British Airways buys France’s l’Avion

British Airways is going to buy the French all-business airline l’Avion for 54 million pounds ($107 million) as it steps up efforts to take advantage of the recent liberalization of transatlantic travel.

The privately owned airline flies two Boeing 757 aircraft with 90 seats each between Paris and New York. L’Avion has flown 65,000 passengers since its January 2007 launch.

The deal, which includes £26m of net cash on L’Avion’s balance sheet, will allow OpenSkies to raise its Paris Orly-New York flights to three per day. Both carriers use reconfigured Boeing 757 aircraft.

The idea behind Open Skies was to capitalize on the deregulation of traffic between the U.S. and Europe that took effect at the end of March. Until then, BA couldn’t offer direct flights from Paris to the U.S.

L’Avion is the sole survivor of the four all-business class airlines launched in recent years following the collapse of Maxjet, Eos and Silverjet. But given oil at around $140 a barrel, industry observers doubted that l’Avion ever turned a profit.

BA plans to integrate L’Avion under the OpenSkies brand. L’Avion’s aircraft have 90 seats in a single-class cabin, while OpenSkies has 82 seats in three classes : 24 seats that convert into beds, 28 in premium economy and 30 in economy making it closer to the l’Avion model than traditional British Airways flights.