La Compagnie. They are bugging me again. The relatively new, allegedly low-cost, business class airline between New York and Paris just can’t seem to get it right. When I tried to book back in June, I couldn’t, because the sign-up process offered me no option as a woman other than to tick “Mrs” (see earlier blog, Single Supplements Extra).
Now, ever since I mentioned them, their ads are taking priority on my Facebook page – and I realise, alas, that in mentioning them again, they are destined to be in my life forever.
So, their latest crime comes in the form of an advert announcing “Lovebirds offer for two”. It’s a special Valentine’s Day deal, return New York to Paris, Business Class, for $3000. “What’s not to like?” it perkily signs off.
Where do I start, Frantz Yvelin, hot-shot CEO and founder of the airline? First, you make me feel like a second-class citizen by refusing to allow me to be anything other than a “Mrs” (heaven forbid that a single woman would, or could, travel Business Class without a man on her arm), and now you compound it by offering a deal to couples only.
I wrote in my Singles blog about the things given to couples but not to solo travelers – the Chateaubriand or paella “for two” in restaurants – and the extra charges that singles are forced to pay. The response I have had has been phenomenal, and I sense a rising tide of anger and resentment towards companies who exploit and, inherently, criticise the single lifestyle.
Some people are single by choice; many are divorced; many are widowed. And when companies reinforce one’s feelings of aloneness with their advertising geared towards what they perceive is the “norm”, it can be not only upsetting but downright offensive.
Everyone is also missing a trick. Let’s call it The Solo Pound (and please, share your stories @TheSoloPound on Twitter as well as on here). Everyone has heard of The Pink Pound or, as it is called in the US, the Dorothy Dollar. It’s the name given to the enormous sums of money the gay community spends, estimated to be around £350 billion per annum. That’s an awful lot of Judy Garland CDs.
So, The Solo Pound works like this. It’s easy: single people who have never been married, don’t have kids and hold down good jobs have money to spend. Lots of people who are alone as a result of other circumstances also have money to spend. It’s not rocket science. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US reported that 124.6 million Americans aged 16+ were single – or 50.2% of the population, compared to 37.4% in 1976.
In the 1980s in Ohio, the National Single and Unmarried Americans Week was founded in recognition of singles’ contribution to society, and the celebrations continue to this day. So why, as the numbers of non-conformists become the norm, are single people still discriminated against and even made to feel guilty for their lifestyle choices or circumstances?
Let’s go back to La Compagnie. I happen to think they have the potential to provide a great service that could compete with the larger airlines providing TransAtlantic routes. I also have nothing against Valentine’s Day – any celebration of love between people is fine in my book. But it’s the exclusivity that is offensive. It screams “I have someone, you don’t!” Not only do you have no one with whom to share your Chateaubriand or paella, you have no one to share an exclusive bargain business flight with because, guess what, in the antithesis of the L’Oreal slogan, “You’re not worth it.”
I’ll be interested to see how many couples take up La Compagnie’s offer. To be honest, $3000 is still a heck of a lot of money, especially when travelling to what has become what seems to be one of the terrorist targets of the world. If you have that kind of money anyway, the chances are you’re going to spend it on a major airline, go First Class, and enjoy all the treats of the lounges each end. And if you don’t have that kind of money and decide to treat yourself on the airline, upon reaching Paris you’ll discover that your spare change won’t buy you more than a baguette and an espresso (between two – you can forget that Chateaubriand). Trust me. I lived there.
There are plenty of companies offering events for singles to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, but they are very much geared towards the younger market. La Compagnie had the perfect marketing opportunity to target the singles market and they blew it.
So, Mr Yvelin, as a single “Ms”, I won’t be able to take you up on your, er, enticing $3000 offer. Maybe, next time, you could throw in a man who could pay for me. That seems to be in keeping with the spirit of the airline.