BA's OpenSkies gaining market share despite climate: chief

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British Airways claims its OpenSkies all-business operation is gaining market share and receiving positive feedback, despite the poor climate which has prompted BA to postpone its expansion.

The airline operates to New York - serving both JFK and Newark - from Paris Orly and Amsterdam, using four Boeing 757-200s.

OpenSkies managing director Dale Moss claims the carrier already has 9% of the market between Paris and New York, and 26% of premium fare levels on the routes. While the Paris market was down by 30% during January, he says, OpenSkies' business was up by 10%.

"We don't need huge numbers to do what we need to do," says Moss, referring to the low-density seating of the 757s. The airline is "small and nimble" and could reconfigure its whole fleet within four to six weeks if it detected a change in market trends.

"We have a wonderful product at a fantastic price," he says, although he concedes that economic pressures mean OpenSkies might take a little longer to reach profitability. The business plan called for profits in the latter half of the third year.

Moss believes OpenSkies benefits from a frequent-flyer programme and the backing of BA - support which was absent in other, now-defunct transatlantic all-business carriers. Silverjet and Maxjet Airways both operated larger Boeing 767s, he says, while 757 operator Eos had a "very rich" configuration of only 48 seats.

OpenSkies has two 64-seat aircraft, following its early decision to ditch economy seats from its original configuration. "If you try to be all things, you're not anything," says Moss. The airline is also reconfiguring its other two 757s, acquired through the takeover of French operator L'Avion, with 72 seats.

Moss is not troubled by BA's looking to sell its remaining mainline 757s, rather than transfer them to OpenSkies as originally planned. "Getting 757s with the right lease is not a difficult task for us," he says.

BA strategy director Robert Boyle says the customer feedback on OpenSkies has been "absolutely fantastic" and the carrier is building market share despite the current "challenging" period.

"There will always be stories of odd flights that are empty," he says. But he highlights "significant" development on the Paris route, and states that point-to-point share, premium share and revenue share are "double-digit and growing".