Monday 24 July 2017

San Francisco for €700 isn't quite the Biz - but it's still a bargain

In a classic tale of riches-to-rag-trade, Heidy Rehman established Rose & Willard, a London fashion house that she says is about ethical fashion, and empowering women (Stock picture)
In a classic tale of riches-to-rag-trade, Heidy Rehman established Rose & Willard, a London fashion house that she says is about ethical fashion, and empowering women (Stock picture)
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

With all the focus on Donald Trump, it's easy to forget an arguably more important trend in the transatlantic market - the rise of low-cost operators.

With Norwegian Air set to reveal all in the coming weeks about prices (and even airports) for its new Irish services, two other competitors - WestJet and WOW - already have a foothold in the market.

Air intelligence company OAG recently revealed that the upstarts have a tiny share of the business (3.3pc), but they're growing it aggressively.

And already Irish business travellers can even fly to the US West Coast for around €700. In Business.

There's a but, well lots of them, but we'll get to them.

WOW, which flies from Dublin or Cork to North America via Reykjavik, launched its 'Biz' class at the start of the month, offering online selection of its larger seats, in-flight meal, flight-cancellation protection (if you can't fly due to unavoidable reasons), plus one checked bag and one carry-on bag (20kg).

Checking for this week, departing February 23, I could get to San Francisco for a few cent over €700.

This breaks down into Dublin to Iceland (2hr 45), a layover of 2hr 10, and a 9hr 10 onward connection to SFO. It's a steal, and actually cheaper than WOW's business-class offerings for this week to other destinations on America's east coast.

So what would you fork out with its legacy carrier rivals?

Aer Lingus's Business Flex comes in at €4,660, but there's the convenience of a non-stop service on the return leg; British Airways, via Heathrow, costs around €2.654); while it's €2,821 with Air France (via Paris).

United Airlines is even more expensive at €3,452, with the inconvenience of the outbound leg via Frankfurt, while American Airlines will charge you €3,447.

These are rough guidelines only, but they do reveal that flying time via Iceland isn't that much more of a hassle given that most carriers (bar Aer Lingus) will require a transfer, whether it be in the UK, Europe, Canada or US east coast.

But here comes the buts.

WOW'S business isn't really the Biz - think Premium Economy.

While the likes of Aer Lingus will give you lie-flat beds, onboard wifi and enough seatback entertainment to keep you occupied for days, not just hours, WOW is strictly no frills.

You'll be in the main cabin (albeit in a roomier seat with footrest), but there's no on-board entertainment, with the airline saying it's provided by "the thrill of sitting high up in the sky and enjoying the flight". Seriously.

There are plugs under seats, so load up on movies on your tablet and take a book or two, or the flight could be pretty gruelling.

I haven't flown with WOW, but Skytrax passenger reviews are mixed to say the least.

The big plus here though is that Biz is a bargain compared to WOW's cheaper fares - which charge extra for food, water and luggage.

The moral of the story?

Go legacy if your boss is paying, and take a peek at WOW if it's coming out of your own pocket.

■ Speaking of low-cost carriers, Norwegian Air tells the Sunday Independent it's confident that the new US administration won't bow to airline and union pressure to block its services from Europe to America.

It emphasises the Trump administration's line on job creation in the US.

"We are creating jobs for American pilots and are a huge customer for Boeing, with 250 planes on order, with an $18.5bn spend.

"We're buying American and creating American jobs - it's what Trump is trying to promote."

■ Not even the skies offer a level playing field for male and female high-fliers.

While the lads can rock up to a meeting in the standard grey suit, finding attire that's comfortable on a long flight, and suitable for the boardroom, is a tougher ask for women.

After almost 14 years at the top in the City, Heidy Rehman spotted a gap in the market.

In a classic tale of riches-to-rag-trade, she established Rose & Willard, a London fashion house that she says is about ethical fashion, and empowering women.

It's a feminist company, but the affable Rehman insists "we're not chopping men's things off or anything like that, but we call ourselves a brand of action".

The textiles are sourced in Italy, and the clothes, pictured, are made in Britain, so prices are a bit higher than on the Main Street, but she says they're practical, crease-proof and geared towards the executive on the move.

As a stockbroker - "high risk, high reward". she says - Rehman was ranked top analyst in surveys for the Emerging Europe Chemicals and Construction sectors.

Moving into fashion was a gamble, but so far it's paid off.

Acting royalty Judy Dench, related-to-royalty Pippa Middleton, Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery and Tom Hardy's actress wife, Charlotte Riley, are among her clients.

I'm no women's - or men's - fashion expert, but the latest styles can be found on roseandwillard.com

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