There is hardly an Instagram versus reality paradigm more stark than that of international travel. On
the grid, you are bright, carefree, giving off the energy of the main character. Every hour is a golden hour. All too often, however, the reality is a little darker.
To United States, we strive to make every moment effortless chic – even with red eyes, and especially when visiting our hometown of Milan. So the news that a longtime staple for frequent travelers to the mainland, The companykicked off a business class flight to Italy’s fashion capital had us racing to book a flight – and a hotel room (in the gorgeous 5-star Gallery Vik Milanosure).
The Company was first launched in 2014, serving New York to Paris with seasonal flights from New York to Nice. In April, it expanded its route from New York (Newark International Airport) to Milan (Milan Malpensa Airport) by offering five weekly flights (Thursday to Monday) departing at 9:40 p.m. on the new A321neo aircraft with 76 seats- full beds.
Paris and Milan are an obvious pairing for anyone who has moved through the fashion week calendar. However, the company’s decision to expand to an Italian destination was actually the result of creative thinking inspired by the pandemic. The airline’s planes were grounded for 15 months during the pandemic until June 2021, when the European Union reopened its borders to Americans.
“We thought it was a bit risky to operate two flights a day from Paris to New York, which was our business model before COVID-19, because we knew that the volume of traffic between Paris and Europe would not would not completely return to normal and we would have to wait until 2023 or 2024 to return to the figures of 2019”, declared Anne Crespo, marketing and communication manager of La Compagnie. United States.
“We started to see where our business class product would have strong appeal,” Crespo said, adding that New York to Milan is the third most popular route for business class traffic, behind Paris and London. (The European airline can’t fly from any non-EU country to the US, and post-Brexit which includes the UK.) “Basically the numbers were telling us, Milan has lots of business class traffic.”
Crespo said two other factors led to the expansion of the Milan line: the lack of competition from Italian airlines and the influence of the city’s fashion. “During COVID, Air Italy collapsed and Alitalia switched to ITA,” Crespo explained. “In terms of competitors, there were only US airlines and Emirates and there was room for another operator in the business class travel market.”
Like the other La Compagnie lines, Milan is a sustainable destination for the jet set. “Since day one, La Compagnie flyers have been people in the fashion, luxury and arts spaces and Milan has all of those types of people,” Crespo continued.
For this reason, La Compagnie offers all the amenities these travelers expect: access to airport lounges, two free checked bags, 76 cots and fast 10-minute boarding and disembarking processes. “It’s not a private jet, but it feels like a private environment,” Crespo explained.
On board, passengers are greeted with a glass of champagne before take-off before connecting to the free (and fast) Wi-Fi to work en route. Meanwhile, they’re treated to high-end skincare products and menus crafted by Michelin-starred chefs.
All La Compagnie flights offer these amenities, but for the Milan route, the airline has partnered with Italian brands, including skincare products from Parma-based sustainable beauty brand Comfort Zone, menus from chefs Isabella Potì and Floriano Pellegrino of the Bros restaurant in Lecce, and the Lorenzo Cogo restaurants in Vicenza, El Coq and Dama, in Venice. The drinks on offer are made with grape varieties from Italian organic vineyards.
“We tried to avoid being ‘the French who go to Italy’, so we changed our partnership and collaborated with Italian brands. We also created a coffee menu, because we felt it was very important for Italian culture, which is crazy about coffee,” Crespo said.
The one thing that will remain the same, however, is the French flight crew and pilots – all of whom have been kept on staff throughout the pandemic. “We never fired anyone during COVID,” Crespo revealed. “Our CEO was very clear that we would keep all the staff and they could fly to Paris and Milan. The good news is that we have a lot of pilots and three or four crew members who speak Italian.
And after? The company is “definitely” aiming to expand to other routes down the line, but for now it is focused on bringing “the soul of La Compagnie” to a new market. “We are small and we provide privacy for passengers,” Crespo said. “They feel like they belong in our airline. Like they are in the club.
