OpenSkies to Paris, Part Three

Filed Under: Open Skies, Travel

I’d like to share a few impressions of Orly. It’s the neglected step-child of Charles DeGaulle, and has all the airlines you really don’t want to f$%& with, from the massive charter 747’s of Corsair to the airlines that are from countries you’ve never heard of, to the airlines you’ve heard of but wouldn’t fly if your life depended on it. The people in the terminal are an eclectic combination of all of the above, which made it an interesting airport to navigate. As luck would have it (or not) we entered the terminal at the totally opposite end of where the check-in was for OpenSkies. We entered at check-in counter 100, and had to go all the way to check-in counter 2.

After navigating our way through the crowds we reached the check-in counter, where there was no wait. Of course it couldn’t be that simple, being as security is very important to OpenSkies.;) Before getting to the check-in counter an OpenSkies agent scanned my boarding pass and asked me a series of questions. What I found most comical was the way the questions were asked (as if the content wasn’t dumb enough), and I had a very difficult time keeping a straight face. This lady clearly wasn’t a behavior detection officer, but she took her job damn seriously.

The agent said something like “I have three very important questions I will ask you, and I need you to answer me please.” Her English was very broken, and she proceeded to ask her questions. The questions were along the lines of “Who packed your bags for you?” and similarly pointless questions. After getting her seal of approval I proceeded to the check-in counter, where the agents were friendly. Within about a minute I had a boarding pass as well as a lounge invitation to the iCare lounge, which seems to be the contracted lounge at Orly.Those in PREM+ also got invitations, unlike at JFK where PREM+ passengers don’t get lounge access.

We proceeded up the escalator and towards passport control, where the agent was very friendly. We then got in the security line, which was quite painless. I could leave my shoes and belt on, but was patted down, as my belt set the metal detector off. One of my bags got hand searched, as I had forgotten that I had a bottle of water from the hotel in the bag. I apologized and the agent even asked if I wanted to drink the water before continuing. At that point I pictured a similar situation with the TSA, whereby I’d probably be scolded for my threat to our national security, and maybe even be added to the no fly list for my dangerous attempt.

Past security we headed to the lounge, where we handed in our invitations and went inside. While the lounge was by no means world class, it wasn’t bad at all. It had a very good beverage selection including bottles of Evian water, champagne, etc, as well as some decent snacks such as delicious chocolate cookies. Yum!

iCare lounge

Sitting area in iCare lounge

The cookies in the center top in blue packaging were especially good

About 10 of us met in the lounge and discussed what we all did during our stay in Paris. At around 10AM we proceeded to the gate, which was near the lounge. We once again had to show our passports and were asked three similar questions by the same agent that asked the questions at check-in, which I found funny. I approached her with “hello again,” and she asked three equally stupid question, one of which was the same. The repeat question was whether or not anyone packed my bags for me, and one of the other ones involved where I was since checking-in. I found the one about where I’ve been since checking-in funny, since I imagined some of the more creative responses I could come up with, but just said I was at the lounge.

While I can see the point of these questions on a flight to/from Israel where the agents are actually experts, this lady seemed about as passionate about the answers as a flight attendant asking whether someone is willing and able to assist in the case of an emergency when in the exit row.

As many of us learned the hard way, there was another security checkpoint after the questioning, whereby we had to put everything through the x-ray and walk through the metal detector again. They were a lot stricter, and confiscated several items from our group. Fortunately I wasn’t one of the “victims,” and walked away with all of my stuff intact.

We were then in the gate holding area, but they were only boarding Economy, so we waited. Eventually they called BIZ and PREM+, so we headed down the jetway.

Our plane

Sunday, June 22
BIZ, seat 3B
Boeing 757-200

At door 1L I was welcomed aboard by an older French gentlemen, Chris, who directed me towards the mid-business class flight attendant, Raquel, who directed me towards my seat, 6B. The BIZ cabin is separated into two cabins, each of which has three rows. I was in the last row of the last cabin, which is the area where many of the FlyerTalkers were sitting. As it turned out all the people in the rear BIZ cabin were FlyerTalkers, which worked out very well. The Captain announced our flight time to be 8hr2min, every minute of which I was thoroughly looking forward to.

