Thanks for stopping by and welcome to the next, and last flight, in this recent series of reports. On this flight, we'll cover the flight back to the U.S. on an OpenSkies 757-200. When booking this trip I could have taken the AA 767 flight back to JFK, but when I saw the option of taking OpenSkies for the same price, I jumped on it. I'd taken OpenSkies before back when they flew from DC to Paris and had really enjoyed my experiences with them. OpenSkies was the only All-Business-Class airline to survive the Global Financial Crisis (although they added a small Economy cabin 2 years ago) and I've always rooted this little guy competing against all the big Airlines flying across the pond. After all these years they seem to be going strong and there must be a reason (besides the fact that big guy British Airways owns them). Speaking of BA, because OpenSkies is a subsidiary of BA, part of oneworld, and all of their flights are BA marketed (meaning they have a BA flight number), as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member I get full mileage credit for mileage flown + 50% class of service bonus miles + 100% Elite status bonus miles. On top of that AA has a year long promo offering up to 12,000 bonus miles for flights in paid long-haul business class…Ka-ching!
Although I was not looking forward to leaving France and having to head back to DC and the real world, I was very much looking forward to this flight as I wanted to see how OpenSkies has changed since the last time I flew them. I was also looking forward to checking out their new lounge at Orly, which had recently opened.
OpenSkies operates from Paris Orly. It's not the nicest airport, but it is more convenient from the city than CDG. The night before we had stayed in Paris with our very good friend, and fellow Flight-Reporter, KL651. It only took us about 20 minutes to drive to Orly. After dropping off the rental car, we headed to the Orly-Ouest (West) Terminal to check in. OpenSkies used to be in the South Terminal, which is a total dump, but moved to the West Terminal a few years ago when BA started flying to ORY. Orly-Ouest is mostly Air France operations, while Orly-Sud is mainly low-cost and charter airlines. The one good thing about Orly-Sud is that there is a great outdoor observation deck overlooking the runways (you can also smoke there). Orly West has neither an observation deck nor any smoking areas.
The main hall in Orly-Ouest
The OpenSkies check-in is in Hall 3, right before the large Air France La Navette (Air France shuttle operations between Paris and large French cities) Check-in lobby. Check in was friendly and efficient via the dedicated BizBed queue. The agent explained to us where the new lounge was located and pointed us to the premium security lane. The airport was packed and the main security line was a sea of people, but there was literally noone in the Accès No. 1 Premium lane. In fact, the security agent at the entrance of the lane even escorted us and took us right to a border control agent. It made me feel fancy :-P
With that, we were through in no time and headed to enjoy the new lounge. When I saw it was downstairs, I felt like that wouldn't be too pleasant. Not a fan of basements…
But I was wrong, it has big windows!
And there's a great view of a nice big (and surprisingly clean) AF 77W
The lounge is small-ish but never got crowded considering there are only 20 seats in the Business cabin.
Started out with just a glass of Champagne
Here's to you Lady Liberty!
The corporate screenshot. Jetsetpanda was headlining that day.
The food and drink selection is pretty decent. There were no hot dishes, that I can recall, however.
Pasta salad and croissants together…it's not weird, don't judge :-P The pasta salad had salmon in it and was quite tasty, actually.
The AF 77W pushing back
Once the 77W pushed back, there was a clear view of an OpenSkies 757 across the tarmac. F-GPEK is a former British Airways bird. I've flown this one on the now defunct IAD-ORY route.
It's about time to head to the gate. Boarding pass out and ready!
The gate area is quite small and can get pretty crowded, especially with Air France boarding one of their high-density 77Ws to the French West Indies across the way. Business class, along with oneworld Emerald and Sapphire Elites may board via the FastTrack lane.
Here is our aircraft for today. F-HAVN, Gloria, is one of the 757s that came from l'Avion in the merger with OpenSkies in 2009.
We are warmly welcomed on board by an American purser. Maybe it's because I'm Franco-American, but the mix of French and American crew members is one of the things I love about OpenSkies.
We turn right after entering as we are in the second, smaller Business cabin.
Here's a view of the Prem+ Premium Economy cabin. You can also see a very small Economy section in the rear.
I hadn't flown OpenSkies since they had reconfigured the aircraft to add an Economy cabin in 2012. When OpenSkies was an All-Business class airline, the BizBed cabin was larger, and what is now considered their Premium Economy cabin was previously branded as BizSeat. The seats were the same as today's Prem+ but featured a generous 56 seat pitch with 160 degrees of recline. Now, the Premium Economy offering has 46 of pitch with 130 degrees of recline, which is still quite impressive for Premium Economy.
The seats in the BizBed cabin have not changed–they are the first generation of British Airways' lie-flat Business class seats, which can still be found on BA's long-haul configured 767s.
I had chosen a seat in the last row because with BA's alternating backwards-forwards configuration, and all window seats facing backwards, I knew these are the only window seats to offer direct aisle access. So the backward-facing bulkhead seats are in rows 3 and 5 on these aircraft. I didn't want row 3 because it is up agains the lavatory.
This configuration is great if you are travelling as a couple because you face each other, making conversation easy. If you're travelling alone, however, it can be a little awkward facing a stranger.
This can also be a little awkward…during boarding, taxi, takeoff, and landing, there is an opening in the bulkhead wall (as on most BA planes) that is left open. So you are also facing the passengers sitting in the first row of Premium Economy. For me, this was not really a problem since I'm an AvGeek and stare out the window mostly.
