XL Airways launched service to the United States in 2009 with the goal of significantly dropping fares between Paris and New York City. It succeeded on that front and nearly a decade and three more US destinations later has a new target market: Israel. For the Summer 2018 season the airline will sell connecting itineraries for the first time ever, allowing travelers to fly between New York and Tel Aviv, via Paris, on a single ticket. Passengers will also have the option to break up the trip with a stop in Paris at no extra charge.
The shift to add hub-like functionality is out of character for the true LCC market. As CEO Laurent Magnin noted during the announcement, “We need to be careful on one thing: A hub is costly. Always.” But, especially as the long-haul LCC market matures, that caution must be suppressed from time to time. Magnin believes that time is now and the NYC-Israel market is the perfect target.
It is not creating a hub. It is probably creating two or three flights with a connection. But the policy of the airline is not to say “no hub” but it is not to say “hub.” Some routes need to be explored.
XL Airways is not alone in that market, not by a long shot. Delta, EL AL and United Airlines offer multiple nonstop flights daily while the “big 3” legacy alliances offer plenty of connecting choices via hubs in Europe. On the LCC side WOW air also operates to Tel Aviv, with connections onward to multiple US gateways, including Newark. Magnin believes that XL Airways can still find a niche in that market, however, and drive a profitable traffic segment. And, perhaps, more importantly, he intimated that the carrier may eventually work to secure local traffic rights on the route if demand is sufficient (and the regulatory hurdles can be cleared), converting from the connecting traffic to a nonstop flight.
The XL Airways Passenger Experience
When launching the XL brand Magnin had to choose between the “naked” LCC option where everything costs extra and a bundled model. The company offers at least one meal and one checked bag on every booking. Combined with what are typically lower starting prices he believes that the model can continue to be successful, especially for families and leisure travelers that are no longer in their 20s and just off on a quick trip, a demographic he sees as more keen for the “naked” LCC fares.
The flights are basic in service beyond the free meal, but there are innovative entertainment options available for passengers. The A330 fleet features the XL Cloud streaming IFE solution, powered by Immfly. Passengers can either use their own device or stream movies and TV shows to a rented iPad on board. The carrier offers a mix of free and paid/premium content on the system. The carrier also offers Skylights “immersive cinema goggles” for rent on board for those who want the 3D/VR experience.
Magnin also notes that more and more passengers are building DIY connections across multiple airlines. They’re aided by metasearch/booking engines such as SkyScanner that offer those trips (and the associated warnings) in search results. With more passengers already choosing such, plus the Worldwide by easyJet option now live, XL Airways has to adjust its approach to the market to keep pace. Managing to do so while also controlling costs and fares charged is a challenge, but given
Header image: AIRBUS A 330, XL AIRWAYS ICI A SAINT DENIS SUR ILE DE LA REUNION. © Photo Alain ERNOULT-ERNOULT.COM/XL Airways
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