UPDATE: Start-up could take CSeries on long-planned odyssey


Updated with comment from JP Morgan

Well over four years ago, Bombardier revealed that certain prospective buyers of its Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan-powered CSeries were thinking seriously about configuring the narrowbody with an all-business class cabin.

While admitting such a market was in no way sizable, Bombardier said it would be “very lucrative”, and began working with interiors giant Zodiac Aerospace on ways to deliver an all-premium concept.

Fast-forward to today, and a novel start-up carrier is proposing to launch 40-seat, all-premium CSeries CS100 service between London City and New York. The CS100’s ability to handle steep approaches at London City is part of the allure for Odyssey, which has ordered 10 of the type.

Odyssey will compete against British Airways’ 32-seat, all-premium Airbus A318s on the route, but BA must make a fuel stop in Shannon, whereby Odyssey can operate its CS100 service non-stop.

During my 2009 interview with Bombardier, the airframer said its decision to optimize the CSeries for 5-abreast seating in standard configuration – building the airplane “basically half a seat larger” than current 5-abreast airplanes – allowed the airframer to offer a cabin better suited to all-premium configurations than 6-abreast Airbus or Boeing narrowbodies which, it suggested, have “wasted space”.

Odyssey has already generated terrific buzz for using crowdfunding to support its development. Today, it announced the launch of a capital raise on US platform Crowdfunder, a program that will run concurrently alongside a similar raise on the UK-based platform Crowdcube, which launched earlier this month.

Combined, the initiative is targeting £5 million (US$8.4 million) to support the company’s next phase of development.

However, Odyssey’s crowd-funding initiative isn’t endearing to some. For instance, in a report this morning JP Morgan analyst Joseph Nadol suggests that Odyssey’s use of crowdfunding to help finance its CS100 order coupled with Republic Airways Holdings’ recent comments about having not yet made a final decision on CSeries “reinforces concerns about the composition of the [CSeries] backlog”. He notes that Bombardier had been looking to flight test progress as a driver of orders, but last week’s engine incident has halted flight testing for now.

Odyssey touts that it has a “successful track record raising funds via peer to peer lenders”, having engaged Freedman & Partners to raise £2.185 million via the ThinCats platform in 2013, “in what was already believed to be a world record for a non-property related peer to peer loan”. The raise comes ahead of “a significant institutional fund raise scheduled for the first half of 2015” – some 12 months ahead of Odyssey commencing operations from London City Airport in mid-2016, adds the company.

Interestingly, Odyssey has also appointed Virgin Atlantic co-founder David Tait and Dragonair founder Stephen Miller to its executive team. When Odyssey begins to specify its aircraft interiors, inflight entertainment, and connectivity requirements, Tait will be leaned upon for his deep knowledge in delivering a stellar passenger experience (#PaxEx), an Odyssey spokesman tells Runway Girl Network.

“Nothing gives me greater delight than getting involved with a new and disruptive aviation business model, especially when it’s one that I have been advocating for many years. [CEO] Adam Scott has put together an impressive team and developed a solid, credible and timely business plan. I can’t wait to get started with Odyssey and for the launch of services in 2016,” says Tait.

While #PaxEx details must still be decided, Odyssey assures that its service will deliver “stress-free, business class travel, from the heart of London to destinations in North America, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Europe, for the time conscious traveller”. This unique service will be focused on destinations within an eight-hour flying time of London.

Scott, a former Goldman Sachs banker, describes Odyssey’s plans in the following video.