The airline with the best average rating is La Compagnie with 7.3/10.
The average flight time is 6 hours and 52 minutes.More information
Hello and welcome to the 2nd post in this new series of flight reviews.
Like every summer, it was time to head to France for a few weeks to visit family and friends. This time would be a little different than previous years as we would be flying from the West Coast and with a 7-month-old.
We'd bought our tickets earlier in the year, when we still lived in DC, and well before we knew we'd be moving to San Diego. We'd flown la Compagnie before, and wanted to try the brand new A321neo, which was due to be delivered later that spring.
After moving to San Diego in June, we bought tickets on Alaska to get to Newark. I'd recently moved my business from American to Alaska and acquired MVP Gold 75K status. Reservations were made for the day before the La Compagnie flight in an attempt to break up the flying for the baby and minimise jetlag, as well as avoid any chance of misconnecting…because New York airspace.
Booking was simple and quick on LaCompagnie.com, where we able to take advantage of a great fare sale on Valentine's Day. We don't usually book that early for summer travel, as most sales usually happen later in the spring, but jumped on the opportunity to try out the new A321neo.
We were able to book the infant-in-lap right on Lacompagnie.com; however, there was a problem pricing out the infant ticket. Rather than pricing it at 10% of the adult ticket–which is the norm for international tickets–I was charged almost full price for the baby. Obviously this was an error considering the baby doesn't get a seat. I called the reservations centre right after booking and the issue was investigated immediately by a very friendly and helpful team of people who even called me several days later to follow up and confirm a refund was being processed.
I also asked to reserve the baby bassinet, as I'd read on the site that there is one per aircraft. The agent explained that the bassinet could only be confirmed at the airport on the day of departure as the policy was to award use of the bassinet to the youngest infant on board. On the day of departure, passengers travelling with the youngest infant are moved to seats 1A and 1C where the bassinet can be attached to the bulkhead. The bassinet policy seems a bit complex, but generally fair. Unfortunately, on the day of departure I learned that this only applied to the 757 fleet–the A321neo fleet was not equipped with bassinets. It was disappointing, but I couldn't blame the call centre agents as the aircraft hadn't been delivered at the time of booking.
As the bulkhead seats were blocked, due to reasons mentioned above, I opted for seats in the last row, which at the time of booking was row 21.
I figured that the last row would be best for its proximity to the lavatories for the baby (read changing tables). And also, if the baby decided to get a little fussy, it was closer to the galley.
I guess La Compagnie hadn't yet settled on the 321neo's configuration at the time of booking because row 21 had disappeared upon checking in for the flight. The last row was now row 20.
Having arrived from San Diego the day before, we had spent the night at the Hilton Newark Airport. It's nothing to write home about, but there were (somewhat distant) views of arriving flights.
Alaska 737-800 "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon" 🐟
United 757-200 in Star Alliance livery
Because we had to check out of the hotel around noon, we arrived at the airport super early.
Terminal B, which handles a lot of European departures, was pretty empty this early in the afternoon.
Of course it was way too early to check-in for our flight–the La Compagnie ticket counters hadn't even been set up yet as they open just 2.5 hours before departure.
Luckily (in this situation, anyway), there is a Priority Pass lounge outside of security in Terminal B. So we headed down one level to the Art & Lounge
The Art & Lounge is also the contract lounge for La Compagnie, but as it was still very early we just got in with our Priority Pass. We probably would have been let in by showing our mobile boarding passes, but with it being so early, I didn't bother trying.
The lounge is nothing special but it's better than hanging out in the terminal. It's on the small side and there are no windows, which is a shame. Luckily, at this early afternoon hour it was on the empty side, which was pleasant.
The food offering was ok for a U.S. lounge, as there were some hot options. What was odd, was that it was after 1PM and breakfast was still being served.
Omelets and potatoes
It was all pretty bland, but nothing a little salt and pepper couldn't fix. As we hadn't had lunch, it did the job.
a little later, there was some chili con carne available
As the lounge is on the small side, it was nice that the largest section was reserved for La Compagnie passengers. There is also a smaller section reserved for El Al premium passengers–this only leaves the section near the bar for Priority Pass passengers during peak evening hours.
