Open Skies: Arrival and check in

My Paris bound flight was scheduled for Friday, July 3rd, at 5:30 PM, so I left work a little early to connect from Detroit’s Metro airport. Open Skies doesn’t yet have booking agreements with domestic airlines, so if you’re connecting into New York you need to book on two different itineraries and nest them. Mine involved a Northwest flight arriving into LaGuardia at 2 PM, so I was on my own getting between the two airports.

To transfer between Laguardia and JFK, the easiest way is to exit the LGA terminal, grab a cab and ask for terminal 7 at JFK. I opted to go the budget route and take the Q33 Queens bus down to Roosevelt, met my girlfriend at the train station then took the E into Jamaica station for a total of two dollars. From there I transferred to JFK’s Air Train which cost another five. Make sure that if you do this you have plenty of time though, because traffic and the train can take a while.

Note that the Air Train also doesn’t have Open Skies yet listed in it’s directory, so you’ll just have to remember that you need to go to terminal 7. Signs on the inbound road, however, do have it listed, in case your cab driver gets confused.

On arrival at terminal 7, there was similarly little signage, but I got lucky and headed to the left end of the terminal where the British Airways First Class and Open Skies lines were. Since the aircraft only holds about ¼ of the normal volume for a transatlantic flight, there were only two agents at the ticket counter, neither of whom were occupied. They greeted me warmly and we chewed the fat about Open Skies and some of the recent excitement. They then handed me by business class boarding pass and pointed me to the security line behind me.

British Airways premium passengers share an exclusive security line with Open Skies Biz passengers (with a strangely sensitive metal detector) so I was through screening in about two minutes. Passengers flying in Economy or Prem + will unfortunately have to use the regular security line. I navigated past two gates to my right and upstairs to the British Airways Terraces, where I showed my boarding pass again and was let into the lounge.

Biz members are allowed free access into the pre-departure lounge where you can enjoy free snacks, wine, drinks, internet and can loaf around without any of the ruckus typical in an airline terminal. To my surprise, I also located a “Pre Departure Supper” lounge, where I flashed my boarding pass and was ushered into a separate room with a full buffet.

Entrees included eggplant Parmesan, Pacific crab cakes, lamb curry and roasted turkey, with a plethora of sides available as well. Since I knew I would be eating on the flight, I went with a modest portion of mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy with a side of stuffing, a glass of apple juice and a glass of Cotes du Rhone. Just like Thanksgiving.

Since I took my time transferring into JFK and at the ticket desk, I only had about twenty minutes in the BA lounge before they announced boarding of the Open Skies flight. Finishing up some business on the free wireless network, I scampered past the TSA fishbowl, downstairs and just over to gate 3 for boarding. Nobody was in line at the gate either, so I handed over my boarding pass and passport and got right on the flight.

Wendy, the purser, met me just inside of the 757 and we were quickly intercepted by Christopher, the flight attendant who would be in my cabin who showed me back to 2A, offered to put my bag up in the overhead compartment, gave me a Time Magazine and a glass of champagne. While a nice touch, the champagne was only given to Biz passengers. Other cabins get water and juices.

While I was on the phone thanking my girlfriend for putting up with my crankiness, a flight attendant stopped by to drop off a dinner and drink menu, and by the time I was off the telly, Christopher was back and ready to take my order. I asked for vegetable antipasto to start with duck confit and red wine for dinner and he went on his merry way. Outside of Biz, you’ll actually order when you reach cruising altitude.

There were three classes of service configured on this Boeing 757, Economy, Prem + and Biz. For those of you that follow (or care about) aircraft, you know that the 757 is the smallest of “heavies” that fly overseas – airlines have only recently started flying them because of the fuel efficiency improvements and tight demand. PR and employees bill the 757 as a “smaller, more intimate” aircraft, but the fact of the matter is that it’s automatically going to be louder than a 767, 777 or A330 that might be running the same route. It’s also only got one aisle, although with fewer passengers on the aircraft there is less chance of conflict.

Economy has similar amenities to a legacy transatlantic carrier with 2 x 3 leather seats in the back of the aircraft, Prem + has wider 2 x 2 seats that recline liberally while Biz has mating 2 x 2 seats that recline fully. I’ll go over the basics of Economy and Prem + briefly before finally detailing the full experience of Biz below. I spent a significant amount of time in all three cabins during the flights, but for obvious reasons spent the most amount of time detailing the features of Prem+ and Biz.

Continue onward to In flight: Economy or skip ahead to

In flight: Prem +
In flight: Biz
Transfer in from Orly
Return trip logistics
The final word