Rows five and six

Quick shot of the PREM+ cabin

Legrest and seat in front of me

After settling in and snapping a few pictures we were offered pre-departure beverages, with choices including champagne, orange juice, water, and strawberry smoothies. I went with a strawberry smoothie, which was delicious.

One of our awesome FA’s, Sonja

Starwberry smoothie

Shortly thereafter menus were distributed and we started to talk to the crew a little bit. Since OpenSkies’ marketing department seems to love the phrase “This is not _____,” including the menus clearly stating “This is not a menu,” I decided to have some fun with the flight attendant. As Raquel handed me the menu I said with near disgust “What’s this?” She responded “That’s your menu for the flight, sir.” I quickly responded, “No, this is NOT a menu.” She laughed and said “you got me,” so let’s hope she doesn’t make that grave mistake again.;) I find the advertising to not make a whole lot of sense. As FlyerTalker Canarsie suggested during the flight, it might be better for the marketing department to use a phrase like “This is not just _____,” since ultimately everything that they say isn’t something really is.

As we learned, four of the five flight attendants aboard were ex-Maxjet, so it was interesting to hear their stories. It seemed like they were a lot more polished than the outbound crew, which only makes sense considering they came from a premium airline so the product isn’t an entirely foreign concept, compared for example to the FA’s from NW and US.

While I was assigned 6B I moved to 5F for the takeoff, since I wanted to experience the takeoff and landing backwards. I’ve never done it before, so figured it was a good opportunity since only six seats were taken in our cabin.

It’s very odd to be going forwards when pushing back and backwards when taxiing, taking off, and doing everything else, but was fun. We taxied to the runway past all kinds of traffic, including many Air France heavies and other airlines I’ve never even heard of (probably for the better). We had a powerful takeoff and a few minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off. I headed back to my assigned seat, 6B, and played with the seat a little.

Air France 777 during taxi

On the runway, almost ready to takeoff

Shortly after takeoff

View as the seatbelt sign is turned off

View from 5F, a backwards facing seat

I found the seat to be very good and quite functional. The PTV, much like in PREM+, is a separate unit from the seat but fits in a holder, so you can hardly tell the difference. On this flight the PTV’s were already placed in the holders for the occupied seats, so one could start enjoying the entertainment immediately after takeoff. The headsets were also much larger in BIZ.


The seat has a small cup holder which folds out and can hold two glasses. The seat itself is more firm than most business class seats, but I found it to be pretty comfortable.

The one thing you’ll either love or hate is the fact that the seats are facing both forwards and backwards. One person sitting forwards while the seatmate sits backwards might not sound that bad, but it can be very awkward when traveling alone. While there’s a partition, it’s not practical to put up during the meal service since the flight attendant would have trouble serving the window seat. For people traveling together it’s excellent, since it’s truly conducive to conversation. You can actually have a conversation with almost everyone in any row with the way it’s set up. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem during non-meal times, since you can pull out the partition and have a bit more privacy.

View of 5A from my seat

Privacy with partition extended

Note the art located on the bulkhead of both New York and Paris

The seat controls are located on the left side of the seat, and include the ability to recline, sit upright, get into takeoff position, or choose any of the four directions individually. The light (which, by the way, is very weak) is also controlled from there.

Seat controls

Now, let me get back to the flight itself. Here is the menu in BIZ:


To Start

Carrot and cumin soup with mixed vegetable crisps
Smoked duck rillettee on fresh mixed leaf salad with a raspberry and walnut vinairgrette
Chicken and artichoke pate with a beetroot and fig salsa
Seafood sushi with crab maki, salmon fillet with nori, sautéed prawn and scallop, wasabi and soy dressing

Main Course
Seared fillet of beef with green peppercorn sauce, garlic roast potatoes and French beans
Pan-fried chicken in a rich red wine sauce, sautéed potatoes and rosemary-infused vegetables
Grilled red snapper with Malaysian spiced quinoa and stir-fried vegetables
Mushroom-stuffed ravioli with a morel sauce, buttered spinach and Parmesan tuile
All offered with freshly baked bread.

