The silver lining

London-based airline SIlverjet presents a surprisingly successful new model in air travel finds Vijay Dandige

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

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Published: Wed 14 Nov 2007, 11:37 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:34 AM

IN TODAY’S world of crowded air travel where you sit boxed in in a cramped space, imagine flying a long haul sector to London, sleeping on a flat bed all the way through to your destination.

In today’s world of heightened airport security where they tell you to check in three hours before departure, imagine going to the airport to take an intercontinental flight — just thirty minutes before take off.

Or instead of the long serpentine queues at immigration desks, imagine a scenario where you almost walk through. Sounds incredible? You bet. But that’s the way Silverjet does things - and flies.

At a time when low-budget ‘no frills’ airlines are proliferating at a rate faster than it takes for some of their websites to open, Silverjet, a London-based airline launched on January 25 this year, has taken off in exactly the opposite direction. It is the first exclusively business class airline, offering its customers a private jet style experience at amazingly lower prices.

“We started the airline because we found a niche market,” Peter Owen, Silverjet’s chairman told City Times at the current Dubai Air Show where the airline had organised a special tour on-board its luxurious aircraft, where they also served samples of their famed in-flight menu.

When asked why they chose to go for their unique all business-class version instead of the usual low-budget model, Owen said, “Low cost is the right model for short haul flights. Established airlines like Emirates, Lufthansa and others fly with over 200 passengers, and are very aggressive with their pricing. And to compete with that is difficult. But with an all business-class version, we saw an opportunity to compete on that segment, with lower fares.”

Citing an example, he pointed out that the normal business-class return air fare between Dubai and London is around Dh16,000, whereas on Silverjet the same fare comes to about Dh9000. He added that nearly 400,000 people fly annually in business class cabins between London and Dubai.

Silverjet never considered having first class either. “First class takes more space, and it’s difficult to compete with normal carriers,” explained Owen. “With business class, it’s easier.”

The airline currently offers a twice-daily service between London and New York, and its London-Dubai service will operate daily from November 19. Connecting flights to New York, Newark will also be available, departing London Luton Airport at 16:45.

Luxury at an affordable rate

Lower fare is not the only attraction. The airline has combined the elements of luxury, affordability, convenience and hospitality in an irresistible package that is already eliciting tremendous customer response.

For instance, there are private terminals for passengers at both ends of the service, the Executive Terminal at Dubai International Airport and its own Private Terminal at London Luton Airport; no check in at terminals, facility to book food on internet; a full range of in-flight entertainment package, in English and in Arabic and, best of all, flat beds — for passengers to sleep their way through, should they desire it.

Silverjet is the first and only commercial airline to be allowed the use of the Executive Terminal at Dubai airport.

“Normal airlines carry about 280 passengers in their B-767s. We carry a maximum of 100 — at lower fares,” said Owen. “And we’ve ensured terrific service, with 1 crew member for 10 passengers, and by hiring high quality people, some even from the hospitality sector.”

Silverjet currently has 5 B-767s and plans to add 5 more, so it could fly to more destinations. Despite the lower fare and less number of passenger per flight, Owen is confident about the airline’s success on the fiercely competed Dubai-London route. “We’ll be profitable, because we have no massive overheads,” he said.

Owen pointed out that on its existing London-New York route, the airline’s passenger numbers almost doubled in six months and increased by 38 per cent since September of this year. Its revenue seats flown increased to 6,782 in October of this year, as opposed to 3,628 in May and 4,916 in September of this year. Silverjet was the first in history to reach 80 per cent load factors within 7 months of launch.

In a short span of time, Silverjet has emerged as a multi-award winning airline. When asked his vision for his carrier, Owen said, simply, “To continue to earn a reputation for uniqueness, for excellence; to be partners with high quality people and to see the name of Silverjet all over the world.”

The Silverjet experience

Before check in

  • Check-in up to 30 minutes before departure
  • Concierge meet & greet baggage drop
  • Online or lounge check-in – no check-in desks or queues
  • Seat selection – the ability to choose your seat online

Complimentary chauffeur transfers for all Fully Flexible return fares to and from London Luton, and to and from Dubai Executive Terminal.

Personal allowance for checked baggage is two items (up to 30kg per bag)

On-board experience:

Maximum 102 6”3” flat beds

‘Sleeper Service’ – on night flights the plane is a designated Quiet Zone to maximise sleep time

Ladies-only toilets

Silver Diner – a wide range of freshly prepared, individually served meals

Halal menu on Dubai route

Personal on-demand in-flight entertainment system

Cabin crew to passenger ratio of 1 to 10.

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