Welcome to the return portion of this series of reviews on OpenSkies by British Airways. As I've mentioned in previous reports, I've been a fan of OpenSkies for many years and have always had very good experiences with them. Unfortunately, there's a first time for everything…
Having tried the OpenSkies 767 in Business class on the way over, this leg was originally booked in Premium Economy on the 757. I had been looking forward to seeing how OpenSkies Premium Economy product had evolved since the last time I had sat in those seats, in 2011, they were still branded as a Business class product (Biz Seat). The OpenSkies 757 Premium Economy seat, featuring an older generation leather Business class recliner with 48" of seat pitch, is well known as one of the best Premium Economy products out there. At the time of booking, my return flight BA8003, was to be operated by a 757-200. As a proper #PaxEx airline geek, I knew I wanted to avoid the 767 Premium Economy product as the seats are re-upholstered first generation British Airways World Traveller Plus seats with only 38" of seat pitch.
Unsurprisingly, the OpenSkies product pages on the British Airways website feature no photos of the inferior 767 Premium Economy seats. Though, to be fair, the website does mention that the product described is only featured on the Boeing 757–so you either have to be in the know or read the fine print in order to avoid disappointment.
Luckily, I did know the difference between the Premium Economy products and specifically chose a 757 for this return flight. I'd selected seats in the bulkhead row. Side note - I find it pretty tacky that BA charge oneworld Elites for exit row seats.
As I'd had issues with British Airways moving my assigned seats prior to departure on several occasions in the past, I regularly checked my seat assignments online and on the app to make sure we were still in the bulkhead. Up until the day before departure, our seats were still showing in the bulkhead.
On the day of the flight, we arrived at the British Airways/OpenSkies ticket counter about 3 hours prior to departure. There was no wait for the Club World/Biz Bed counter to drop off our bags. As I walked away, I glanced at the boarding passes and noticed my seat assignments were changed. Doh!
Instinctively, I just knew there had been an aircraft swap. I went back up to the counter and asked if the flight had been changed to a 767. The agent confirmed that the flight will be operated by a 767 but didn't know anything about an aircraft swap. As far as he knew it had always been on a 767. I explained that we should have been notified about the change in equipment as the Premium Economy product on the 767 is not the same as on the 757. The check-in agent clearly had no idea that the seats were different, so I didn't take it any further and decided I would speak with someone about the situation once we got to the lounge.
Upon arriving at the lounge, we were greeted by a friendly agent at the desk. She informed us that there was about a 1.5 hour delay on our flight–the ticket counter agents had not mentioned any delay. The delay would cause me to miss my train back to D.C. but I knew this was not OpenSkies' responsibility, so I would just have to change my train tickets myself. The aircraft swap and downgrade in product was, however, the responsibility of OpenSkies.
I explained the situation and my disappointment in not getting the product/cabin that I had expected and paid for. The lounge agent was very understanding–seemingly much more knowledgeable about the product difference between the 757 and 767 than the counter staff. However, she explained that she was a contract agent and didn't work directly for BA or OpenSkies, so unfortunately there was nothing she could do herself, but she offered to call an OpenSkies supervisor.
The OpenSkies supervisor was very apologetic during our initial conversation over the phone. She explained that due to the U.S. Labor day holiday, there was a reduced schedule and all New York flights had already departed, otherwise she would have moved me to a flight operated by a 757. As kind as she was, I held my ground and explained that I would need some sort of compensation. I expressed that it was completely unacceptable to change aircraft with no notification when the products are so different–I felt like I was getting ripped off, like this was a bait & switch (though I'm conscious that the aircraft swap was not intentional).
She offered us a discounted rate of 250 Euros to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business class. I declined the offer as I found it insulting. OpenSkies were in the wrong for not being able to offer the product that I had paid for and was expecting–why should I have to pay for their mistake? Especially as a loyal oneworld frequent flyer. Both my spouse and I have Sapphire status–offering a paid upgrade just felt like OpenSkies were taking advantage of the situation by trying to make money off of their shortcomings.
Despite all this, after thinking over it for a few minutes, I decided to go for the paid upgrade option and had the lounge agent call back the supervisor. I didn't want to have a disappointing flight. The supervisor came in person to bring our new boarding passes and again apologised for the inconvenience.
The food selection was decent, but it didn't seem as good as I remembered it. The drink selection was pretty good, however, with some decent wines and champagne.
A little snack with a glass of champagne.
One of the nice things about this lounge is great views onto the tarmac from the same level.
The windows have New York city skyline outlines on them.
Our 767 pulled up to the gate about an hour before the normal scheduled departure time. I didn't really understand why the flight was delayed since it was already at the gate, until I saw maintenance vehicles arrive. Must be some sort of mechanical problem.
Boarding was called in the lounge about 45 minutes before the delayed departure time. As it didn't seem the delay would be shortened at all, I was glad I had changed my train tickets to a later train. At this point I would barely miss my original train, but better to be safe than sorry.
Boarding began with Business class and oneworld frequent flyers through the Fast Track lane.