Fresh summer berries with vanilla sauce
Apricot tart with fresh cream
French farmhouse cheeses served with seasonal fruit
Tea or coffee and chocolates

Light Meal
A selection of filled sandwiches and the famous macaroons from the Parisian tea salon ’Laduree’

And here is the beverage list:

Martini Dry
Warre’s LBV Port
Massenez Crème de Cassis
Tio Pepe
Glenlivet 12 Year Old Malt Whisky
Glenlivet 15 Year Old Malt Whisky
Johnnie Walker Red
Johnnie Walker Black
Jack Daniel’s American Whiskey
Camus VS Elegance Cognac
Camus VSOP Cognac
Tia Maria
Southern Comfort
Bacardi Carta Blanca
Smirnoff Red Label
Smirnoff Blue

Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta Orange
5 Alive Juice
Bitter Lemon
Tonic/Diet Tonic Water
Canada Dry
Still/sparkling mineral water
Fruit juices
Orange, Apple, Cranberry, Tomato



Marmesa Edna Valley Chardonnay 2005
Bright and fresh with a powerful core of fruit, this is an outstanding Central Coast wine.

Chateau Thieuley Francis Courselle 2006
It retains the clean purity of the Sauvignon Blanc but the addition of a generous dollop of Semillon gives the wine a lot more weight and richness on the mid-palate.


Wattle Creek Shiraz 2003
This wine has a vibrant color, opulent fruit on the nose with support oak in the background and a hint of cracked black pepper on a very long finish.

Corona de Castilla Prestigio 2004
It’s powerful and full bodied, but made in a fresh, fruit-driven modern style.


Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
There are classic toasty, ripe fruit aromas with a complex, mouth-filling flavor lifted by firm acidity. The finish is long and rich but also beautifully refreshing.

The meal orders were taken about 15 minutes into the flight (and we were addressed by name), and I went with the soup as the appetizer and beef as the main course.

Shortly thereafter another flight attendant, Sonja, came around offering drinks. I went with a Fanta Orange, which made my day. I was concerned it would be the crappy, sweet American version, but it was the European version, in full Fanta glory. It’s one of my favorite drinks, so I overindulged on that a bit during the flight. Sonja also delivered a little tray with warm nuts as well as some kind of melted mozzarella cheese and small chunks of tomatoes. Sonja was honest to us (huh, since when is anyone in the airline industry honest?!?!?!) and said they were still working on perfecting the use of the oven, so asked us to pardon the fact that it seemed more like melted cheese than warm cheese. Nonetheless, it was delicious.

Nuts, cheese, and Fanta… yum!

Within another 15 minutes or so tablecloths were placed on the trays, shortly followed by the soup. The soup was perfect, and this time around the bread was served only a few seconds after the delivery of the soup. One odd thing about my setup was that I got two pepper grinders instead of a salt and pepper grinder, a detail I’m surprised slipped past this detail-oriented crew.

Amazing soup

baccarat_king’s appetizer– chicken pate and sushi

As soon as the soup was finished my bowl was taken, shortly followed by my main course. The beef was once again excellent, as were the sides. The service was also at a very good pace and drinks were continuously being topped off.

My main course– beef

Pat’s main course– chicken

baccarat_king’s main course– snapper

Once my main course plate was cleared my dessert order was taken, and I decided to go for both the tart and berries. Raquel obliged, and within minutes I had both plates. The dessert was especially good, as the berries tasted fresh and the tart was flavorful.

My ridiculously amazing dessert

baccarat_king’s dessert (he loved the variety of “proper” glassware)

Lastly I asked for a cup of coffee, and Raquel brought coffee, milk, and a whole box of chocolates. I really liked the glassware on the flight, especially for the coffee. Most of the cutlery/glasses/napkins were from BA, many even from First.

Coffee, milk, and chocolate

BA First napkin

Functionality of the drink tray

After lunch I reclined into a more comfortable position, to test out the lounging capabilities of the seat.

The flight attendants were very friendly and were walking through the cabin continuously to see if anyone wanted anything, and also came around with a basket including a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, combs, and moisturizer. All of it came with a TSA allowable bag, which was very practical.


We also had the opportunity to talk to the crew for a bit. The purser, Chris, is a retired Air France FA, where he flew the Concorde! He shared some fun stories, especially about a few celebrities (I wish I could post the details as they were pretty damn funny, but that wouldn’t be fair to him), and just about his collective experience there. The other FA’s spoke a bit about Maxjet and how the product and workload there compared to OpenSkies. One interesting thing to note is that on OpenSkies the FA’s have to plate the food, while on Maxjet it came pre-plated.