We hung out in the lounge for a few hours and got some work done. Because we arrived in the lounge in the quieter early afternoon hour,s, we were able to sit in a section near a power outlet. Note that there are only a few outlets available along the walls.
The baby was well-behaved and played quietly the whole time. He even took a good one hour nap, which is always good for minimising fussiness when travelling.
2.5 hours before departure, we headed to the ticket counter to check-in our bags. One of the nice things about the lounge is that there are large closets where bags can be stored.
The ticket counter was not quite open as we got in the queue.
Signs above the ticket counters advised passengers who arrive early to enjoy some time in the lounge prior to check-in, which is exactly what we had done.
Check in was friendly and efficient despite a little problem with the ticket. As I'd mentioned earlier, there had been an error with pricing of the infant ticket when it was initially purchased. Somehow, upon fixing the issue, the infant had fallen out of the reservation. The agent made a quick phone call and everything was fixed within minutes.
Boarding passes in hand, we headed directly to the gate. Having already spent time in the lounge we decided to forego a second visit knowing that going through security with a baby can take a while, especially since La Compagnie does not participate in the Trusted Traveller Program, which meant we could not use the TSA Pre-check lane.
Once we were through security, we checked to see if we could enter the Virgin Atlantic lounge, which is a Priority Pass lounge during certain hours; however, the lounge was just closing up.
We ended up finding a quiet area where I passed the time with a bit of planespotting. If you don't care for planespotting, I invite you to scroll away 👇
Terminal B isn't a particularly nice terminal, but airside there are nice views of the tarmac and the Manhattan skyline.
Aer Lingus A330-300
Air Canada Express E175 in new colours
Equipped with split scimitar winglets
Unfortunately, because our aircraft was parked at a corner gate, there weren't any good views.
Boarding began right on time. I love that the Gate Display had information in English and French.
Thanks to "Baby-priority," we were the first to board 😊
We were greeted with a "bonjour" by 3 very friendly cabin crew.
The new A321neo cabin is absolutely gorgeous. I'm also a fan of the La Compagnie colour palette, which goes perfectly with the light blue mood lighting.
Registered F-HBUZ, this 321neo is equipped with 76 fully flat seats in a 2-2 configuration over 19 rows. Only 76 seats on an aircraft that can accommodate well over 200 feels luxurious and exclusive, like a large private jet.
A bit more space at the over-wing exit row
Our seats in the last row.
View of the cabin from the rear
20 A and C can be used for crew rests (notice the curtain); however, they were occupied by passengers on this flight and empty and unused on the return flight, so I'm not sure if they ever actually get used for crew rest.
In a small storage compartment were a bottle of water, the amenity kit, and noise-cancelling headphones. There is also a USB port located above the headphones.
Universal power outlets are located on the front of the center console between seats.
Some windows have stickers of famous landmarks of New York and Paris
Legroom is very good, as you would expect with a full flat seat. Though the footwell looks small, it's actually quite spacious, especially as there's a gap between the seat and the sidewall.
Seat controls, with the IFE remote just below.
Shortly after settling, FA's were in the cabin for the pre-departure beverage service.
Choices were water or Piper-Heidsieck champagne.
View of the cabin from our seats towards the end of boarding.
Although it was a full flight, with only 76 seats, boarding was very quick and completed early, which allowed us to push back from the gate about 10 minutes early.
Air Canada Dreamliner during pushback
Virgin Atlantic A330-300
It's a busy time for Transatlantic departures
The very zen yoga-themes safety video played as we began to taxi
The self-proclaimed "most relaxing safety instructions"
Yeah…I can't do that
It wasn't a terribly long taxi despite the busy hour
Lights are dimmed for takeoff
Sharklet and downtown Manhattan
So much yellow…
Just a few more in front of us before our turn
Meanwhile a queue built up behind us
Lining up on the runway
And takeoff into the sunset
Beautiful sunset colours
As is often the case with north and eastbound departures from Newark, we were treated to amazing views of the city
Always cool to pass right over Manhattan
The IFE system was activated after takeoff
In addition to traditional IFE content, there is a welcome video detailing the improved features on board the A321neo.
