The airline with the best average rating is LEVEL with 7.7/10.
The average flight time is 8 hours and 31 minutes.More information
Hello and welcome to the 3rd post in this series of flight reviews.
Like every summer, we headed 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 a lovely overnight flight on the way to France, it was time to head back to the States and check out the La Compagnie A321neo product on a westbound daytime flight.
Stick around for a JFK TWA Hotel planespotting bonus at the end of this report!
The last time we'd flown with La Compagnie, they were still operating from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)–however, operations were moved to Paris Orly in 2018, filling the gap left by OpenSkies (RIP, one of my favourite carriers). I personally find Orly to be more convenient than CDG, not only because it's a bit closer to the city centre, but also because it shaves an hour off the drive to or from my hometown in the Southwest of France whenever we make that drip directly.
The morning of the flight we arrived at Orly about 2.5 hours before departure time to drop off the rental car. Rental car returns are located at the new Terminal 3, which is centrally located to access Terminals 1 & 2 (formerly Orly West Terminal) and Terminal 4 (Formerly Orly South Terminal).
Our flight was departing from Terminal 4–we decided to walk from the new Terminal 3 as taking the Orlyval train for 1 stop was more hassle than it was worth because baggage carts aren't allowed on the train.
It was a relatively short walk to Terminal 4 (a little over 5 minutes). A portion of the walk was outside under a covered walkway.
Arriving at Terminal 4
Check-in was quick and easy with friendly and efficient staff at the ticket counter.
We'd originally booked seats in row 20, but the friendly agent moved up to row 19 and blocked the whole row for us, as it was open. Very much appreciated and it ended up being useful during the flight!
As usual, going through security with a baby took forever. Every single bottle of ready-to-eat baby formula was inspected and tested. Luckily, security staff were very nice and helpful.
Proudly representing Flight-Report ✈ (A gift from my lovely team members)
Once through security we headed straight to the lounge.
The Icare lounge has been updated since the last time we were here several years ago. It also seemed bigger, though I don't know if it's been expanded.
The features an outdoor patio, which includes a smoking area, because of course, this is France. Although it doesn't have tarmac views, it's always nice to have an outdoor space inside an airport.
There was a decent food selection including croissants and other breakfast pastries, as well as some hot options like omelets. Because security took so long, we didn't have much time to spend in the lounge so I didn't grab anything to eat.
It was a long walk to the gate, which was located at the end of the concourse.
This section of the terminal seems new, or at least recently renovated.
No announcements were made prior to the beginning of boarding, so we weren't quite sure where to stand for pre-boarding. The way the gate area was set up, the queues weren't clear and were closed off so we stood near where we thought the entrance would be. Gate agents were busy on the computers so we just hung around waiting, assuming we would be invited to pre-board as we had been in Newark. Another couple with a baby was equally confused and stood with us chatting as we waited for boarding to begin.
Again without making any announcements, gate agents began boarding passengers with mobility devices requiring extra time. We approached the podium, assuming we could pre-board at the same time as in Newark, but were told we had to wait and stand at a different location. That's fine, and I can understand the reasoning, but I did mention that someone could have said something to us earlier as we'd been standing there for several minutes. Though I didn't particularly appreciate being ignored, nor the inconsistency in pre-boarding procedures between EWR and ORY, when there are only 76 seats, boarding is relatively painless. Nevertheless, as I've said before, when you're travelling with a baby and hauling a ton of heavy stuff like strollers and car seats, those extra minutes afforded by pre-boarding to get situated prior to the general stampede are precious.
Despite the confusion, the gate agents were perfectly pleasant and soon we were on our way.
Love that livery ?
We were warmly greeted by 2 cabin crew by the door and another at the rear of the aircraft.
The new La Compagnie A321neo cabin is beautiful. And with only 76 full-flat Collins Aerospace Diamond seats laid out in a 2X2 configuration, it feels spacious and open.
The light blue tones are chic and represent the La Compagnie brand well.
The light blue mood lighting adds an additional touch of softness and modernity.
And here we are at our seats.
Thanks to the check-in agents, we had all of row 19 to ourselves. The flight ended up being mostly full, except for the last 2 rows, so the extra blocked seats were definitely appreciated.
A small compartment behind the head of the seat contains the noise cancelling headphones and a USB port. This is also where the amenity kits and a bottle of water were found.
These seats were the only ones to be occupied in the last row.
Kids learn how to use tech so young these days ?
Legroom is very good, as one would expect for lie-flat Business class. Also, as I mentioned in the previous review, the foot space did not feel restricted in bed mode as there is quite a bit of space above and to the side due to the wider cabin of the A321 vs 757. You can see in the photo that there is a gap between the ottoman and the sidewall.
Pre-departure drinks were served during boarding. Options were water or champagne.
Boarding was quick and completed early and the cabin was readied for departure.