Picture of FA Raquel taking a picture

baccarat_king showing the Chris and Raquel his TWA book

Post-lunch look at the PREM+ cabin

Eventually the Captain made an appearance, although we didn’t know at first who he was since he wasn’t wearing his “stripes.” FlyerTalker baccarat_king asked him if he was the first officer, and he responded he was the Captain. He said he didn’t wear his stripes in the cabin, and also mentioned that OpenSkies’ chief pilot was aboard and that it was his check ride. He signed baccarat_king’s menu and even showed us his stripes so that we’d believe he really was the Captain (of course in a joking way).

Great Captain

I tested out the bed for a few minutes by reclining the seat into the fully flat position, and even asked for a duvet from the FA. It was promptly brought by Chris, the purser, and was very cozy. The bed as a whole was excellent, in my opinion. The only slight complaint I have is that the bed is a bit too short. I believe it is 72 inches, and at six feet tall my feet were firmly planted against the seat in front of me (as expected). I can imagine it would be somewhat uncomfortable for someone taller that wants to sleep without bending their knees. Still, it was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve tried in the sky, especially in Business.

BIZ seat fully reclined

A little over an hour out of JFK the pre-arrival snack service began. First tablecloths were placed on the tray tables, followed quickly by a box, much like we saw on the outbound for breakfast. For a moment I was shocked to get a boxed snack in business class, but as it turns out it was from “Laduree,” a famous French tea saloon (or so I’m told). While I’m no fan of seafood, the fishy sandwich was pretty good, and the cake and macaroons were amazing! I would suggest they offer an alternative type of sandwich (maybe chicken or vegetable), but overall I give it two thumbs up. Most of the people in BIZ were beyond impressed by the fact that they were serving this, but once I caught on I was quite pleased as well.

Another reason this is very practical is that you can really take the box with you if you don’t feel like eating on the plane.


Contents of box


Chocolaty brownieish thing


After lunch I repacked all of my bags, put away the menus, and took a backwards facing seat for the approach. The seatbelt sign was turned on early, and we had a bumpy approach into NY. We had one particularly large pocket of turbulence which nearly took one of the FA’s off her feet.

We landed at JFK a few minutes early and as we approached T7 I saw a BA747 approaching on the same taxiway in the other direction. I was hoping we’d get to go to our gate first, but we didn’t. As a result we had to wait for about 15 more minutes as they taxied in, as an ANA 777 taxied out, and as another plane taxied out. We ended up being about ten minutes late, which wasn’t too bad. We bid farewell to the great crew, and headed into the arrivals area.


I was in shock when I entered the terminal and found a line snaking nearly to our jetway! As it turns out that was the foreigner line, which must have had 1,000 people in it, while the US citizen line had a five minute wait at most.

For the first time ever I wasn’t asked a single question by the immigration officer, and said “thank you very much,” to which he responded “you’re welcome very much.” I handed the agent my form as I was exiting, and I heard him asking his colleague “What’s EC001?”

I walked towards the AirTrain, which seemed to be on vacation since it took forever. Fortunately the AirTrain was going the “right” direction, so T8, the AA terminal, was the first stop. I got off, found a check-in kiosk, and printed my boarding pass.

I went towards security, where they had the new TSA lanes where you choose what kind of a flyer you are (casual, expert, family, or whatever it is), and I didn’t see the expert lane open, so went towards the casual lane, which was shorter than the elite lane, as it turned out.

Once again the TSA agents here were a perfect example of why this workforce gets ZERO respect. It was clear that almost no one in the line spoke a word of English (they all had foreign passports and seemed very confused), and the TSA agents kept yelling “HAVE YOUR PASSPORT OPEN TO YOUR PICTURE PAGE!” Basically no one did it, and the agent scolded basically everyone that didn’t. The people had a confused look on their face, and I shook my head out of embarrassment of these guys (TSA agents) representing our country.

Thanks to my AMEX Plat I was able to use the AAdmirals Club, which was nice for a US lounge. It had veggies and pretzels, so was a little better than my DFW experience. After about 30 minutes I headed to the gate.

