Open Skies: In flight Biz

The first thing that you notice when you reach the Biz seats is that all window seats face aft. Seats are laid out in a head-to-toe orientation so that they fit comfortably together and so that you can compartmentalize your seat easier. I chose a window because I like watching as the aircraft ascends out of New York City and because I don’t like the aisle traffic.

While your seat has to be in an “upright and locked position” during ascent, shortly after the flight, you can fold down an ottoman in front of you and prop your feet up. Later, this section comes in handy for your lie-flat bed. To your left is a control panel that adjusts over-shoulder-light, lumbar and recline, while under the seat is a little compartment in which you can stash your shoes. By your left hip is a 120V power outlet where you can plug your laptop (or a blender, if there is enough current) while the tray table is stowed in the arm rest to your right.

Together, the two facing chairs sort of form a yin-yang mirror image of each other. Luckily there is an accordion shade that you can draw between them in case you don’t want to stare at your fellow row mate. In my case, 2 B C and D were empty, so I left the shade down.

Once at a reasonable altitude, Christopher dropped off an amenity kit with socks and other toiletries as well as a pair of Sennheiser noise canceling head phones and my Archos 705 portable media player.

Not long after I figured out the IFE system, he stopped by again with my first course and a glass of wine, followed by Wendy, the purser, with a basket of at least four types of bread. I was still kind of full from pre-flight supper, but ate half of the vegetables while I took notes.

Since I was backwards facing the galley, all that I had to do to get my duck was glance up and smile, and one of the flight attendants came back with the next course. While I wasn’t entirely thrilled by the duck (in retrospect, who expects an airline duck to be superior), Christopher did come back with a New York cheesecake that was downright outstanding.

Fifteen minutes after finishing dessert, “I am Legend” came to a close on my video box so I decided to get ready for bed. At this point, it was already past three hours into my flight and I needed rest if I wanted to function the next day anyway.

A thick blanket and even thicker duvet were provided for my short nap, so once I returned from the lav I lowered the seat all of the way to the flat position, spread out the blanket and crawled under the duvet; in it’s lowest position, the bed mates with the ottoman to form a totally flat bed. Stretched out completely, the length of the bed was about 6’1, which is a bit of shame because I’m 6’3, but I was still impressed with the length – after all, it is on an airplane.

My primary problem with sleeping on transatlantic flights is on the earlier departures. Many people like to leave between 5 and 7 PM to get more time in the city the next day, but I find that one rarely gets sleep on these flights and the next day just becomes miserable. My personal preference is to leave in the 8-10PM window, sleep for several hours on the flight and attempt to have a normal day (albeit later) in Europe.

Needless to say, I got an hour or so of sleep before Wendy came over and poked me to let me know that breakfast was on the way. I hadn’t even slept enough to be groggy, so I obliged, pulled my seat up and got my things in order before a breakfast box with a ham and cheese sandwich, croissant, yogurt and fresh squeezed orange juice showed up. Still full from my two dinners, I nibbled on the yogurt and caught up on the FARC in the New York Times that I had sequestered from the BA lounge before we started our descent into Orly.

On arrival I find that I am surprisingly awake. I have always mused if jetlag was a virus of sorts, where increased exposure gives you better resistance to the disease – and sooner or later your body just automatically adapts. Perhaps the tiredness will set in later.

Continue onward to Transfer in from Orly or skip ahead to

Return trip logistics
The final word

Open Skies: Transfer in from Orly

Several people that I have spoken with have expressed concern that Open Skies doesn’t fly into Charles De Gaulle, the main airport in Paris. Is Orly further out and harder to get to than CDG?

No, it’s not. It actually might be closer. To transfer in from ORY, you can use several options which I’ll run through in order of risk/cost ratio – lowest risk, highest cost first.

Parisian cabs can be caught at the front of the airport, which is a short walk from the baggage claim. You can give your driver your hotel address and he’ll take you straight there, or, since you flew in on Open Skies you can call the concierge, give the phone to the driver and let them sort it out. Bear in mind that this will probably cost you over 50 Euro.

The Orly bus also picks you up at the front of the airport and will drop you off at various locations in downtown Paris. Since you’re getting in around rush hour, expect a bit of traffic and a 30 – 40 minute commute, but nothing spectacularly uncomfortable, time consuming or expensive. Tickets are around 10 Euro.

You can also connect to the commuter rail, or RER, via the Orlyval, ORY’s version of the Airtrain. That train will drop you off at RER B’s Antony station, which will take you about 15 minutes to get into the center of Paris. You can buy a ticket at the airport for about 9,20E that should connect you all of the way through, just keep your ticket handy because you have to swipe it on the way out.