We pushed back from the gate a few minutes early
The new "zen" safety video played as we pushed back and began to taxi to the runway.
Paying close attention to the safety briefing
Orly can be fun for planespotting as I find many French leisure carriers to have pretty liveries.
Here's an A330 in hybrid FrenchBee/Air Caraïbes livery
Alright this livery is boring/non-existent, but it's a Fly2Sky lease flying for Transavia.
Air Caraïbes A350…a good looking aircraft
Groupe Dubrueil airlines (Air Caraïbes & FrenchBee) have nice liveries IMO. Upon closer look of this aircraft, the Air Caraïbes titles are obviously a sticker over what was FrenchBee.
Orly is not only convenient because of its proximity to the city centre compared to CDG, but also for its much shorter taxi times.
Dense Parisian suburbs.
Flight time is a little under 8h in this westbound direction.
Flying over the French countryside on a clear early autumn day.
The amenity kit is quite nice with Caudalie products. The pouch actually has 2 compartments access with a zipper on opposite sites of the pouch.
Did I mention we had a whole row to ourselves? ?
Unlike the La Compagnie 757s, which have just been retired, the A321neos are equipped with built-in seat-back in-flight-entertainment.
The system is fast and reactive, though I found the selection of films to be smaller than average. Granted 50 movies still leaves a decent amount of choice for an 8 hour flight.
La Compagnie don't provide printed menus; however, the menus are available on the IFE. In my experience, the menus tend to be much more accurate departing Paris than departing Newark.
Above the USB port is the headphone jack. It's a magnetic jack, which I'd never seen before.
Power outlets are located between seats, as you'd expect in a premium cabin.
Seat controls, the IFE remote, and tray table are located in the center armrest.
We began our ocean crossing over the border between Normandie and Brittany
We were treated to distant views of Mont Saint-Michel
The water colour looks quite nice–hard to believe it's the English Channel.
The port of Granville
Looking back towards the bay with Mont Saint-Michel still visible.
It got cloudier as we headed out over the North Atlantic, but it's always sunny above the clouds.
The apéritif service began about a half hour into the flight.
We enjoyed another glass of Pier-Heidsieck champagne
This was when having the whole row blocked off became useful. The baby was getting sleepy and, as I'd mentioned in the previous review, there are no infant bassinets on board the new A321neos like there had been on the 757s.
We were therefore able to put the baby down for a nap in my window seat and I moved across the aisle for the meal service.
Here is the seat in fully-flat bed mode.
The seat ended up making a decent baby cot as the armrests held him in and he we attached the lap-infant belt. We also places some pillows at the bottom, and voilà.
He was asleep in no time.
View of the cabin just prior to the the meal service as one of the cabin crew finished the hot towel service.
I settled in across the aisle for the lunch service.
Played around with the IFE for a bit and found a movie to watch during lunch.
The IFE screens are touchscreen but a bit far away. The remote especially comes in handy during meal services, when the tray table is deployed.
The remaining flight time is displayed on the IFE remote.
The pre-ordered baby meal came out with the starters. The quantity was just right for an 8-month-old and the tray contained good quality organic products from Hipp Biologique.
Now on to the adult food…
While the meal service on the Eastbound redeye flight to Paris was an express light supper service, the meal service on this daytime Westbound flight was properly course à la Française.
Oeuf poché sur crème d'asperges et chips bacon
Poached Egg over cream of asparagus and bacon crisps
A very creative, well-presented, and delicious appetiser course which I enjoyed with another glass of Piper-Heidsieck.
The dish felt elevated and perfect for Business class, unlike the more basic, and often disappointing, catering I'm used to seeing in U.S. carrier premium cabins.
An actual poached egg, with a runny yolk, on a plane…that deserves recognition. Bravo La Compagnie!
L'épaule d'agneau confite à l'huile d'olive et aromates,
artichauts barigoule , condiment agrumes
Shoulder of lamb confit with olive oil and herbs,
artichokes barigoule, citrus condiment
Once again, a delicious and elevated dish. I love lamb and it's always nice to see more interesting proteins than the usual chicken or beef found on U.S. carriers.
The lamb paired well with a nice Bordeaux.
As with any proper French meal, there is a cheese course prior to dessert.
After the meal, we enjoyed a Poire Williams digestif.
As mentioned in the previous review, La Compagnie offer free Viasat WiFi, which I found to work very well on the outound EWR-ORY flight.
Unfortunately, on this flight, the WiFi stopped working about halfway through the flight. I didn't inquire about it as I wasn't really using it and watched a movie. Hopefully this was an anomaly–I do appreciate that La Compagnie provide free fast WiFi.
The rest of the flight was mostly uneventful passed watching movies—first of my choosing, then of the animated variety once my son woke up his nap.
Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-arrival service. There were two options available–sweet or savoury. I went for the sweet option.