The club

View of the tarmac

Snack bar

The gate was a complete mess, and while the flight still showed on time there wasn’t a plane at the gate and we were schedule to board in five minutes. I asked the gate agent whether they were overbooked and needed volunteers and he responded “Nope, we’re full but not oversold today, but thanks for asking, we always appreciate it.” I also asked about the delay, and he said we’d probably be about 30 minutes late, as the inbound aircraft was late.

As it turned out we were about an hour late. I worked on my trip report a bit, so didn’t mind the delay too much, although I really wanted to get home.

Sunday, June 22
Economy, seat 20D

As I settled in a guy tapped me on the shoulder and said “You doing a mileage run, Ben?” As it turns out it was a teacher I had a few years ago, and in his class we always talked about mileage runs (he kind of understood them by the end of the year). It was pretty funny to run into him of all people on a plane.

The flight itself was uneventful. It was pretty long, 2hr30min in the air, and the seatbelt sign wasn’t turned off once. The Captain announced a very rough ride down the coast, and despite having smooth air for at least half the flight, it was never turned off. The two people across the aisle from me talked about flying for most of the flight, and were surprisingly knowledgeable. They even talked about OpenSkies, and as I was writing my report aboard and looking at pictures of the flight, she noticed them so we started talking about them.

We talked about travel patterns and airline loyalty (she was DL Gold and AA Plat), and laughed when I said I was loyal to UA/Ted. We debated the merits of the various airlines up until deplaning, which at least made the flight pass a little quicker.

I got home about an hour late, and was happy to get to bed after a long and exciting weekend.

Thanks so much for all that have read the report and commented, I really appreciate it! I had an amazing weekend, and can only hope to return to Paris and fly OpenSkies again in the near future!

  1. Impressive effort! 😉

    Did you ever get the promised “something aboard to acknowledge that [you] were on the inaugural flight” ?

  2. Yep, very odd. Now I should say that I didn’t try boarding (so I doubt they would have turned me away), but they call boarding for Economy, then PREM+, and then BIZ.

  3. Lucky,

    Thanks for sharing this with us – sounds like a great time! Iam totally jealous, but I’m glad you got to go as you really deserved it. See you in SF at the Mega Do.

  4. This is not a trip report, its a study in a new form of travel 😉

    Nice report lucky! Providing Openskies get their loads up, this could be an interesting way forward for them (with the possibiltiy of AMS and BRU in the future. All depends which BA 757 is up for sacrifice next.

    On boarding…
    With the low number of pax there are, I would had thought this way made sense to the Premium customers aren’t bumped by Economy passengers everywhere. To me, that would be good as most of the pax are loaded, and I don’t have to rush to load the bin and sit down.

  5. I have read your last post with interest.

    From your pics I can tell you that it was not just the linen that is part of BA’s First product. All the crockery, condiments and glasswear are exactly what we use now in First and the way your meal was served is exactly like BA’s First. The only exception is in First you can eat when you want.

    The security questions are a requirement by the UK DOT. As EC is registered in the UK it must comply with the asking of the security questions. Also the additional gate checks is a BA security thing. EC maybe be a small airline but it is still part of a flag carrier and for that reason is pecieved to be a greater target for unsavoury individuals hell bent on ruining air travel for all of us ( I won’t use the T word)

    When BA set up OpenSkies they wanted to bring a new standard of travel between the US and europe. You never know with the open skies talks in full swing and the current state of the aviation industry maybe BA will be able to bring the same standard of service to internal US flights if they can get traffic rights. BA america has a ring to it or OpenSkies USA. lol

    So although you are a loyal UA/Ted customer would you think about using EC if you travel to europe again??.

    Would you recommend EC to a friend who was travelling to Europe??

  6. BAboy, once again thanks for the insight, it’s much appreciated.

    I absolutely would consider EC again in the future. I’d say it’s has the best business class product between the US and France. I’d also say that their PREM+ product is a complete bargain, and is something which will go over very well with people that are willing to pay a premium, but not quite for BIZ.

    Even for Economy, while service isn’t spectacular and it’s a bit tight, we’re ultimately only talking about 30 people, so the comfort and ease or boarding and deplaning are a huge plus.

