Short-haul carrier Cityjet has shed its business class offering in favour of premium economy, and increased the number of seats sold per row in the process.
The new product, called CityPlus and officially launched today (February 15), is almost identical to the old business class, benefiting from fully flexible fares, priority boarding and a cancellation refund.
While fares are also set to remain the same, the number of frequent flyer points on offer has doubled, Cityjet CEO Geoffrey O’Byrne White told Business Traveller today.
But unlike the old business class, the middle seat of each premium row will now be sold. On the Avro RJ 85, Cityjet’s largest aircraft operating out of London City Airport, the premium rows will now be six abreast in a 3-3 configuration.
Upping the number of seats sold per plane, but keeping fares at the same level, will have an obvious benefit to Cityjet’s seat revenues. O’Byrne White said that while CityPlus fares will remain the same as business class, the real value to passengers would be in the increased number of loyalty points on offer.
“Our fares are pretty attractive at the moment anyway. But on the points, roughly speaking, you could say that if you fly seven flights, you can get one free. And from time to time, we will even boost that further,” he said.
O’Byrne White added that where possible Cityjet would space its premium passengers out with a seat in between, but it was no longer “contractually guaranteed.”
Air France-owned Cityjet is not the first airline to drop business class on short-haul routes this year. Last month Bmi scrapped business on key short haul routes from London Heathrow (see online news January 18), and last year Air France announced it would go from three-class to two on European flights from April 2010 (see online news November 12).
When asked why Cityjet was also going down this route, O’Byrne White said that the “market has moved on” and “changed forever”.
He said: “A lot of companies have changed their travel policies and basically abandoned business class. There are some exceptions, but from a cost saving point of view, from short-haul travel in particular, it’s moved to a more functional service, I suppose more defined by the business contract, the flexibility of the ticket, the premium points that are awarded for frequent flyers, rather than the size of the tray and the meal that you get.”
But O’Byrne White said that Cityjet’s offering was very different to larger airlines trying to cover a greater market.
He added: “We’re targeting very much a business community and trying to adjust the product and service offering to their specific needs, so that means we’re probably atypical to what’s generally happening in the market, particularly a market that’s so influenced by low cost short-haul travel. We’re offering something that is quite distinctly different.”
Other benefits of the new ticket include free ticket name changes, two pieces of hold luggage and free carriage of golf equipment.
Like business class, at the airport CityPlus passengers will get dedicated check-in, fast-track security, priority boarding and disembarkation, a free meal and drink (but no champagne).
Lounge access is also included, where available, at Amsterdam, Antwerp, Edinburgh, Luxembourg, Milan Linate and Paris Orly.
For more information visit cityjet.com.
Report by Andrew Gough