boeing jets are three BBJs and a 737-300.
The BBJs are configured with 48, 28 and 16 seats, the 757 and 737-300 with 49 and 44 seats respectively. All of their airplanes are exclusively designed to meet the requirements of clients, who include celebrities from the arts, sports and entertainment industries; businesspeople; royalty and public officials.
At this point, no one knows if using executive-style jets for scheduled flights is the beginning of a new trend in the airline business, but both PrivatAir and Boeing are trying to convince other airlines to use BBJs in the same fashion as Lufthansa.
"We see a potential for up to 20 big jets to operate for commercial airlines," PrivatAir CEO David Hurley recently told Airways magazine.
In fact, PrivatAir is looking into offering its own regularly scheduled "business class" service from Geneva to New York, and these opportunities may extend to the Asia-Pacific region as well.
"There are opportunities," agreed Monson. "It is something Boeing is looking at, for not only the 737 platform but for the 757. We are out talking to people to determine the market demand."
Though the long-term market for business-class routes remains unclear, Boeing will continue to work together with its customers to shape the future of flight and enhance the passenger experience.
|Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright|
|© 2002 The Boeing Company. All rights reserved.|