Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
With an average of more than 10,000 daily passengers plying the London-New York route, the latest airline to attempt to woo business and leisure travellers is Zoom, albeit with a slightly different proposition.
Those using the London underground of late cannot have failed to notice the blitz of publicity that has surrounded the new low-cost transatlantic entrant, hard on the heels of Air Transat, with headline prices of ”129 ($258) to New York screaming from every blue billboard.
During the past ten years, transatlantic airlines have upgraded their services to an exceptionally high standard competing for the business travel market. Flat beds, the latest entertainment systems and exquisite cuisine from leading caterers have taken air travel to a new level.
At the same time, low cost carriers have transformed short haul air travel by stripping out additional extras, charging for almost everything and creating a price war across European, US, Australasian and Asian networks.
So where does Zoom fit in?
Using Boeing 767-300ER aircraft in what is a two-class operation, 84 premium economy seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration offering a seat pitch of 36,” while a complementary service includes one meal with a choice of mains, alcoholic drinks throughout the flight and a snack before arrival.
Don”t expect to find individual entertainment or a flat bed, but the friendly service is a welcome plus. The menu offers a choice of three main courses that won”t be winning Michelin stars, but is sufficient.
London flights leave Gatwick at 13:00 with an arrival time in JFK of 15:45, with the return being overnight arriving at 06.00. Prices in economy start at ”129 one way including all the numerous fees, while the premium headline return price is ”496.
The premium economy offering on Zoom is not the same standard as other airlines on the same route, but the return fare is a fairly close comparison to economy fares on established carriers. With the additional legroom and fast track check-in, Zoom is an interesting and cost-effective alternative for what in reality is not a long-haul flight.
With only one direct flight five days a week, although soon to be upped to a daily service, business passengers may find themselves with less flexibility than other offerings but there are indications that Zoom will expand its offering to twice daily in the near future.
The airline will continue to use 767 equipment and Zoom says it will become easier to buy these aircraft once the 787 is launched and other airlines update their fleets.
Menu cards and in-flight magazines are printed on 100% recycled paper, service items such as cutlery and drinks tumblers are bio-degradable while the tea and coffee served on-board are Fairtrade products. A small contribution to helping the environment from an industry that is under the microscope for carbon emissions.
Timing is very important in any industry and Zoom”s entrance onto this route is a good shout. Low cost long haul between London & New York has been tried and failed in the past but the industry has matured and changed significantly.
Large corporate companies may not use Zoom on this route, but there is a huge SME (small medium enterprises) market that has the flexibility to book travel independently via the web without travel policy restrictions.
Low-cost airlines are beginning to be introduced to TMC (travel management companies) systems, although, as it stands, Zoom does not have any plans to exploit this opportunity.
Expansion for the carrier includes making Gatwick a major hub to many more US city destinations, with Boston, San Francisco and Las Vegas mentioned as possible ventures from the London gateway to continue the transatlantic revolution of low-cost.
With the Gatwick express franchise in place, the 30min rail journey into central London makes the UK”s second largest airport a very accessible gateway that is so often overshadowed by Heathrow.
Zoom”s offering is not going to win awards for business airline of the year across the Atlantic but the service is certainly more than adequate for the business traveller. Travel costs are increasingly scrutinised by companies and Zoom can capitalise on this.
The majority of its customer base will be using the airline as a leisure carrier but with London and New York the pumping beat of the finance world, there is certainly enough room for a low-cost carrier targeting the SME market.
In fact, a recent Barclaycard Business survey revealed that only 14% of business travellers from the UK actually travel in dedicated business class facilities, indicating Zoom has every chance of tempting passengers away from their preferred carrier.
The secret to success for Zoom will be to continue the high load factors ” the life and blood of the low-cost carriers. Some may argue of course, that the charter carriers that have operated to leisure destinations across the Atlantic for many years and were the orginal low cost, but if bookings and in-flight service can remain strong, Zoom may have a decent chance.
Image from left to right: Zoom co-owner John Boyle, BAA managing director Andy Flowers and fellow Zoom co-owner, Hugh Boyle