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OpenSkies Completes Merger With L'Avion

Deal Bolsters Fledgling Business-Only Airline

British Airways subsidiary OpenSkies announced this week it has completed its merger with L'Avion, the first all-business class French airline. The combined airline, now referred to as OpenSkies, offers customers a single Business Class brand for trans-Atlantic travel.

As ANN reported, British Airways launched OpenSkies in January 2008, to capitalize on the landmark US/EU agreement... that BA had vehemently opposed, as it reduced the airline's monopoly on gates at London Heathrow.

OpenSkies began daily flights between New York-JFK and Paris-Orly in June, using a Boeing 757 taken from BA's mainline fleet, configured with 64-passenger business-class seating. The launch came right before the global economic recession, however, leading to poor bookings... and speculation the carrier's days were numbered.

OpenSkies acquired the French carrier in 2008, marking the first European transatlantic merger to include full integration. That appears to have bought OpenSkies some needed time.

"We are pleased that the completion of our merger with L'Avion went very smoothly, and look forward to the array of opportunities for the new airline," said Dale Moss, Managing Director of OpenSkies. "Marc Rochet, former L'Avion CEO, was instrumental and an invaluable resource leading the technical and operational aspect of the merger. Amid the current economic environment, OpenSkies offers the kind of value that is a rarity in the industry: A premium flying experience without prohibitive costs."

Both airlines continue to work to integrate their respective offerings into a single package. Noticeable changes include renaming L'Avion's "BIZ" section into Biz Bed, complete with lay-flat seats. L'Avion planes will also offer as many as 72 "Biz Seats," slightly more than in the converted BA aircraft.

On former L'Avion planes, the "OpenSkies" livery will be painted purple, "mixing in tones of L'Avion's signature purple as a tribute to that airline." The last L'Avion plane is slated to be repainted as OpenSkies next month.

The company's Operating Certificate is now located in France, resulting in the company relocating headquarters to Orly, Paris, one of OpenSkies' primary hubs. Additional employees will be based in New Jersey.

The OpenSkies crew and management will be comprised of the top team members from both airlines. Dale Moss will remain Managing Director and Marc Rochet, former L'Avion CEO, is now Executive Vice President.

FMI: www.flyopenskies.com

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