How Has The Pandemic Impacted Boutique Airlines?

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Prior to the pandemic, boutique airlines were an up-and-coming part of the industry. From airlines like La Compagnie to Gulf Air, these niche airlines were quickly growing. However, the pandemic has halted growth in its tracks, forcing all airlines to scale back. So how have boutique airlines been impacted by the pandemic?

La Compagnie’s first A321neo_
Several boutique airlines have seen their operations grounded due to travel restrictions. Photo: Airbus

This article will look at the pandemic’s impact on a few boutique airlines to better understand the changes in the market.

La Compagnie

Starting with the French luxury airline, La Compagnie made a name for itself by flying all-business-class flights between France and the US. The airline flew routes from Paris Orly and Nice to New York, offering competitive prices on the popular transatlantic routes. However, much like the rest of the transatlantic market, La Compagnie has been hurt by the restrictions.

The carrier stopped operating scheduled services in mid-March last year as the impact of COVID-19 became clear. Subsequent travel bans meant that traffic between the US and France was relatively negligible. The airline’s scheduled flights remain grounded until at least May 2021, potentially when the US border will reopen to Europeans.

La Compagnie A321neo – cabin
La Compagnie’s fleet of two A321neos features 76 lie-flat seats in a 2-2 layout. Photo: La Compagnie

However, La Compagnie has managed to stay a bit busy despite losing its routes. The carrier flew several holiday transatlantic flights in December to cater to the holiday travel rush. The carrier has also been flying some charter services to as far as Australia. However, until traffic picks up across the pond, the airline will continue to struggle.

Gulf Air

While Gulf Air is certainly not small, the carrier does highlight itself as a boutique airline compared to its Middle Eastern counterparts. The carrier focuses on its onboard product, strategic network, and a diverse young fleet to differentiate itself. Backed by Bahrain, the airline has made major upgrades in the last year.

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The airline was one of the few which continued flying during the peak of the pandemic, although it also had to suspend transit passengers for a few weeks. Despite the significant decline in traffic, Gulf Air quickly bounced back and provided key repatriation flights throughout the year.

Gulf Air Boeing 787
Gulf Air operates a smaller network but markets itself as more specialized than its competitors. Photo: Getty Images

The last year has also been great for the airline’s fleet. Gulf Air took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo and A321LRs, both of which will be key during its recovery. Perhaps the most exciting change was the airline’s new terminal at Bahrain International Airport. The modernized terminal cost over $1.1bn to build and features a dedicated section for Gulf Air passengers.

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Despite a challenging year for Gulf Air, the carrier has already started bouncing back with new routes and is looking for a strong passenger recovery.

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Air Tahiti Nui

The flag carrier of French Polynesia, Air Tahiti Nui is a boutique airline flying long-haul services to a handful of countries. The carrier exclusively operates a fleet of four Boeing 787-9s on flights from Papatee to mainland France (Paris CDG), the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Air Tahiti Nui 787-9
Air Tahiti Nui has found itself struggling as tourism remains off the cards in most countries, cutting flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The last year has been challenging for Air Tahiti Nui, with the carrier being shut out from flying to New Zealand and Australia and travel restricted to Japan. While the airline has been flying to Paris and Los Angeles, high cases mean that demand remains low. Overall, the airline will likely continue to face low traffic until borders reopen globally.

Have you ever flown a boutique airline? Let us know in the comments!

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