There are also meal menus, but as in past experiences, they are rarely accurate.
For airshow nerds, there is a nice moving map
There are instructions for logging on to the free WiFi
The WiFi is fast and worked well throughout the flight. I rarely ever find WiFi prices worth it while flying, so I appreciated that La Compagnie provides it for free.
And of course there are movies, TV series, and music. I will say that I found the number of movies available to be on the low side compared to bigger carriers, but there was still plenty of content for these short 6-8 hour type flights.
The branded amenity kits are quite nice and contain high-end Caudalie skin care products alongside the usual eye mask, socks, ear plugs, pen, etc.
The dinner service began as we approaches the Canadian Maritime Provinces.
The cabin bathed in soft lighting during dinner service
The first meal service on the eastbound redeyes is a light dinner. There was no separate apéritif service to save time; however we were offered a pre-meal drink and a different wine for the meal. I decided to stick with champagne.
I did have some water as well–it's important to stay hydrated on long-hauls .
There were two dinner options–as mentioned above, However, they were different from the menus described on the IFE.
To start, was a delicious butternut squash soup.
The first option for main was a beef salad, which was similar to the menu in the IFE.
However, the second option was a salmon and potato salad, whereas the IFE described a lobster salad.
Either way, it was quite tasty.
The mood lighting is quite relaxing and conducive to sleeping after the dinner service. Later on, the lights were turned off altogether.
Because of the time difference with the West Coast, at first the baby had no intentions of sleeping. All of the flashy buttons and screens were just too interesting, so the IFE kept him occupied for a bit.
He did eventually fall asleep towards the end of the flight and I was able to get about 2 hours of sleep, which is better than I'd expected to get!
Wanting to get as much sleep as possible, I decided to skip breakfast. Sorry, no photos! From what I saw, it was a proper hot breakfast.
Soon we began our descent into Paris-Orly
Morning winglet shot
The cabin was readied for landing.
It was a beautiful clear morning in the Ile-de-France region.
We landed over a half hour early and had a short taxi to the gate. Taxi times at Orly are usually much quicker than at CDG.
We thanked our gracious cabin crew for a lovely flight as we headed out.
One last view of this very nice new cabin.
Thanks for reading!
An amazing value. With discounted fares regularly running around $1500 round-trip from Newark to Paris, you just can't beat that kind of bang for the buck for Business class. The A321neo, with its lower operating cost, is the perfect replacement for La Compagnie's aging 757s on these shorter Transatlantic missions (though, of course, as an AvGeek I love 757s, don't get me wrong). The new full-flat product is a great improvement over the previous angled lie-flat seats. The Rockwell Collins (former B/E Aerospace) Diamond seats are perfectly adapted for these types of 7-9 hour flights. I found the seats to be comfortable, well-padded, spacious, and didn't find the footwell to be restrictive, especially as there was some room between the footwell and the sidewalls due to the A321s wider fuselage compared to the 757.
The catering is on the lighter side, but just fine for a short red-eye flight. However, it would be nice to have a more substantial dinner option for those who may not have had time to eat prior to the flight. Although I preferred to sleep and skipped the breakfast, it was a full hot breakfast.
The IFE system is modern and reactive, though the film library was smaller than expected--not a big deal for shorter flights like this. Either way, it is a nice improvement over the tablets provided on the 757 fleet. The free WiFi is great and works really well!
Cabin crew were absolutely fantastic. Service was top notch and friendly with a touch of class "à la Française". Despite being only 3 flight attendants for a full flight, they were super efficient and attentive.
The lounge is OK, but the lack of natural light is a shame and modern airport lounges should have at least one power outlet available per seat.
Having flown La Compagnie several times, I'm definitely a fan. I'm glad this small all-business airline has survived all these years, and even thrived.