TESTED BY Jenny Southan
PLANE TYPE 757-200
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2
SEAT PITCH 62 in/157.5 cm
SEAT WIDTH 26 in/66 cm
SEAT RECLINE 175 degrees
PRICE Internet rates for a round trip flight in May ranged between $1,500 and $4,650 depending on flexibility.
VERDICT: La Compagnie has come up with a VIP concept that will suit the business traveler on a budget – its business class prices are very competitive. You won’t get a fully-flat bed, hundreds of movies, onboard WiFi or top-notch food and wine choices. But what it does deliver is a tranquil cabin and a comfortable product.
BACKGROUND: French all-business class carrier La Compagnie launched in 2013 with flights from Paris CDG to New York Newark, adding a five-times weekly Luton-Newark route last April. Timings are 1745 from Luton (landing at 2100) and 2220 from Newark (arriving 1030 the next day). In September it will go daily.
CHECK-IN: I was taken care of immediately at one of the airline’s two desks and used fast-track security.
THE LOUNGE: La Compagnie passengers can use the Aspire lounge for free. (The elevator is wheelchair-only.) It has a staffed bar (you need to pay for champagne), a self-service counter for wine, soft drinks and food, and a spa.
BOARDNG: I headed to the gate at 1705. The plane was only half full so it was a very peaceful boarding experience. A drink was offered once seated. The carryon luggage allowance is generous (two pieces plus a handbag or laptop case) and storage plentiful.
THE SEAT: La Compagnie’s 757 has 74 angled lie-flat seats in a 2-2 configuration (A-C, D-F) with rows 16-20 located behind a pair of washrooms. I was in 11A. The aircraft feels new, clean and fresh. Set in a hard shell surround with no dividers, seats have 12-inch Samsung Galaxy tablets in seat-back slots. Controls for recline and lumbar support are in the central armrests but the buttons are quite fiddly. There is no WiFi, but there are EU plug sockets – mine wasn’t working so I had to charge my phone at another seat. Headphones and amenity kits are provided.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOSE? Exit rows offer plenty of extra space. For direct aisle access, choose C or D. Row 15 is nearest the washrooms, and Rows 1 and 20 are by the galleys.
THE FLIGHT: Take-off was at 1800. At 1830 a Piper Heidsieck advertisement played on the overhead screens, and menus were handed out for a special champagne and food pairing, with three types of Piper Heidsieck served – Cuvée Brut, Vintage 2006 and Rare Millesime 2002. La Compagnie hosts showcases like this about once a month. At 1900 I was given a glass of fizz; dinner was served shortly after.
My pre-ordered vegetarian meal comprised a cold roasted vegetable salad (nothing special), fruit, a roll and an uninspired chickpea curry with a choice of one white and one red wine – Bourgogne Chardonnay la Part des Anges, and Saint Emilion Château la Bienfaisance. The main menu listed confit duck and seared tuna, followed by cheese and dessert. Crewmembers were polite and hardworking, if somewhat lacking in confidence and warmth.
The picture quality on the tablets was superb and there was a pretty good choice of films. The cabin lights went out at 2100, and I reclined the seat to get some rest. The lights came back on at 0030 and afternoon tea was served.
ARRIVAL: We landed on time, disembarked via jet bridge and walked eight minutes to immigration, which was empty.