What Happened To All-Business US Airline MAXjet Airways?

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MAXjet Airways prided itself as being the first low-fare, business class-only airline with services from London Stansted Airport to New York. It was founded in 2003 but only operated for four years before ceasing operations in 2007. Let’s take a look at the short history of the United States-based carrier.

MAXjet Airways Aircraft
During its four years of operations, MAXjet had high hopes even until its final months. Photo: Getty Images

A specific market

By the end of its run of conducting scheduled services, MAXjet had taken delivery of five planes, which were all Boeing 767-200s. During its healthiest period, the airline had approximately 400 members of staff.

Altogether, MAXjet wanted to provide business and leisure travelers a premium experience at a lower price than most of the carrier’s competition. The 767s were fitted with up to 102 business class leather seats, each with 170° recline and plenty of room for movement. Fliers were treated to gourmet four-course meals, on-demand entertainment, and attentive service.

MAXjet Airways CEO
MAXjet Airways chief executive officer Gary Rogliano and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority president and CEO James Bennett toasting champagne during a media conference to celebrate the airlines’ maiden trip from Washington Dulles International Airport to London’s Stansted Airport on April 3rd, 2006. Photo: Getty Images

Quality across the board

Even on the ground, the company provided a high-quality experience that was tailored to both connecting and local traffic. For example, there were flexible check-in desks located in primary terminals, airside lounges, and contact gates. Customers went through Fast Track security and immigration to quicken the journey through the airport. Additionally, all travelers arriving with the airline were granted access to the MAXjet Arrivals Facility at the Radisson SAS Hotel by the terminal at Stansted.

“MAXjet targeted two primary groups of consumers: small business consumers and affluent leisure travelers. Small business consumers were price-sensitive and could not access high-volume discount programmes offered by other larger carriers. Affluent leisure travelers were willing to pay a modest premium over Economy Class for a more comfortable journey.” The MAXjet Archives shares.

“In addition to scheduled passenger transportation, MAXjet provided cargo and charter services. MAXjet offered cargo capacity through a single general sales agent (GSA) on all its existing routes with available capacity of between five and twenty metric tons per flight segment. MAXjet transported cargo using excess belly space on its scheduled flights. The airline also provided charter services; clients included governmental organisations, sports teams, large corporations and wealthy individuals.”

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MAXjet Airways Cabin
A MAXjet flight attendant sitting back on a business-class sleeper seat in the all-business-class cabin on the first-ever Maxjet flight from Stansted to New York JFK. Photo: Getty Images

Hopping across the Atlantic in style

MAXjet served London Stansted Airport from the likes of Las Vegas McCarran International, Los Angeles International, and New York JFK. Furthermore, its headquarters was based at Washington Dulles. The company sought to connect travelers to key financial districts in the United Kingdom’s capital such as Canary Wharf and the City. It also sought to cater to corporate and affluent residential regions in Eastern England. Moreover, the famous Cambridge University is a forty-minute drive from Stansted.

London Heathrow and London Gatwick Stansted had gates and slots available during key travel times for flights across the pond. However, Stansted’s long, 3,048-meter runway allowed for long-haul operations to the US West Coast with full payloads. It also provided conditions for the transportation of large cargo payloads to the East Coast.

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The regular published fares of the airline were often considerably lower than similar offerings by other operators. Including taxes and fees, its fares varied between $1,150 and $4,000 for a return ticket. Around 85% of cumulative passenger ticket sales were generated through direct sales channels. Meanwhile, 15% were purchased through travel agencies. Online outfits such as Expedia and Orbitz had a strong part to play in the sales process.

MAXjet 767
There was plenty of potential for MAXjet and its lavish services, but plans didn’t quite work out for the airline. Photo: Eddie Maloney via Wikimedia Commons

A twist of fate

Despite the grand ideas, the operator didn’t reach its fifth birthday before facing serious financial difficulties. The firm was floated on the London stock exchange in July 2007. However, at the end of the same year, it announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. According to the Financial Times, MAXjet reported a net loss of $49.5 million in the first six months of that year. This was after a net loss of $79 million in 2006, which was its first full year of flying.

MAXjet CEO Bill Stockbridge shared that that moves to raise additional capital had been unsuccessful. Thus, the board had decided that a bankruptcy filing would be the best approach to protect the business’ customers and creditors.

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The airline highlighted some of the key facts behind its financial decline. Fuel price inflation, other operating cost increases, competitive pressures, and a drop in consumer spending all had a part to play. The company also noted that a considerable deterioration in financial market confidence had precluded any further fundraising.

These aspects were joined by an increase in competition. For instance, other airlines had increased capacity and were rivaling fiercely on price in key segments such as New York. SilverJet also notably aggressively reduced fares to gain a share in the market.

MAXjet Boeing 767
The company’s customers were evenly split between US and UK residents, with a median age of 47 and a median annual income of $176,000. Photo: John Murphy via Wikimedia Commons

A tough climate

Ultimately, the carrier ceased scheduled flight operations on Christmas Eve, 2007. It restructured to conduct charter-only flights and retained operational authority until October 2009.

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Nonetheless, even if the carrier didn’t cease scheduled operations in 2007, it would have been likely to meet a similar fate in 2008 due to the global financial crises. Many airlines struggled to adapt to the conditions. So, MAXjet would have found it hard to cope

What are your thoughts about MAXjet Airways’ operations during its short history? Did you ever fly with the airline when it was in action? Let us know what you think of the carrier in the comment section.

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