We booked our flight to Paris about six months out. Since we planned to return to the U.S. on the Carnival Sunshine, you would think that an inexpensive, one-way flight would be a no brainer.
You would think.
Several airlines didn’t care whether we were going one way or both: the price was the same, roughly $1,500 to $2,000 and that was for coach, economy, or as we loving it refer to it, cattle car. So we decided it was time to cash in some of our American Express Membership Miles to purchase our tickets.
Of course, our goal was to use as few miles as possible and get the best possible seats which is how we happened upon Open Skies. Protocol is that you join the airline club, and then call to ask how many points it will take to get the class you want to the destination you desire. When I called British Airways, I got a very nice reservationist who provided the mileage requirements for each class of service on BA. I want to say the lowest amount was around 60,000 for one, coach class ticket. That’s a lot of membership miles. Then she suggested an enhanced Business Class service, which she said was really first class in disguise, on one of their subsidiary airlines, Open Skies. At just 30,000 miles each, this was a bargain for a non-stop flight from New York. So I transferred the points, paid the $900 in taxes and booked the flight.
The actual name of the class we booked was Business Bed. The photo showed someone lying perfectly flat on a bed with a mattress and a comfy duvet. Looking at the photo, I knew I could easily curl up and sleep here. The ad went on about how you could sleep all the way to Paris without interruption. I can’t tell you how attractive that sounds to someone who doesn’t like flying to begin with. To sleep during an eight hour flight was right up my alley.
We spent a few days in New York prior to our flight. Our checkout time at the Doubletree Suites Times Square was noon and because the hotel was full, there was no late check out available. They held our luggage and we got some lunch and it was only 2:00. Our flight wasn’t leaving until 9:00. So we left for the airport, arriving around 3:00 – six hours in advance of our flight. We checked in at a special area of British Airways and breezed through security in less than five minutes. We were allowed to wait in the lounge for our flight.
The lounge was wonderful! There were eight different types of complementary massages available, but we skipped those in favor of a pre boarding shower. There were lots of snacks and drinks and with our tickets, we were allowed a full dinner in a special area of the lounge, again complementary. Because our flight was leaving so late, they suggested we dine there and spend our time sleeping on the plane. Let’s face it, food tastes better on land and eating a full meal onboard at 10 pm is not my cup of tea. The selection was grand and the food delicious.
Wi Fi was free so we kept busy our entire six hours. It was comfortable and productive.
As we got close to our departure time, we noticed there was a 15 minute delay. We knew we were supposed to board a half hour in advance and as they time grew closer, we asked the ticketing people in the lounge when we were boarding. They told us over and over that they would call us when boarding began. They told us not to worry about missing our flight. They said we should trust them.
Our only call to board came at 9:05. As we are slowing making our way to the gate, a man runs up and asks, “Are you the Boyd’s?” When we affirmed, he told us to run because our flight was leaving.
So we show our passes at the gate and the attendant scolds us saying that they were closing the doors because we were late. We were the last two people on the plane. We told her we only got the one call in the lounge and she scolds us again saying that it was our responsibility to know when to get to the gate. I decided not to belabor the point because I really want to get on the flight.
Now harried, we board the plane and they shut the doors behind us. I fastened my seatbelt as we taxied down the runway.
Our flight from New York to Paris was interesting. Not bad, just interesting and a little weird. This was the oddest configuration I have ever seen on a plane. There are only 20 seats in Business Bed Class; five rows of two seats on each side. The aisle seat faces the front of plane; the window seat faces the back of the plane. It’s an oversized monstrosity of a chair that’s not real comfortable when you are in a sitting position and even worse when it’s supposed to be a bed.
We declined food and drink in favor of sleep and I was beginning to wonder if I should just give up on the whole sleeping thing and just eat my way to Paris. They gave us pajamas, wrapped neatly in a package and tied with a ribbon, a very nice set of noise canceling headphones to be used with the ipads while on board, slippers and a toiletry kit. They had apparently put some thought into that part.
Back to the bed. So the attendants came around and gave us a pillow, something that resembled a paper thin mattress and a cloth I wouldn’t describe as a duvet or a blanket. It was something in between. Now when everyone puts their beds down and begins making them, I discover an important thing: I am in a window seat and in order to get out, I have to climb over a person I don’t know while they are sleeping. And it gets worse. Once this seat reclines, I have nowhere to stand or sit. I can only lay. I don’t know what I’m doing so a flight attendant comes over to assist. First, the thing doesn’t recline completely. There is this big lump in the center. If I position my waist there, it’s comfy, but my feet are curled up on the seatback in front of me so any attempt to straighten my legs will mean my kicking the person in front. If I move to the top of the so called bed, the lump lands on my hips and thighs and not only does it hurt, it’s uncomfortable. The guy behind me is already kicking my would be headboard as he tries to make sense of it.
I rolled in place with my legs curled in a fetal position for a few hours, and no. I didn’t sleep. And yes. About 6.5 hours into the flight I had to pee but I couldn’t because the woman I had to crawl over was still sleeping. I dropped the bed idea and raised the thing to the chair position. We had a continental breakfast and finally as we were preparing to land, they wake the woman in front of me, but I still can’t pee because now we are landing.
I can’t get off the plane fast enough to find a bathroom.
So, would I fly Open Skies again? I don’t know. While the situation was odd, it was still better than economy. If there ever is a next time, I now know that I want an aisle seat where I can stand, sit or pee without permission. One more thing: the next time I won’t trust anyone in the lounge.Follow @DigitalDebbie