Travel Q&A: OpenSkies flies into tough airline market

Our product lends itself now to the issues travelers are concerned about. When you're a road warrior, it's the little things that wear you down over time, long lines and small seats. We have 64 seats. (Our) departure process takes 10 to 20 minutes.

Last night, out of Newark, me and 71 others were on our (L'Avion) flight. And I think back to traveling on 777s to 747s and what that means. Whew! If you can avoid that...

But we have to grow and get in front of customers. The key challenge for us is to get our awareness up. It's not just top corporations. It's also about small and medium-size companies that have to stay out there, but are keen on saving money. Yeah, there's a challenge for us in (distribution). But there are always distribution problems with new companies.

•Q: What changes can we expect in premium flying in 2009?

The industry will try to continue to consolidate. There will be some new understanding and sensitivities from different governments to enable trans-border consolidation.

In terms of pricing, there may be deals here and there. But for big carriers, it'll stay around where it is. They're saying that if they lower their fares, it's not going to change the demand curve all that much.

•What changes can we expect from your airline in 2009?

We fly to Paris with three flights a day — two from Newark and one from Kennedy. We may go to two from Kennedy and one from Newark. That hasn't been finalized. Our focus in the next 90 to 120 days is to integrate the two companies.

We'll deliver a catering product. Once a month, we'll have a new menu...and to test new wine and have customers be a part of that. We have no plans to announce another route in the next six months. We want to see how things stabilize.

•Q: What's your biggest gripe when you travel for business?

(Clearing airport) security can be a pain in the rear end. I'd love to see that changed. Get it to where it's easier and (not) feel like you've gone through an hour of gym. The long distance between (the airport entrance) and where you (board). It'll wear you down after the 15th escalator. And airline customer service staff who can be sometimes very cold and (not) empathetic.

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