Review of OpenSkies flight Paris Newark in Business

Airline OpenSkies
Flight BA8003
Class Business
Seat 1A
Flight time 08:40
Take-off 04 Sep 17, 13:40
Arrival at 04 Sep 17, 16:20
EC   #69 out of 112 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 25 reviews
KévinDC
By 1350
Published on 13th November 2017
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…

Pre-flight



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.

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Photos of the 767 Premium Economy can be found in this report

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.

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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.


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 OpenSkies 212 lounge hadn't changed much since my previous vitis two years ago, shortly after it opened

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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.

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A little snack with a glass of champagne.

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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.

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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.

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Boarding



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.

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Boarding began with Business class and oneworld frequent flyers through the Fast Track lane.

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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!

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When we were finally allowed to board, I turned left into the Business cabin to see the last of the mechanics deplaning.

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Our seats in the 1st row of Business class–the same seats we had on the previous flight.

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There are 24 seats in Business class. Four rows of British Airways' older generation Club World seats in a 2X2X2 configuration.

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Pillow, blanket, amenity kit, and slippers are already in the seat upon boarding.

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As I've mentioned in previous reports, the seats are on the narrow side, but the seat pitch is quite generous.

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Shortly after we were settled in to our seats, a friendly French flight attendant came through the cabin offering pre-departure beverages.

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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.


The Flight



We pushed back from the gate about 1.5 hours late, as planned.

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Pushing back next to an A319 of parent company BA

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EasyJet A320

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Royal Air Maroc B737-800 in special livery

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Air France A320

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Air Caraïbes A330-300

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Lining up for takeoff after a regional jet

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Transavia France B737-800 lined up for the next departure as we start our take off roll.

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Climbing over the Paris suburbs

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Shortly after takeoff, I deployed the ancient IFE to turn on the air show.

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Just look at that tiny screen with grid lines–it just screams 1995.

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Uh oh…the air show thinks we're going to London!

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Although the flying time is correct…

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Let's have a look at the menu

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Lunch options

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Pre-arrival meal

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Decent wine list

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Much like the previous flight, the Business class cabin is not full.

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The apéritif was served as we were heading over the Atantic Ocean.

I had a kir royal

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The IFE still thinks we're going to London.

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The lovely cabin crew topped up drinks as we waited for the meal service.

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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…

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Than on my 90's-generation IFE

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Appetizer course:

Smoked Marlin and salad

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Main course:

Chicken suprême with Normande sauce and mashed potatoes

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Cheese course:

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Dessert:

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After dinner chocolate with coffee.

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By the end of the meal service we were nearing the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

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The IFE wasn't working very well so I decided to take a nap.

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I woke up after a few hours as we were reaching the coast of North America.

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Elemis products in the lav

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Self-serve snacks and drinks set up in the galley.

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The pre-arrival meal was served a little over an hour prior to arrival.

Grilled chicken breast and couscous salad

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Red fruit panna cotta and Ladurée macarons

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The tip of Cape Cod and Privincetown are visible as we make our way south.

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The Massachusetts coast

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Massachusetts Bay

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Providence, Rhode Island

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The Hudson River, New York State

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More views of the Hudson River valley.

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Great views of New York City as we make our descent into Newark Airport.

The northern tip of Manhattan and the George Washington Bridge.

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Uptown Manhattan and Central Park

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Good views of the Empire State Building and Midtown.

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Downtown and Jersey City

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Nice close-up downtown skyline views on short final.

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Landing parallel to the New Jersey Turnkpike

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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.

I had reviewed La Compagnie last year: In this report and this report here

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British Airways B777-200

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Aer Lingus A330-300 (teaser for an upcoming Flight-Report)

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Views of our beautiful 767 on deplaning

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And from the Baggage/Customs hall.

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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.

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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.

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Thank you for reading!
See more

Verdict

OpenSkies

7.0/10
Cabin6.5
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment4.5
Meal/catering8.0

Openskies Lounge - 212 Orly West

7.9/10
Comfort7.5
Meal/catering7.5
Entertainment7.5
Services9.0

Paris - ORY

8.0/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Newark - EWR

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

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.

Related

15 Comments

  • Comment 419103 by
    KL651 3523 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    With so many airlines contracting their check in, it becomes hard to find a competent one that knows about the actual product.
    While the flight itself was really decent, especially at 250€ the upgrade, the answer received from the customer service is really outrageous for an elite, premium flying pax.
    BA is really going downhill in terms of quality it seems.

