Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Low-Cost Airline Offers Business Flights to USA; CITY BRIEFING

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Low-Cost Airline Offers Business Flights to USA; CITY BRIEFING

Article excerpt


A 40-YEAR-OLD British entrepreneur is set to challenge British Airways and Virgin Atlantic with a low-cost business airline flying across the Atlantic.

Lawrence Hunt, who has previously sold businesses to IBM and Telewest, is looking to raise [pounds sterling]25 million through a flotation on the London Stock Exchange's junior market, AIM, next month to fund the launch of Silverjet towards the end of this year.

He promises to offer business class return flights at an average of [pounds sterling]999 compared with most carriers' prices of between [pounds sterling]2500 and [pounds sterling]5000.

The plan to float comes just months after two American airlines launched similar business-only flights between New York and Stansted. There have been mixed reports about MaxJet and Eos since their launches last November, although Hunt said he believed at least one of them was doing "fairly well".

The Boeing 767s will carry 100 passengers, all in almost-flat sixfootlong beds. Meals and movies can be pre-ordered and Hunt plans to keep check-in times down to just 30 minutes by using private-jet terminals at airports.

The new airline will be based at Luton and its first planned service is a twice daily route to Newark, the lowcost airport in New Jersey.

Hunt said: "The aim is very much to get the price down to [pounds sterling]1000 return with the usual low-cost airline policy of the earlier you book the less you pay.

"Market research shows customers are currently unhappy with the value of business class services on offer.

There are all sorts of things you can achieve when you have just 100 passengers rather than the 350 that fill these planes usually, such as rapid check-in and personalised service."

Hunt began working on the airline two years ago and has put in all the start up capital himself. On flotation the group should be capitalised at [pounds sterling]31 million with management, which includes former executives from BA, Virgin and the travel group Airtours, having a 20% stake. …

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