I tried the British Airways subsidiary ‘Open Skies’ on its new Washington (Dulles) Paris (Orly) route recently. It provides a very good solution to business class travel at sensible prices.
Open Skies flies a fleet of Boeing 757’s on its two routes from Paris to the USA – twice a day to Newark and four times a week to Washington. The 757’s are divided into 4 cabins with the forward two equipped with the Biz Bed and the rear two with the Biz Seat. The Biz bed is the original BA mainline Club World bed recovered and smartened up but still essentially the award winning product that BA introduced a good few years ago.
The Biz Seat is another old BA Club world product – the Cradle Seat, the Club World bed’s predecessor. Biz Beds and Biz seats are all arranged in a 2 -2 formation with a total
capacity of just 90 or so passengers. The Biz Seat pitch is a very generous 50 inches.
The clever part is that you can book the Biz Seat for travel one way and the Biz Bed the other. You probably do want to sleep for as long and as comfortably as possible on the overnight Eastbound flight, but would rather be awake and watch movies, read and eat a decent meal on the daytime westbound flight. Prices start at $ 700 one way for the Biz Seat and $ 1,595 one way for the Biz Bed. So you can have the almost private jet experience in some considerable comfort for anything from $ 2,295 round trip!
On the ground check in is handled by mainline BA check in desks dedicated to Open Skies in Washington and Newark. In Orly Open Skies has there own set of desks very conveniently located for access to security and departure gates. You get fast track through security at all Open Skies airports. The way you are whisked through at Orly is really very impressive! In Washington and Newark
Open Skies Passengers get access to the Terraces Lounges which are pretty good . In Paris you are offered Salon ‘Icare’ which is not the greatest by a long chalk – overcrowded and limited options of refreshments and virtually non existent business centre.
In flight service is good. There’s a decent selection of English and French language newspapers handed out after boarding, as is a choice of Champagne, water or orange juice. There’s no amenity kit as such but you are provided with a little pack containing socks, eyeshades, earplugs and toothbrush and toothpaste. Crew come around with baskets containing body lotion, lip gel etc. so you can take what you want. Hot towels come around twice during the flight.
Drink service is good and it’s nice to be served cocktails properly mixed from full bottles of liquor. Wines are very good with a choice of two good whites and reds – on my flights the whites were Sancerre or Chablis and the reds a Chateauneuf du Pape and a St Emilion of reasonable distinction.
On the Washington, Paris service dinner is served quite quickly after take off to allow for maximum sleep time. My meal was seafood salad and then a rather strange but not unpleasant southern fried chicken dish. I chose cheese for my dessert and can’t remember what the sweet was. A light continental breakfast is offered before landing in Orly. On the Paris Washington flight, I guess being a daytime service ,I found the meal far superior and it really was an excellent four course restaurant quality meal. After this I really couldn’t manage the pre landing snack which looked pretty substantial to me.
In flight entertainment is from individual digital players with a good size screen. They plug in to an in seat power source so there is no risk of losing battery power. The units are of a size to slot in to the stow away arms that used to hold the fixed screens when the seats were used for mainline BA service, so you don’t have a crowded table if you are trying to eat and watch a movie at the same time. There was a very good choice of moves – I would guess 20 or more and a considerable volume of TV programming as well. The music selections were simply enormous and there was an entertaining selection of video games (with an impossible general knowledge quiz!).
With less than 100 passengers boarding and disembarkation is really speedy and in both Orly and Washington baggage delivery coincided with immigration clearance so couldn’t really be faulted.
Orly has very good connections to most European cities with both legacy and low cost airlines providing regular service. I flew to and from London City Airport to connect with my Open Skies flights and the service was good reasonably priced and of course London City is a joy to use.
I would recommend Open Skies. There could be improvements – for example it would be nice to have a better lounge in Paris and it would help if they gave you menus rather than trying to recite the on board food offering. But all in all small gripes about what is an excellent and well priced service.