Another Business Class Carrier Begins Service

LONDON_Business class only airline Silverjet began operating between London and New York Thursday, billing itself as the world's first carbon neutral airline in a bid to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded market.

Silverjet is starting operations with a one flight per day service between London's Luton airport and Newark in New York. It plans to launch a second daily flight in July.

The airline joins Maxjet and Eos, which both fly between London's Stansted and New York's JFK, in targeting business and high-end flyers.

All three are hoping to challenge the pre-eminence of carriers such as British Airways PLC, Virgin Atlantic, Continental Airlines Inc. and United Airlines on the trans-Atlantic route by offering luxury services.

Silverjet offers passengers a check-in time of just 30 minutes and onboard services including wireless Internet and plasma TV screens.

It is also playing the green card, highlighting the mandatory offset contribution included in its ticket prices.

Return fares start at 999 pounds (US$1,927; €1,481), with promotional flights from 799 pounds (US$1,573; €1,209) return.

"For too long, long-haul airline travel has been associated with hassle, disappointment and environmental damage," said Chief Executive Lawrence Hunt, who founded the company in 2004 and floated it on London's junior AIM stock market last May. "We've spent the past three years talking to customers and feel confident that Silverjet addresses their biggest concerns."

Each Silverjet aircraft has 100 business class flat beds, with individual food service, personal in-flight entertainment systems and a separate ladies toilet.

Eos has 48 seats that recline into flat beds on Boeing 757, which normally carries 180 passengers, while Maxjet which has 102 seats, all with double the normal legroom, on its Boeing 767.

Eos fares start at 3,550 pounds (US$6,996; €5,379.47) return, while Maxjet, which called itself the first low-cost business airline, offers fares starting at 395 pounds (US$779; €599) one-way.

However, analysts have warned that the new airlines face an uphill battle to take customers away from the big carriers because of their inflexible flight schedules, a lack of incentives such as frequent flyer miles and their reliance on the more marginal London airports.

Silverjet shares gained 6.8 percent to 164.5 pence (€2.50; US$3.25) in London.