Assortiment de petits fours, coulis de fruits,
salade de mâche aux copeaux parmesan
Assortment of petit fours, fruit coulis,
salad of lamb's lettuce with parmesan flakes
Once again very good. A little on the light side, but that's just fine considering the generous portions at lunch.
Soon enough we were making our descent into Newark.
Making a turn over the Jersey Turnpike.
The picturesque industrial wasteland part of the Garden State ?
We landed quite a bit early.
At 12:34 to be exact, for a scheduled arrival time of 13:00
Taxi was quick and we pulled in to the gate as 12:38, 22 minutes ahead of schedule.
We parked next to a sexy United 787-10
We took our time to deplane as we had to wait for the stroller and carseat to be delivered in the jetbridge. Note to parents, strollers are only delivered to the jetway in the U.S.–in France, they go to the oversized baggage belt, as mentioned in the previous report.
Bye F-HBUZ, thanks for the lovely ride!
"The Plane to Be"…indeed.
Immigration was somewhat painful, but mostly because I've had global entry for several years and am used to breezing through arrivals into the U.S., but could not use Global Entry as we were travelling with a baby.
Yes, in order to access the Global Entry lanes, every person in your party must have Global Entry…including infants and small children. I'd learned this well in advance of this trip and had applied for Global Entry for my son 2 months prior to travel. However, due to delays, supposedly resulting from the partial government shutdown in early 2019, Global Entry applications are taking a very long time to process.
When I had applied for myself several years ago, my application was conditionally approved within 24 hours and I was able to schedule an interview with a CPB officer the following week, where I was officially approved.
It's now been almost 5 months since I've applied for my infant son, and paid the $100 application fee, but still haven't so much as received conditional approval–which I find to be absolutely ridiculous. This is a baby, we're talking about–he basically has no past to investigate–one would think that children and infant applications would be prioritised as they should be quicker to process.
The Trusted Traveler Program website has displayed this banned all year.
Upon submitting an application status inquiry on the CBP site, average processing times for Global Entry were listed as being 3-5 months. Wow…meaning that some applications can take over 6 months…
If you're a frequent international traveller to/from the U.S. Global Entry is wonderful, but be aware, new applications and renewals are taking 3-5 months, so plan ahead.
Thanks so much for reading and hope to see you again for the new review, 757-200 Delta One transcontinental Business class.
I also hope you enjoy the TWA Hotel Planespotting bonus below. There will be a full photo review of the TWA Hotel itself in the next report.
I'd built an overnight stay into the trip to be able to try out the new TWA Hotel at JFK. A true AvGeek heaven–it did not disappoint. I'll have a full photo review of the hotel in the next report, this bonus section will purely be planespotting photos.
Most of the planespotting was from our runway-view room. And what a fantastic view it was!
The Singapore A380 was right outside our window
Egyptair B777-300ER arriving
A very nice livery IMO
Lufthansa A340-600 in the new livery arriving
Cathay B777-300ER taking off for Hong Kong
KLM B777-300ER with 100 anniversary sticker
LOT Polish B787-8
The TWA Hotel has views of Terminal 4 and JetBlue's Terminal 5
One of the many British Airways Queens flying in and out of JFK every day.
One of 2 daily Air France A380 flights
And here comes the beautiful new Virgin Atlantic A350-1000
A gorgeous aircraft and livery
Delta Air Lines Brest Cancer Foundation special livery B767-400
Air Italy A330-200
Private 747-8 VIP belonging to the Royal family of Qatar
The Emirates A380-800 in special Rugby World Cup livery being pushed back from the gate to a hard stand
Although the view from our 8th floor room was great, the view from the rooftop is even better.
El Al 787-9 in special retro livery
Etihad A380 landing
China Eastern B777-300ER departing
Air France B777-300ER in old livery…wow, AF rebranded over 10 years ago, I can't believe they still have birds in the old colours.
American Airlines B777-200ER
Air Europa A330-200 landing
Air China B747-8i
Norwegian Dreamliner and Delta A330-300
Lufthansa A380 departing
LOT Dreamliner departing
Alitalia's one B777-300ER departing
KLM B777-300ER departing
Lufthansa A340-600 departing. I wasn't a fan of the new livery until I saw it in person.
The Singapore A380 being towed back to the gate from the hardstand
Ready for departure to FRA
I'll say it again, I'm a big fan of La Compagnie. I already thought they were a good value when they operated a fleet of 757-200s with angled lie-flat seats--now, they're a fantastic value with the wonderful new product on the A321neo.
The cabin is beautiful and seats are spacious and comfortable. Meals were delicious and well-presented. The IFE was good and the free WiFi is great, though the IFE content could be improved a bit. Cabin crew were lovely--I'm still amazed at how they can offer such good and attentive service being only 3 cabin crew per aircraft. They did a fabulous job with a touch of class à la Française.
As an AvGeek, it enjoyed my first ride on the A321neo. It is a smooth, quiet, and comfortable ride.