    • Comment 419217 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      I feel like BA is going through a crisis at the moment. They've done so much cost cutting everywhere and have probably received so many complaints that it seems they no longer try to even pretend to care. Having to wait over a month for an answer to a complaint is outrageous enough as it is, but then to get completely blown off just shows they don't care to make any effort. Of course, there are still a lot of things I like about BA and will continue to fly them, but I won't go out of my way to fly OpenSkies anymore like I have in the past.

  • Comment 419219 by
    757Fan 369 Comments

    Sorry to hear about your experience, Kevin. Not good at all and very disappointing. I'm amazing that they tried to offer you to pay the upgrade price when it was their fault to begin with!

    I definitely feel like Virgin has become the flag carrier of England and that BA no longer is held in such high regard with such poor service.

    Thank you for sharing and looking forward to your next report!

    • Comment 419223 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      Thank you for your comments sir! Yeah, it's sad what BA has become. I really do love OpenSkies, that's why this experience was so disappointing. I want to love BA too, lord knows I fly them enough, but they make it so hard sometimes. It's one thing to have service failures, they happen, but how you handle the recovery is what speaks volumes and in this case BA clearly showed they don't care. When I see that even U.S. carriers empower their flight attendants to give bonus miles and vouchers for onboard service issues, but BA can't be bothered to respond in a timely manner to a legitimate e-mail complaint from a oneworld frequent flyer flying in a premium cabin, it tells me there are major mismanagement issues. They really need to get it together! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 419447 by
    East African 1326 Comments

    Like many of us here, the aircraft is as important as the rest of the experience - surely in your case that's a downgrade. Then for the irregular travelling folk (or non-avgeek), would this swap have made a difference?
    According to your status level, BA should have refund you the fare paid difference between Y+ and J (on the top of the 250€ discount)... especially with this archaic IFE... Very funny comment btw ("Just look at that tiny screen with grid lines–it just screams 1995")

    The meals look delicious and as usual you always include some excellent landscape views!

    Thanks for sharing KevinDC
    It will be nice to see EI LH product as there are not many here

    • Comment 419472 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      Thank you for your comments! Yes, when you're an AvGeek, the aircraft is very important, whereas many people (though more and more) probably have no idea or don't care what kind of aircraft they are on. I will say, that even for a non-Aviation enthusiast or non-Frequent Flyer...if you've flown OpenSkies in their 757 Premium Economy, you will definitely notice the big difference with the 767 Premium Economy.

      "According to your status level, BA should have refund you the fare paid difference between Y+ and J (on the top of the 250€ discount)... especially with this archaic IFE"
      - Haha, yes, that's exactly what I requested in my complaint letter. Of course, they politely declined...

      "It will be nice to see EI LH product as there are not many here"
      - I see you caught that teaser in there! Hopefully I'll get around to posting that FR soon. I think it may be the 1st on EI LH J.

      Thank you for again for your comments, much appreciated!

  • Comment 419452 by
    CounterSurprise 67 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thanks for the FR on OpenSkies. Indeed a disappointing experience especially for those of us who love to fly. The cabin seems dated; I hope the paid upgrade was worth the money. personally I'd like to try La Compagnie sometime in the near future but my next flight to the Continental US will be on AF Business, a first for me. Anyway, we all hate equipment swaps at the last moment and although I can understand it happening, they should've given you a better deal!

    • Comment 419481 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      Thanks so much for your feedback CounterSurprise! Yes, a very disappointing experience that really tested my love of OpenSkies. Under any other circumstance the paid upgrade would have been worth it, but it this situation, I really felt ripped off. But it was my choice and I went for it. I could have just accepted the product downgrade and had a frustrating flight--so at least I had a pleasant flight. There's no comparison between AF J and La Compagnie, especially if you get the 777 product. But having flown La Compagnie, I can say that it is a good value for the money. You can't beat J (old J, but J nonetheless) at W prices. Alas...my addiction to miles and status doesn't allow me to pursue my flirt with La Compagnie much further, haha. I used to work in airline operations years ago and definitely understand the need for equipment swaps, but communication is the key. In this case, the aircraft swap and product downgrade was handled surreptitiously. That's my main problem. Had they communicated the swap earlier, I could have called to review my options for rerouting on a 757. Thank you again for your comments!

