Financial Times - New business-only airline raises funds

29 April 2014

By Roger Blitz, Leisure Industries Correspondent

Business-only airlines are synonymous with failed ventures such as Maxjet, Silverjet and EOS, but are now making a comeback.

A group of former aviation and travel executives are founding a new airline dedicated solely to premium business travellers, with plans for the first flight, from London to New York, in 2016.

Odyssey has won the backing of veteran private equity pioneer Jon Moulton, one of the investors that helped it towards a first round of funding of more than £5m, raised via online crowdsourcing.

Odyssey is launching a second £5m round this week and expects to approach institutions next year for a further £60m.

Adam Scott, former Goldman Sachs banker and Odyssey’s chief executive, said technological change would prevent his venture suffering the fate of previous business-only airline ventures.

It has bought 10 Bombardier CSeries planes, whose combustion technology engines mean they can fly nonstop from London City Airport to New York.

Its planes are offering 40 lie-flat seats and will fly from London to destinations in North America, Europe and the Middle East within eight hours’ duration. The first transatlantic flights are scheduled for mid-2016.

Business-only airlines were in vogue a decade ago as start-up operators sought to undercut mainstream carriers with dedicated services at competitive fares.

They impressed customers with fast-track security channels, departure lounges with free wireless internet, and meet-and-greet staff at departure and on arrival.

But they failed party because their fleets were inefficient and they were susceptible to sharp rises in fuel. Maxjet failed in 2007 and Silverjet collapsed in 2008.

“We are not going to be a discount airline,” Mr Scott said, adding that previous ventures were hamstrung by flying out of Luton and Stansted, their high overheads, and their pre-crash timing.

“This is more about the traveller’s experience and getting rid of the aggravation of having to go through big airports,” he said.