The legroom is great
There is a universal power outlet in the arm of the seat.
And if you get tired of staring at your seatmate, you can always pull down the fan partition (except during takeoff and landing).
The amenity kit containing Elemis products and a bottle of water were on the cocktail table upon boarding.
Air Algérie A330 taxiing by
Our very friendly French FA came by shortly after we were settled in with pre-departure drinks. It was the standard choice of Champagne, water, or orange juice. And of course I never say no to bubbles.
With only 114 seats on a plane designed for 180+, boarding was quick and we soon pushed back from the gate.
Royal Air Maroc 737-800
A Norwegian 738, oddly missing a face on the tail.
AF 77W probably headed on a very long domestic flight to a far off French territory
Air Corsica A320
Passing by the Air France La Navette shuttle operation.
And we're off! The Eiffel tower and Tour Montparnasse are in the distance.
Other rows in the Business cabin have 3 windows, but this row only has two. One is too far to take pics out of if you are strapped in and can't lean forward.
And the other was a bit scratched up, but that is not surprising on older aircraft.
Shortly after takeoff, iPads are distributed in the cabin. The content was essentially the same as you would get on BA's regular High Life in-seat IFE, except, of course, there is no airshow.
And, oddly, there were only 2 or 3 French movies, which is a bit of a shame for a French airline.
All this British Airways-ness got me in the mood for something British so I had a Gin and Tonic for my pre-lunch drink :-) The aperitif was accompanied by nuts and an Amuse-bouche of shrimp in a tasty purée
Our lovely FA came around often to check on us so I got a refill to finish my tonic
Here is the menu
The starter course was well presented and delicious
I would have liked a bit more foie gras, but I give OpenSkies credit for having foie gras in the first place
I had another glass of champagne with the first course. There is proper stemware, which is nice, unlike…ahem….AA
I like these salt and pepper shakers
For the main course, I wanted the beef, but the problem with being in the last row is that you get last pick and the beef was gone. I kind of expected it so it wasn't a big deal. I got the chicken instead.
Although it doesn't look that great presentation-wise, especially with the burnt lemon slice, it was actually really good. The chicken was perfectly cooked and had a great flavor.
For dessert I had the Pinneaple cake which was also quite good.
Michel Cluizel chocolates are served with the coffee.
Air-to-air with a KLM 772 in the distance
After lunch I reclined my seat, relaxed and watched a movie–one of the few French movies available, Une heure de tranquilité with Christian Clavier
I got up to stretch my legs after the movie and had a nice chat with our FA
View of the front Business cabin.
Then I headed back to my seat for a short nap.
Before long, it was time for the pre-arrival meal. No complaints, everything was pretty good and generally well presented. I'd say it's above average as far as west-bound Transatlantic tea-time pre-arrival meals go.
My favorite part is the box of macarons from Ladurée. It's a nice French touch. Our lovely Flight Attendant even gave us an extra box to take home :-)
We had another nice chat with our FA after the meal. She really has a passion for aviation and it shows that she loves her job, which is always so nice to see! And to top it all off, she knows Flight-Report.com!
So, OpenSkies, if you read this report, Alexandra deserves a gold star in her file. Cabin crew are the face of the company, and crew members like this make the passenger experience so enjoyable.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and before we know it, we begin the descent to the New York area.
The other side of the plane got some great views of Manhattan on landing.
Bah…who needs the Manhattan skyline when you have beautiful downtown Newark, NJ :-P
Welcome to Jeff Smisek International Airport…oh wait, I guess they'll have to change that on the Facebook Check-in options now…
The taxi time was not very long and we made our way to our gate near these Lufthansa birds, including a beautiful 747-8i.
And this good looking Austrian 763
Reflection of our bird as we arrive at the gate
Last view of my seat
Thanks for the ride Gloria
Although we parked about as close as you could get to immigration and were among the first off the aircraft, there was already a huuuuge line. And every time this happens, I ask myself, Why haven't you gotten Global Entry yet?!? Despite the long line it moves pretty quickly and the agent was particularly friendly, which made the experience a bit more pleasant.
A few more shots of our 75 viewed from the Baggage area after immigration.
Thanks for reading!
Openskies Lounge - 212 Orly West
Paris - ORY
Newark - EWR
It was a great flight. OpenSkies may no longer be an All-Business class airline, but they still have a Boutique feel and the little touches of French refinement make this a solid Business class product. It's also worth mentioning that OpenSkies often has some very good prices for Business class and Premium Economy, so there's really good value for your money.
I've been very pleased with OpenSkies in the past and enjoyed this experience. I would not hesitate to fly OpenSkies again.
Comfort: The seats are very comfortable, though they are showing signs of aging. It's time for a cabin refresh to the newer British Airways Club World seats, which are more spacious and generally look more modern. Being seated by the rear bulkhead, I had one of the few window seats with direct aisle-access, which adds to the comfort rating. Also, when travelling as a couple, these seats are ideal.
Crew: All of the cabin crew were pleasant, attentive, and professional, but our awesome flight attendant really made the flight. She and the crew deserve a perfect 10/10
Catering: I was pleased with the catering overall. The extra touches like the Amuse-bouche, foie gras, and Ladurée macarons set OpenSkies apart. I personally found the catering to be better than on parent company BA. The only criticism I have is the poor presentation of the main course.
IFE: Good choice of movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. But because it's a tablet as opposed to traditional in-seat IFE, there is no airshow...so the AvGeek in me has to take just a few points off for that :-P
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