Continue onward to Return trip logistics or skip ahead to

The final word


Open Skies: Return trip logistics

Commuting in from the furthest reaches of Paris into Orly only takes an hour or so, but make sure you schedule extra time to go through security twice (once at the gate) and immigration. Nine o’clock in the morning at Orly is a pretty busy time, so expect to wade through some traffic once you get into the terminal. Unfortunately, there isn’t a dedicated security line for first class passengers, so even if you splurged on the nice ticket, you’re going to have to sack up and wait in line like the other plebeians.

Check-in, as expected, was fluid and pleasant, with three idle agents waiting for me when I arrived 1.5 hours early. I had my boarding card within two minutes of showing my passport and had directions upstairs and towards the gate and departure lounge.

Because British Airways doesn’t have much of a presence at ORY, there isn’t a BA lounge in which to crash when you return to the airport, so Open Skies has an agreement with a local lounge to take care of its passengers. If you’re flying in Prem + or Biz (opposed to only Biz on the way out), you can access this lounge just before gate 10 in the departure area, just don’t get distracted by the dance party, like me, and walk past.

Continue onward to The final word


Open Skies: The final word

So why book a ticket on Open Skies? The New York to Paris hop is already stuffed with routes (Air France has six), competition is high and prices should be reasonable across the board.

For me, what sets Open Skies apart from the competition distills down to one ratio: quality vs cost.

For the extra one or two hundred dollars over the competition to fly in Economy, passengers can enjoy a smaller cabin, comfortable seats and superior In Flight Entertainment, food and service. Another investment beyond that gets you the wide, luxurious, deeply reclining seats in Prem +, in seat power and enough space to have a miniature party around your seat. Further investment gets you the supreme luxury of Biz: mouth watering catering, lie flat seats and astonishingly articulate service. Add on top of that the comfort of working with the concierge program, airport lounges and friendly ground staff and you have a winning combination.

Open Skies treads the line of quality vs. cost so close that they make me, a devoted budget traveler, consider paying the extra couple hundred dollars just to fly in their economy. And if they ran a promotion, something like the 2 for 1 sale that they ran earlier this summer, that tips to ratio from reasonable to downright ludicrous. As I calculated in that earlier post, two seats in Prem + this summer were less expensive than a flight in economy on a legacy carrier. It should be no question at that point what airline to take.

I think that once (if) Open Skies joins the Oneworld Alliance, this should prove further reason to fly on them.

Until then, I’ll be watching the fares and operations at Open Skies closely. Three other niche carriers tried the business-class-only formula and went bankrupt within the last six months — can British Airways succeed where they failed? Will they generate enough interest and lock in a loyal passenger base before they hit the red?

If enough people learn about the service, try out the airline and have as good of an experience as I had, I think Open Skies will do well. It’s up to us to take the leap into an unknown carrier, to spend the extra dollar on comfort and to put faith in the new service.

Godspeed, Open Skies.


Gadling flies Open Skies

I feel small in these seats, a feeling that I am unaccustomed to when flying overseas. Christopher stops by to see if I’m okay because I’m shifting around awkwardly. I send him off with a cheerful wave and adjust my duvet for the tenth time.

How did I get here?

Open Skies is a new airline spawned from British Airways and the open skies agreement. Their service, kicked off on June 19th between New York’s JFK and Orly in Paris, is the most recent in a line of airlines catering to a new demographic – one who appreciates an enhanced business-class environment, treatment and experience overseas. For the extra one or two hundred dollars over the competition to fly in Economy, passengers can enjoy a smaller cabin, comfortable seats and superior In Flight Entertainment, food and service

Their only 757 aircraft features less than 100 seats, with three classes of service, Economy, Prem + and Biz. I’m told that in the future (and with their acquisition of L’avion), new cabins may only have Prem + and Biz.

With only about sixteen pilots and four times as many flight attendants, the community is small and tightly knit. On my outbound flight, I got to know a few of the flight attendants who filled me in on some of the details about the airline and gave me some tips for my stay in Paris. Each employee, hailing from a colorful past, brings a broad spectrum of experience to the table, the result of which is a multi-faceted group of individuals ready for any situation. As Antony Crucilla, the captain of the return flight told me, the airline has strict requirements in bringing experienced staff on board — and it shows in their service.

Today, I’m on one of the first flights between New York City and Paris, test driving the service and reporting on the experience. Follow along and indulge in the newest airline on the planet: Open Skies.

Continue onward to Planning, booking and the concierge service, or skip ahead to

Online check in
Arrival and check in
In flight: Economy
In flight: Prem +
In flight: Biz
Transfer in from Orly
Return trip logistics
The final word