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MaxJet Adds New London Route

MaxJet chief executive Gary Rogliano with flight attendants Kimberly Harrison, Brandy Croft and Lynn Gullie, from left
MaxJet chief executive Gary Rogliano with flight attendants Kimberly Harrison, Brandy Croft and Lynn Gullie, from left (Photos By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 3, 2006

Boutique airline MaxJet Airways was set to launch its Dulles - to-Stansted, England, direct flight service today, complete with beef tenderloin on demand, ample leg room and almost fully reclining seats.

The only catch: It's an all business-class service that, while far cheaper than premium seats in major airlines, will be well above most coach fares.

From its fleet of attendants in triangle felt hats and pin-striped suits, to four-course meals including mesclun and goat cheese salads and New York strip streaks, the Dulles-based company hopes to carve out a niche as other airlines are stripping down their in-flight service.

"Now we have something that no one else is doing and that distinguishes us," said MaxJet's chief executive, Gary Rogliano.

The company's discount business-class service first launched in November 2005 with a route between John F. Kennedy airport and Stansted, a suburban London airport that has become a fast-growing hub for European discount airlines.

Industry watchers have mixed opinions on the company's low-cost luxury strategy, yet MaxJet said it is planning more routes.

"Looking forward, things look strong," Rogliano said. "Our New York service has been very strong and we're already in the process of buying our third and fourth planes."

Rogliano said he expects the company to start producing a profit by early summer. He said MaxJet will launch a service between Boston and Stansted around the middle of June. It is also looking into routes between Stansted and Chicago, San Jose, San Francisco and Dallas.

The start of MaxJet's service today comes three months after the closure of Independence Air, the region's other recent experiment with discount air travel. Independence sought bankruptcy protection late last year and closed in January after failing to find a buyer.

Since it began two years ago, privately held MaxJet has undergone several changes in its business plan, management and route locations. An average of half of the seats on the New York route have been full since it began, according to Rogliano, who said he regarded that as a good start.

Some industry analysts felt otherwise. Mike Boyd, head of airline consulting firm Boyd Group Inc., said the concept makes sense: lure away business-class fliers from major airlines and persuade coach passengers to move to the other side of the cabin curtain by offering premium services at as much as 75 percent off the price of business-class seats on major airlines.

A round-trip ticket on May 1 in United Airlines' business class is quoted on United's Web site for more than $8,000, compared with $1,800 for the same dates on MaxJet.

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