Equally intimate and thoughtful is the artistic enclave that is Milan’s Galleria Vik Milano – a perfect destination for a La Compagnie traveler in Milan. The hotel is located inside the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a breathtaking shopping mall with a glass dome designed in 1861 and completed in 1877. The gallery connects the Piazza del Duomo (home to the Cathedral of Milan) at Piazza della Scala (home to the historic La Scala Theatre). (The Galleria itself is home to a historic landmark dear to fashionphiles: the very first Prada store, opened in 1913.)
This is a truly incomparable location for a boutique hotel. Indeed, when the owners of Vik Retreats, husband and wife duo Alex and Carrie Vik, learned that the TownHouse Galleria hotel property was up for sale, they were immediately “intrigued”. They wanted to open a hotel in a city and Milan “made sense”.
Although the TownHouse was labeled a 5-star, “it wasn’t a particularly inspiring hotel,” says Carrie. “There was no art, there was no interesting furniture. All the walls were painted the same color on all five floors, but the architecture was extraordinary.
A true diamond in the rough, the property will soon join Vik’s portfolio alongside five properties in South America, all created to showcase remarkable art and design from around the world. Of course, a substantial renovation came first.
“Our projects are ‘love projects’. We do them because we love art, design and architecture, and we love being creative,” Carrie said. United States. “We built all of our other projects from scratch, but this was going to be something we were going to inherit. And inheriting a hotel in a historical monument was really appealing.
The bones of the structure were intact, but Carrie and Alex undertook a major renovation to make the space more functional with the help of architect Marcelo Daglio, who helped with the expansion and reworked the 58-room layout at 89.
Today, the bedrooms on the second level feature double-height ceilings and loft-like spaces with living areas under the beds accessible by a staircase. Third floor rooms have balconies overlooking the Galleria, while the fifth floor is located above the Galleria structure and has comfortable outdoor garden terraces.
Carrie found the variety of rooms “truly inspiring” and gave the space the Vik Resort signature by making each space totally unique through unique art and decor. Two Italian art curators helped bring in artists from Uruguay, Italy, and other countries around the world to create site-specific installations in the halls, corridors, and gathering spaces. Even some of the bathrooms feature site-specific art installations or outstanding marble design.
“They’ve all been really committed to the project,” said Carrie of Vik staff. “A lot of artists have come and stayed for long periods of time as they created their spaces, so you feel that passion and the creative energy that was put into it by all of these artists. It’s not just us who let’s put paintings and hang them on the wall.It’s about involving the artists and collaborating with them.
One of the hotel’s most striking works of art can be found in the lobby, with a bronze cast of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture, The Thinker, in monumental scale to greet guests. It is surrounded by a dry fresco covering the walls and ceiling which features eight mythological figures holding the world by Italian artist Alex Folla. “I think it’s a great way to get to Milan because you’re completely absorbed in this world of Italian Renaissance art with a modern twist,” Carrie said. “It’s really inspired.”
The hotel opened in November 2019 and hit full steam with full occupancy by February 2020 Fashion Week, but was forced to close at the onset of the pandemic. After a brief reopening in 2020, it closed again in the second wave and has remained open — finally — since March 2021.
“We felt we had to be open because we were the new hotel and nobody knew us,” Carrie explained. “We had to get our name out there because we just never really had the opportunity to do that before the pandemic.”
The hotel has two restaurants: Pellico Otto is open daily for breakfast, lunch, aperitifs and dinner. It doubles as an art gallery with many works by artists represented at Galleria Vik Milano throughout the space. The roof houses a pizzeria, I Dodici Gatti.
Equally delectable is the art that covers every inch of the property — from the hallway murals to the breakfast view overlooking the Galleria. Yet Carrie is the first to acknowledge that Galleria Vik Milano “is not a hotel for everyone”.
“We are not a cookie-cutter hotel, and some people want a cookie-cutter hotel. They want to know that when they walk into the room, there will be the desk in the corner, a TV, and the same amenities everywhere you go. We are not like that,” she said. “Each room has different furniture. Most rooms don’t have a TV. It’s not our brand.
While customers may request a television, the aim here is to help customers immerse themselves in a world of design, architecture, style and history. What could be more effortlessly chic, more Milano than that?