No, don’t worry, this isn’t another post about La Compagnie. I think I’ve covered just about every aspect of La Compagnie’s operations after my recent flight with them.
But here’s a post that’s hopefully actually helpful.
La Compagnie’s direct competitor in the New York to Paris market is OpenSkies, a British Airways subsidiary which launched just over six years ago. Funny enough, the co-founder of La Compagnie was also the founder of L’Avion, which OpenSkies later bought.
One of the main criticisms of La Compagnie is that they are not offering a lie-flat business class, while every other airline in the market either has fully flat business class seats or plans to install them.
OpenSkies, for example, has fully flat seats with direct aisle access in their “Biz Bed” cabin.
When I spoke with the Deputy CEO and Co-Founder of La Compagnie a few weeks ago, I mentioned some were saying the La Compagnie product was best compared to OpenSkies premium economy, Prem Plus, rather than business class. He was borderline insulted, and called the comparison “ridiculous,” but I’m not so sure.
I haven’t flown OpenSkies since their inaugural weekend in 2008, but I remember the seat as spacious, and the Biz Bed product being quite comfortable.
However, my friend John flies OpenSkies regularly, and offered to share some thoughts on their premium economy product. He’s one of my favorite aviation geeks, and can be followed on Twitter at @thatjohn.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, John!
I fly transatlantically an awful lot.
I was practically raised flying unaccompanied minor in economy by British Airways cabin crew on old 747s (G-AWNO forever!). You for coffee? You for coffee? You for coffee?
Of course, I’d rather do it in business class. (F is wasted on such a short flight.) But the problem is: I like spending money on Bollinger champagne more than I like spending money on business class (and the business class taxes).
Now, like any good mostly British person, I avoid flying longhaul out of the UK, since the taxes are insane (especially once you get out of economy).
I’ve done a few premium economy redemptions with Flying Club miles and Avios, but I’m convinced that the better use of Virgin miles is partner longhaul roundtrips (where there are practically no fees) and that the better use of Avios is shorthaul business class.
OpenSkies Prem Plus:
Like hiring an inexperienced maid, it’s delightfully cheap.
Flying on OpenSkies is actually a much better value. And I can usually find a reason to be in France when I’m heading to Europe — I’ll either be connecting somewhere that isn’t London, staying in France for a little bit of la vie gourmand, or happy enough to spend the $70 on a quick economy hop to London on BA.
I’ve flown Prem Plus four times in the last year or so, and I’d fly it again — though it’s not without its flaws. (F-GPEK and your TWO bathrooms for anyone who isn’t in business, I’m looking at you.)
So, I’ve been watching La Compagnie (quelle compagnie? LA COMPAGNIE!) very carefully, and I’ve pretty much decided that it’s a no from me.
I actually think that OpenSkies Prem Plus is a better deal — despite its issues, the good outweighs the bad. Here’s the rundown.
It’s one of the roomiest premium economy seats in the world.
52” of pitch (that’s a foot more than most), 20” wide with a big middle armrest, no middle seats, and it’s got a proper legrest that actually supports your legs if you happen to be taller than Tyrion Lannister, unlike most premium economy legrests.
These are the same seats that American used to use in their 767-200 transcon business class, and they’re really very good. It also helps that they’re all manual controls, which means they break much less frequently.
There’s also a full universal power outlet, and you get an iPad with a reasonable selection of movies that changes monthly. You can also use the iPad arm as a laptop stand for watching movies or just looking like a bit of a knob, as I do.
It’s reliably cheaper than economy between the US and London, especially in high season, and particularly since you don’t pay the UK’s rip-off APD tax.
Officially, it’s Heidsieck Monopole, which is what BA serves in Club Europe and is okay if it’s chilled right down, but if you time it right and ask as the crew is heading forwards, they’ll often bring you a glass of the Biz Bed Billecart Salmon.
The Avios, tier points and oneworld privs.
I have oneworld Sapphire status, which means I’m 4 for 4 getting my preferred seat (6F). And of course I get the miles and status credits. BA’s relatively new lounge at EWR is really very good indeed, though of course it’s no Virgin Clubhouse. (Although the dots on the windows suck.)
At Orly it’s the increasingly awful Iberia lounge, which is now pointless since they removed the champers and stopped the premium escort through security and passport control.
And at JFK it’s the rather middling Galleries Club, the Lounge That Power Outlets Forgot. JFK Galleries Club:
…power outlets near the seats, no.
It’s awful. No worse than Deep Space Nine CDG T1 though.
The only good thing about it is the Ladurée macaron stand.
It’s seriously declined in the last year. The mushy-crispy crepes and raw tomato sauce with murdered asparagus last time I flew was inedible.
I swear to God I didn’t purposefully try to make that look awful. (But I’d eaten in the lounge and so I didn’t starve.)
And I’m pretty sure the weaponised croissant that they hand out for breakfast is illegal to export to several countries we don’t like.
Alas, all the efficiency and charm that you expect from the Parisian tourist industry.
What would I fly?
I fly between Europe and the US a bunch of times a year. I practically grew up flying British Airways 747-100s and -200s between Heathrow and JFK, down the back in economy. (I grew up a diplobrat.) I am really quite picky about seats.
My favorite 747 Club World seat
But the bottom line is that I don’t actually think that La Compagnie’s seats are better than OpenSkies Prem Plus.
Yes, La Compagnie’s seats recline further. But for a seven-hour overnight, I don’t find I get a huge amount of better rest in an angled lie-flat than I do in a good cradle sleeper.
The La Compagnie pitch is slightly better, but if I can grab the exit row or bulkhead rows on OpenSkies (which I can, thanks to BA charging non-status pax for seat selection) then it’s just as good.
Every OpenSkies plane has a bulkhead at row 6…
…but only F-HAVI and F-HAVN have an exit row at row 7. F-GPEK (which is one of the original BA OpenSkies 757s, rather than the ones from L’Avion) has just a normal seat there. (Ask at check-in for this row if you’re not on F-GPEK.)
And in terms of pricing, I’m rarely flying this route in a pair, so the introductory “2 for $2014” La Compagnie pricing isn’t useful for me. Even if it were, I have always been able to get OpenSkies Prem Plus for €999, which is about $1300. SOLD.
(I actually don’t think that Biz Bed is a great value because the Club World 2000 seat isn’t really all that good any more.)
Basically, my thoughts about La Compagnie are:
By the time I take into account the fact that I’d earn over 16,000 Avios (which I personally value at around $400 because I book a lot of BA short-range redemptions — your personal value may be different) I don’t think La Compagnie can touch BA in terms of value.