    Overall I would definitely recommend them. Actually, I have already recommended them to someone that regularly flies full fare premium cabins to Europe, and he promised he’d give them a try next time he’s Paris bound.

    Thanks again! 🙂

  7. Your attention to detail and the report is very thorough;however-the light has 3 settings and the strongest is easily bright enough so maybe you didn’t use the max setting.The seats are the old BA Club Class seats recovered,and the controls aren’t always on the left-it depends on the seats as to whether they will be on the left or right inside armrest.
    Glad you enjoyed the experience…

  8. I am taking the JFK to Paris flight at the end of September! I am WAY excited, now! I have flown 1st on Luft. business class on Many (including BA), so this might be a GOOD change of pace.

    Thanks for the insightful review!


    Dr. R. Wolfe

  9. Sorry lucky a correction to BA boys posting. The cabin crew training is not conducted at Cranebank or in NYC, it is all done at the First Choice facility by Gatwick airport. The training is outsourced to non BA personel at the First Choice training facility.

  10. Hi Lucky,

    We’re going with EC ex AMS – JFK around X-mas.. So it was really cool reading the stories you wrote and makes me more curious than ever to fly with EC. Have flown with BA loads of times, so it’ll be excited 🙂

    Thanks for your great stories…

    Cheers San

  11. lucky – a straightforward question to you!

    we’re flying JFK-ORL end of sept, with PREM+.

    honestly, the economy at 30 pp (vs. 24 in PREM+) and same meals as PREM+ (served at once, plastic baggies) – is PREM+ worth double the price?

    the more i read about BIZ, should we have forked out the 2nd double?

    also – we have PREM+ first row – 7 – appears to be bulkhead. recommend on PREM+? enough legroom? storage?

    thanks a bunch

  12. Nico,

    I’m not sure if you’ve flown United Business, but I think that’s the best comparison. The PREM+ service is basically identical to coach, but it’s a really comfortable ride with the huge seats. If you’d be willing to pay double for a business class type seat (not totally new generation), then definitely go for it. If not, I would save the money.

    If it were me, I would probably do coach, but that’s just because it’s such a short flight and I’d rather save the money. If you do value comfort though, I think it’s a great deal.

    As for whether to go for BIZ, it’s tough to say. I think PREM+ is comfortable enough of a ride that I wouldn’t find the upgrade worth it, but it all depends on your financial situation.

    Row seven was great, if I recall correctly, and of course you have the advantage of no one reclining into you.

    Enjoy the trip!

  13. Thank you for the detailed review and for sharing your experiences on OpenSkies! I was trying to decide if I should book a ticket through United (which would put me on Lufthansa in C/F over the ocean) or OpenSkies. Your review made the decision quite easy; I chose OpenSkies.

    As I was reading your review, I really appreciated both your sense of humor and your attention to desserts. In particular, I am looking forward to trying out the cookies in the blue wrappers at the lounge in Orly.

    Thank you again!

    John Canning

  14. Hi there Lucky,

    I thank you for this thorough review of the Openskies experience. I really found your writing fun to read. You have a very journalistic sense of describing things, with humor and accuracy (…notably when describing your stay in Paris, and the Orly airport “ordeal”). By the way, they have tighter security screening at this airport since lot of planes fly to some “hotspots” (Algeria, etc…).

    I do agree with you about the shortness of the Biz (or Old BA Club World) seats. I had a rather troublesome experience on a BA flight to Heathrow…and never managed to find a suitable sleeping position, and finally ended up sticking my feet out of the seat ! (not very fancy, I know..).

    I’m sorry if you find my question kind of awkward (in this case don’t anwser), but how do you get to travel soo much? …just seem to have lot of fun.


    Orian (from Paris)

  15. i received a 20% discount offer after my last open skies flight and have deleted it.can you resend as i am planning my 3rd open sjkies trip in 3 months! vlc

  16. not satisfied by the way my ticket has been downgradede from semi flexible to non flexible! YES THIS IS WRITTEN IN VERY SMALL LETTERS IN THE CONDITIONS OF PURCHASE but why then is it possble to add a semi flexible to a non flexible this is not logic and it costed me 300 $

  17. You got to stay in a biz bed? Awesome. I just had a biz seat. Still lovely experience. But either you got better food than me or they’ve really cut down in luxury over the years. Here’s my review with pics:

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