Are Air France and British Air’s Open Skies starting a trend?

Written by admin on April 9, 2009 – 6:08 pm -

How can travelers get from here to there without feeling like pretzels sitting in the back of the plane especially on long-haul flights?

Is Air France going head to head with British Air’s Open Skies by introducing a private cabin called Premium Voyageur? Scheduled to debut this fall, the twenty-two seat private seating area will be located between the Economy and Business class sections. Previously, there would have been 40 seats. Having fewer seats will give Premium Voyageur passengers 40 percent more space than if they were flying coach.

The seats are fixed shells with an 18.9” wide seat that reclines 123 degrees and has a pitch of 38.2 inches, plus a leg rest that may be raised. Each seat will have 3.9” leather armrests so you won’t need to wrestle with your neighbor.

All of the seats will have a 10.4-inch wide individual video screen and passengers will be able to access 500 hours of on-demand viewing. Those flying this class of service will receive business class amenities including a travel kit, a bottle of water, noise-reducing headphones, a feather pillow plus a pure wool blanket.

At the airport, passengers receive priority check-in, increased weight allowance for their suitcases and their bags will be delivered to the carousel at the same time as Business Class luggage.

A sample round trip fare for the New York to Paris route starts from $1,431 including all taxes and fees.

Air France’s first available destinations will be New York-JFK, Tokyo and Osaka. But the Premium Voyageur cabin will ultimately be on Air France’s entire international long-haul network of Boeing 777s, Airbus A340s and A330s.

At the same time: Open Skies has completed its merger with L’Avion, creating the first all business class airline that operates nonstop flights between New York and Paris and between New York and Amsterdam.

Having taken this flight, I gave it thumbs up and could find no fault in terms of comfort, service, food and more.

Do you think other airlines are going to hop on the band wagon when it comes to establishing more moderately priced seating than Business Class fares?  First class and business class compartments appear to be fairly empty these days unless people are using upgrades. Or frequently the seats are occupied by employees of the airlines. I’m raising my hands and crossing my fingers that other carriers get the idea.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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