The collapse of MAXjet Airways on Christmas Eve may signal a developing downturn but not the end of business-class-only airlines.

The US-owned business-class carrier ceased flying from Stansted after failing in a bid to raise fresh capital, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Chief executive William Stockbridge blamed a combination of the rising fuel price, intensified competition and a decline in business and consumer confidence. But it was the credit squeeze that put additional funds out of reach.

Lawrence Hunt, chief executive of business-class-only rival airline Silverjet, which operates from Luton to New York and Dubai, claimed MAXjet had specific problems and had been driven under by competition. Silverjet has launched a January sale offering 20% off selected flights from Friday and business-class-only rival Eos Airlines is offering free gifts with bookings.

However, a leading aviation analyst said: “The situation for the airline industry is dire. There is too much capacity, the economic indicators are horrendous and the cost of fuel is a real problem.”

MAXjet will be liquidated rather than seek a buyer, with shareholders expected to receive nothing.

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