with a string of start-up successes to his credit, Hunt launched Silverjet as a new public company in May 2006. The airline began its all-business class service from London to New York in January 2007.
"It was a huge achievement," said Hunt later. "We launched a whole new business model and level of service. Our target was 80% lead factor in nine months - we got there in seven. We did not receive one complaint and won the Sunday Times best airline of the year award - I cried when they told me.
Silverjet's main route from London to New York's Newark airport. London to New York is one of the busiest and most lucrative routes in the world with over 10,000 passengers travelling each day. The Silverjet offer to customers had these feature:
- $2,200 for a return trip from London to New York
- Check-in as late as 30 minutes before departure with a dedicated terminal and security process at Luton
- Six feet three inches long beds
- In-flight food and drink delivered by hand rather than with trolleys
- A women-only lavatory on board
- A $20 carbon offset fee on every ticket
The prices compared with those ranging up to $8,000 for business class flights with other airlines, although the large carriers such as America Airlines and British Airlines have heavily discounted arrangements and loyalty plans with large corporate customers.
The business was initially successful, achieving 76% load factor by Jul 2007. Breakeven point was at a 65% load factor. Silverjet added a second service per day to New York in September and opened a new route to Dubai in November.
But things for investors has already changed. The share price peaked in August and investors were made jittery by a report from an investment analyst looking at the worried customers and travel agents. In December Maxjet, founded in 2005 and offering "spacious seats at near economy prices", filed to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. Hunt worked on securing more investment from various sources...