Once we got halfway down the jetbridge, we were told by agents at the door to hold where we were as the aircraft was not yet ready. So why did they even begin boarding?
We sat there waiting in the jetway for almost 20 minutes!
When we were finally allowed to board, I turned left into the Business cabin to see the last of the mechanics deplaning.
Our seats in the 1st row of Business class–the same seats we had on the previous flight.
There are 24 seats in Business class. Four rows of British Airways' older generation Club World seats in a 2X2X2 configuration.
Pillow, blanket, amenity kit, and slippers are already in the seat upon boarding.
As I've mentioned in previous reports, the seats are on the narrow side, but the seat pitch is quite generous.
Shortly after we were settled in to our seats, a friendly French flight attendant came through the cabin offering pre-departure beverages.
During boarding, I could hear a couple seated near us complaining about how narrow the seats were with no storage space. It is true that there is very little storage space in the old generation Club World seats–the newer generation seats have a drawer.
Another problem with this seat is the lack of a universal power port or even USB outlet. There is a old cigarette lighter type charger for which an adapter is needed. Luckily, the cabin crew have adapters upon request.
We pushed back from the gate about 1.5 hours late, as planned.
Pushing back next to an A319 of parent company BA
Royal Air Maroc B737-800 in special livery
Air France A320
Air Caraïbes A330-300
Lining up for takeoff after a regional jet
Transavia France B737-800 lined up for the next departure as we start our take off roll.
Climbing over the Paris suburbs
Shortly after takeoff, I deployed the ancient IFE to turn on the air show.
Just look at that tiny screen with grid lines–it just screams 1995.
Uh oh…the air show thinks we're going to London!
Although the flying time is correct…
Let's have a look at the menu
Decent wine list
Much like the previous flight, the Business class cabin is not full.
The apéritif was served as we were heading over the Atantic Ocean.
I had a kir royal
The IFE still thinks we're going to London.
The lovely cabin crew topped up drinks as we waited for the meal service.
My spouse's IFE wasn't working at all; luckily iPads are available in Business class and Premium Economy. However, there is no good place to lay the iPad except dangling it precariously from the built-in IFE screen like here.
The image quality is, of course, much better…
Than on my 90's-generation IFE
Smoked Marlin and salad
Chicken suprême with Normande sauce and mashed potatoes
After dinner chocolate with coffee.
By the end of the meal service we were nearing the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The IFE wasn't working very well so I decided to take a nap.
I woke up after a few hours as we were reaching the coast of North America.
Elemis products in the lav
Self-serve snacks and drinks set up in the galley.
The pre-arrival meal was served a little over an hour prior to arrival.
Grilled chicken breast and couscous salad
Red fruit panna cotta and Ladurée macarons
The tip of Cape Cod and Privincetown are visible as we make our way south.
The Massachusetts coast
Providence, Rhode Island
The Hudson River, New York State
More views of the Hudson River valley.
Great views of New York City as we make our descent into Newark Airport.
The northern tip of Manhattan and the George Washington Bridge.
Uptown Manhattan and Central Park
Good views of the Empire State Building and Midtown.
Downtown and Jersey City
Nice close-up downtown skyline views on short final.
Landing parallel to the New Jersey Turnkpike
It was a quick taxi to the gate.
La Compagnie B757-200 in All-Business class configuration. OpenSkies' main competition in the Newark-Paris route.
Aer Lingus A330-300 (teaser for an upcoming Flight-Report)
Views of our beautiful 767 on deplaning
And from the Baggage/Customs hall.
Although immigration was super fast with Gobal Entry, the bags took a good 20 minutes to come out. I was glad I had moved us to a later train while still in Paris as we wouldn't have made it.
As we had a few hours to kill before our train to DC, we went to the Priority pass lounge inside Terminal C. This is one of those situations where we actually appreciate that it's outside of security, rather than it being an inconvenience.
Thank you for reading!
Openskies Lounge - 212 Orly West
Paris - ORY
Newark - EWR
Although it was an overall good flight, the handling of the aircraft swap, or lack of handling, was not acceptable. I don't know who BA think they're fooling by acting like there's no difference between the OpenSkies Premium Economy products on the 757 and 767. Having two very different products when you only operate 4 aircraft in your fleet is pretty bad. I felt cheated and sent BA customer service a message about my disappointment immediately upon getting home. It took over a month to receive a generic and totally unhelpful response where they spewed more b.s. about how the products aren't really that different! Ugh...they really take people for idiots. Aside from empty apologies, not a single offer of a good will gesture. They didn't even bother throwing a few Avios my way. Quite pathetic treatment of two oneworld Elites after a considerable service failure.
While OpenSkies/BA majorly fail at post-flight customer service, the actual flight itself was decent. The cabin crew were wonderful as usual and the catering was more high end than what it served in BA Club World. The IFE is just awful; it was outdated 10 years ago already. The lack of storage and modern power outlets are also disappointing, but not deal breakers. Overall OpenSkies offer a solid Business class product on these shorter transatlantic routes.
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