Italics for a change eh? That's because I am writing my first foreword to a guest post! My soon to be father and mother in law gave La Compagnie a spin yesterday and I thought it would be very neat for them to chronicle their experience and thoughts. They, aren't frequent travelers but love to travel and certainly aren't without opinion ; ) Oh and I was an hour late picking them up so I thought 15 minutes of fame might sweeten James (the reviewer) up. We can only hope! Elevated travel at minimal expense? We'll soon find out! On to James..... - Gib
My wife and I have crossed the Atlantic around a dozen times in the last 10 years or so. We’ve flown business, we've flown Economy and have flown the various upgrade forms of Premium Economy. These trips have all been for holidays, never about business. So although it is fair to say I am not a regular traveller I know what it’s about and I know what I like. Unfortunately what I really like, being pampered in a luxury lounge prior to boarding, champagne as soon as you get seated and fully reclining seats with acres of leg room is usually way out of our budget range.
So for this latest visit to New York we did our research, read the online reviews, studied costs and compared all the options. Having flown from Luton recently and seen the La Compagnie plane standing on the tarmac, I was particularly interested to see what this comparative new comer to Transatlantic flight had to offer. Judging by some of the reviews very little it would seem. One seasoned blogger seemed particularly upset that it didn’t offer him the kind of service he would expect from Business Class, amongst other complaints - apparently the amenity kit was “basic”.
So it looked like we would have to settle for Virgin Economy once again and hope to add a few more bonus miles to our account. Economy seats for the two us were going to work out at a fraction - and I mean a fraction - under £2,000. But then we got in touch with God Save The Points and, because we were flexible about traveling dates, it looked like we could fly with La Compagnie using their introductory offer - £1,500 - that’s for the two of us round trip. In my book, that’s a saving that cannot be passed over so we chose to ignore the bad reviews and the dire warnings of flight cancellations, looked only at the positive ones and booked our flight to Newark from Luton.
So yesterday, Friday 31 July, we turned up at Luton for our flight. We have flown many times from Luton and of all the London airports it is my least favourite. Noisy, stuffy and always overcrowded. The La Compagnie check in desk is right in the middle of the check in area so we fought our way through the mass of holiday makers and joined the small queue. A small queue that got smaller, thankfully, once a second person arrived to check our luggage in. We were told where to head for the Priority Boarding Channel, the queues at Luton usually snake round and back for several minutes so this was a nice change.
From there, our booking gave us access to the Aspire Lounge overlooking the main concourse and duty free areas. My hopes weren’t high, I had read that the Lounge was being refurbished. I was right to be pessimistic. Dreadful would be to give it too much praise. It wasn’t that it was small and clearly in the process of being refurbished. It was the second rate refreshments on offer. There is no excuse for putting out stale food and dirty wine glasses. But I wasn’t about to hold this against La Compagnie, after all if you make a financial saving by flying from Luton then you have to take what you are given. And after all, if you are more used to flying Economy you don’t get the chance to enjoy any kind of quite area away from the crowds.
Boarding, when you have a maximum of 74 seats on the plane is never going to present a challenge. I would estimate our flight was only three quarters full - maybe that was because it was 5.45 on a Friday evening. That might also have something to do with the fact that very few of the passengers, as far as I could see, represented what might be called, the Business Class elite road warrior. There was a fair mixture of young families, one couple sitting near us were off to New York to celebrate their wedding anniversary and couples returning to the US after holidaying in the UK. Ordinary folk - just like us.
First impression of the cabin - very good. Very new and very corporate powder blue, the headsets, the blankets and that amenity pack. The seats - well if you are more used to Economy with the occasional upgrade to Premium then the leg room and the recline on the seats was everything I wanted. If I am being picky then the seats felt a bit hard, but were adjustable to almost any angle I could want, and a few I wasn’t so keen on. The Samsung tablet was a vast improvement over any seat back screen I have viewed although the wifi signal it relied on disappeared for a while which left everyone’s screen frozen. The selection on there was just adequate with the entire back catalogue of James Bond, a very small number of recent offerings and virtually no tv content.
If you are going to fly in Business Class style then you expect one of the highlights to be the food and drink and the first impression was.... strange. Champagne and cranberry juice with a soft sweet sitting in the bottom of the glass. Not unpleasant but why not just hand out the Champagne? Shortly after take off we were offered a choice of drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, with a snack. We then sat back until the flight attendants brought round the main meal. Again, if you are a regular Business Class traveller you may well be slightly disappointed but I found the food perfectly pleasant. A light pickled salad with paté and palma ham, followed by beautifully cooked chicken, piping hot and dauphinoise potato side. A cheese course and then a small slice of fruit tart. We chose the red wine to accompany it - French of course and delightful. We declined the after meal spirits on offer and just went for the coffee. The flight attendants could not have been more friendly, courteous and helpful. I can compare this to flying Business with British Airways where I found the staff to be arrogant, corporate robots.
I found a suitable seat position and slept for a while. I can’t claim I slept like a baby but it was adequate, I am looking forward to our return flight which will be at night and will give me a better chance to have a longer sleep. Before long the tea service appeared. Charming little sandwiches, cream cheese and cucumber in one, egg mayonnaise in the other. Two small fruit scones accompanied by a small pot of clotted cream and a pot of jam. And finally a square of baklava and a rose flavoured macaron. One of the few times on a flight that my appetite has felt genuinely satisfied.
As I have mentioned already, the cabin staff were all that you could want, but so to was our captain. His announcements were detailed and informative. And not just after take off and before landing. He explained reasons behind navigation paths, why we would be landing ahead of schedule at Newark and many more facts. Fascinating to hear it from the man up front.
To summarise our flight experience - I would suggest that if you are more used to a life in Business Class than you may pick holes in this service. Personally I would give it 10 out of 10 for effort. Of course there are things that such a young company could do to improve. But for us, as a reasonably priced alternative to the dread that Economy holds, then I would recommend La Compagnie every time. My only concern is that they survive long enough to see us on future flights.
As Always, Get in Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com