      • Comment 419635 by
        CounterSurprise 67 Comments

        I fully agree with you. Communication is key and that is something they should and could have done better. By the way I share your addiction towards miles & status, which is why eventually I opted for AF 777 J with Zodiac seats (very excited about that!) over La Compagnie. Thanks for sharing again, always love your reports, just dived back in the archives and enjoyed your KL IAD-AMS-Johannesburg reports back in 2013!

        • Comment 419644 by
          KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

          Looking forward to the AF 777 J report! I can see what I'm missing since I switched from SkyTeam to oneworld, LOL. So glad you enjoy my reports (and I enjoy yours!). Ah, the old KLM World Business class report. That was a fun trip! Even though the old WBC seats were pretty bad, haha. Let me know next time you're in DC. We could have a mini FR meeting and grab a drink. Cheers!

  • Comment 419634 by
    hometoyyz 265 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this surprise trip in business class, although kind of a bummer how it all went down.

    Y'know, I was kinda okay with the way it was unfolding -- although a bit underwhelming to require you to pay up as "compensation" for a downgraded experience, $250 to go to J is fairly reasonable. (That said, given the fact that it was probably pretty clear they weren't going out full up front, a free bump to J would have been a way to recover some goodwill from a loyal company... although I'm not sure exactly how bifurcated OpenSkies is from BA... does OpenSkies even care if you're a loyal OW/BA passenger?)

    And then we got to the after-the-flight reaction to your communications. Even if they didn't offer Avios to placate you, I'd have been okay, but if they actually tried to argue that it wasn't a real downgrade... gaslighting is not an acceptable way of dealing with a complaining customer.

    "Oh, it's not so bad!" may be acceptable when you're 9 and mom just prepared your least-favourite dinner, but doesn't quite hold up here, especially when I'm sure your communications made it clear you know exactly what the difference was, and that it was a big deal TO YOU. Frankly, even if you were just pissed off because the 757 seats were a different colour that you particularly like and all other aspects were equal, telling you your reaction is wrong is pretty much never a good customer service strategy.

    Anyway... rant over. Glad it was a solid flight, even if events leading up to the flight weren't the best. Looking forward to saying Aer Lingus!

    Thanks again!

    • Comment 419646 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      Hey HometoYYZ, thanks for your comments! So apparently the "Hey, sorry about the service disruption, but do you want to buy an upgrade?" technique is SOP at BA! I am at the IAD BA Galleries lounge as we speak. My flight (in J) to LHR is 3 hours delayed, which means I'll misconnect to ATH in LHR and end up being delayed 12 hours!!! Grrrrr. And what is there response when I ask for compensation (beyond the normal EU regulated comp)? "Oh, I'm so sorry Sir. We are offering great rates on upgrades to First for only $700)." Wow....this is what BA have become. You're inconvenienced by them and their answer is, "give me more money"!

      Oh believe me, my e-mail complaint was very detailed. I went into specifics on seat pitch and width. I showed I'm no fool and clearly know the difference in the products. It just shows how little they care or just that they didn't care to actually ready my e-mail.

      At least I have an upstairs seat on the Queen of the Skies to look forward to! Thanks again for stopping by!

  • Comment 419997 by
    indianocean 4936 Comments

    Of course, it's kinda disappointing to have a aircraft change at the last minute since the two Premium Economy hard products are way too different.
    But what I found more insulting as an Elite member is to charge them to have a better pitch.
    Even a Club Europe passenger has to pay to get a seat on the first row. That's unbelievable.
    I know that BA has a great network in North America with quite interesting fares but I try to avoid them as often as possible.

    Catering is quite good but if the fare in Business class is not cheaper than competitors ones, I don't see why I should travel with Openskies.

    Thank you for sharing Kevin.

    • Comment 420034 by
      KévinDC TEAM AUTHOR 3949 Comments

      Thanks so much for your comments Bernard! Yes, it really is insulting to charge pax with status for exit row seats. I didn't have to pay to sit in row 1 in Club Europe, though. Being that my status is with AA, BA often makes the most sense to take on certain itineraries. I like BA and usually have great service, but it's their rigid policies I don't like and the complete lack of empowerment that frontline staff have to fix issues.

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