I finally had a chance on a recent trip to Paris to fly over and back on the still fairly new OpenSkies airline. Owned by British Air and started in the summer of 2008, right before the global economic meltdown, it’s impressive that the company is still going strong and adding routes. It launched with an NYC-to-Paris flight (via Newark and Orly) and now has a route from Washington, DC, to Paris as well. It is rumored that another US destination will be added soon. Of course what’s special about OpenSkies is that it’s business and first class only, with just 84 seats.
My Paris flight took off on a Tuesday night from Newark after several glasses of champagne in the airline’s first-class lounge (available to all fliers). I had been upgraded to first class and had a bed—ooh la la, now this is the way to travel to my town! Full disclosure: my ticket had been comped, so the question that I needed to determine was would I pay for this out of my own pocket the next time I flew. The lounge in Newark was a bit makeshift. It didn’t really come close to the ultimate first class lounge that I experienced, which was Virgin’s in London, but it would do. The one at Orly for the flight home is slightly nicer. In Newark the champagne was of good quality and the tea sandwiches were fresh, so I didn’t complain.
On the flight to Paris, I experienced the very best steward/stewardess service I’ve ever had in my life. The mixed crew, some American and some French, were delightful. The meal salad avec prawns, followed by boeuf avec vin rouge, was delicious for airline food. A pretty good selection of French cheeses, bien sûr, rounded the meal for me. Even the pilot said hello. I felt like queen for a day.
And there is no question that stretching out on a bed is THE way to fly. But how much does it cost? That’s where OpenSkies is onto something. I’ve not sprung for first or business class very often when having to personally foot the bill, but OpenSkies really makes it palatable. I’ve seen fares as low at $650 each way at times, but right now they are advertising $855 each way for business class and $1,789 each way for the beds. Similar prices can be found from DC. Compare that to Air France’s first class at an appalling $15,000 and business class at $4,700. I like Air France a lot, but that’s an enormous difference! Using female sales logic here, if you spend $1,700 round trip on biz class on OpenSkies, you are actually saving $3,000. Now that will buy a few pairs of pretty sexy shoes in Paris—or your entire stay.
The flight back in biz class certainly was not as luxurious as the flight with the bed; but the legroom is amazing, seats are leather and plush and dinner is served over several courses, with good wine. The seats recline back quite a ways, and there is a footrest, so sleeping is no problem, and you are given a nice little package with the ever essential eye mask. Elemis products in the loo were a nice touch. The only complaint I had was that the gear we were given to watch movies was problematic. Apparently the airline is upgrading soon to iPads. Bonne idée!
Sign up for OpenSkies promo alerts. I did, because once you’ve done bed, it’s hard to go back! Oh, and OpenSkies does work with the British Airlines loyalty program, which is part of the Oneworld alliance. So, drum roll please, the answer to the question is yes—I definitely would spend my own money to fly OpenSkies on my next flight to Paris. Given that air travel has become a huge headache, putting a slightly more luxurious and more civilized face on a flight to Paris without gouging you on the price is an idea that needs to last.