First it was Maxjet. Then, last month came news of Eos' departure from the all-business airline club due to bankruptcy.
All-business class ventures are struggling in the current economic climate.
Now it's British airline Silverjet's turn. The airline that flew business travellers between London, New York and Dubai, grounded flights this week after failing to raise emergency funding from United Arab Emirates investor Viceroy Holdings.
Silverjet's troubles are: "a great shame for the UK consumer. Graham Pickett, partner serving the aviation industry at Deloitte UK, told CNN.
"The product," he said, "has been a fantastic visionary move on the part of Silverjet".
So what will become of the all-business market? Will fuel prices push the remaining competitors out of the market and place the all-business squarely back in the hands of the flag carriers?
The French all-business carrier L'Avion -- who recently announced a third daily flight out of Paris to New York -- are still in there fighting. The additional flight is a result of a codeshare agreement with OpenSkies, British Airways' new transatlantic service which starts operating out of the same airport in Orly, near Paris in June 2008.
So what's a business traveler to do? Strap a wing and a jet engine to their back? Maybe not. But the "Open Skies" agreement which started at the end of March should, in theory, fuel competition and drive down prices, tempting new players into the market.
Graham Pickett thinks that the all-business model is a great idea, especially from the consumers point of view. "It is a hassle free experience. When you go to Silverjet, you go into a terminal that is dedicated to Silverjet passengers. The only agro you have is getting off your backside to go and sit on an aircraft," he said.
Luton -- where Silverjet fly out of -- may not be the most glamorous place to start your journey, but as Pickett points out: "if you try and do that at the major London airports or New York, there's a little bit more of a challenge there with the infrastructure".
British Airways are planning a new service from London's City Airport to New York. Starting in 2009, the 32 seater will have to stop off at Shannon airport, Ireland to re-fuel on its outward journey but will able to fly back in one go.
"Open Skies" may see the flights paths become increasingly crowded as the major international carriers are exposed to competition in business class from a less salubrious section of the market.
Evidence that the traditional low cost carriers (LCCs) are offering a more complex range of services to customers was recently highlighted in a study by a Texas-based aviation technology company, Sabre Airline Solutions.
The report revealed that over half of the traditional LCCs surveyed were "part of an emerging breed of 'hybrid' carriers, which blend low-cost carrier traits with that of full service carriers."
Vice president of Airline Marketing and Strategy at Sabre, Gordon Locke commented: "Many of these airlines have evolved into a 'hybrid' carrier in order to make a play for the highly lucrative business traveler..."
The LCC model has proved highly successful in all corners of the globe. But the recent tough economic conditions, as well as naturally evolving business models have seen LCCs introduce new services tailored more to business needs.
Australia's Virgin Blue, UK based easyJet, jetBlue in the U.S. and transatlantic carrier Zoom Airlines have all incorporated new business class services into their products including lounge facilities, GDS distribution, flexible departure times and new premium economy seating.
But Graham Pickett has some reservations about LCCs making the transition to business class. "When they [LCCs] have gone away from their original model -- pile 'em high sell 'em cheap -- there have been problems. The prime example of this was Debonair. They started out with a great idea and were pioneers of the low cost model. But they went bust, because they complicated the product they were offering to the customer," he said.
With rising costs for carriers and customers, Pickett says that airlines will have to look further afield for their customer base. "Most LCC who've come on track in the past ten years haven't really had a massive impact on the flag carriers because a lot of the market they have got is one they have have created themselves," he said.
The future of all-business flights will be interesting to follow. Pickett can see the model working, but only when you have economies of scale and only with airlines who have sizeable fleets.
This bodes well for airlines like easyJet who are, according to Pickett, looking into growing their business class.
"The business traveler, apart from having prompt planes, wants the network. And if corporate customers can be signed up then the airlines with the biggest scale and the most routes will be the winners," he said.
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