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Flight Review: La Compagnie Business Class, Newark to Paris

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Ever since La Compagnie launched its affordable all-business-class service between Newark (EWR) and Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) last summer, I’ve been curious to experience it first-hand — particularly since the airline’s now disrupting the lucrative business-class market even further by offering seemingly too-good-to-be true buy one, get one free fares along with cheap last-minute tickets.

For my recent trip to Paris, I booked a non-stop flight between EWR and CDG for $863.80 one-way including taxes, and was pleasantly surprised by the overall experience as a relatively low-cost option for better-than-economy service. I’d previously heard some negative reviews about La Compagnie, though, so I had gone in with fairly low expectations.

Last-minute prices on La Compagnie
Even La Compagnie’s last-minute one-way fares are reasonable.

I booked my ticket a little over a month out, but even if I’d booked last-minute, the costs would have been reasonable: $1,208 for one-way fares compared to $7,300+ one-way on other carriers. Even last-minute economy seats for the same dates were going for more than $2,100 on Delta and Air France. Of course, booking a round-trip flight is often much cheaper than a one-way, but if you’re not planning to return to your origin after a trip, the ability to pay less to fly only in one direction can be very attractive.

Last-minute economy-class fares on major airlines.
Round-trip business-class fares on major airlines for travel this summer.

It’s all relative, though — if you book far enough in advance, you can currently score $2,407 round-trip business-class flights on airlines like Air France, American, Delta and United, which offer a superior in-flight product and allow you to earn valuable frequent-flyer miles (which you can’t do with La Compagnie).

La Compagnie owns two planes (both retrofitted Boeing 757-200s), and at present flies only two round-trip routes: Newark to Paris, and Newark to London Luton (LTN). Flights between EWR and CDG are offered seven days a week, while the EWR-LTN route operates every day but Tuesday. You can see the full La Compagnie schedule here.

A La Compagnie 757. Photo courtesy of Anna Zvereva – Flickr.

Many readers have asked me why I’d consider flying an airline that wouldn’t net me miles with a traditional loyalty program. The answer is simple: Earning miles and elite status is nice and all, but I’d rather save money and spend it when I’m actually in Paris than pay for a slightly better in-flight bed. And let’s be honest, flights to Western Europe from NYC aren’t that long — I’d rather save my miles and upgrades for ultra long-haul flights, like my recent ones on Korean Air and Singapore Airlines, which were spectacular. I’ll always love getting miles, but in this case I’d rather save the huge chunk of cash than build up my mileage. And since La Compagnie offers business-class seats at better rates than both one-way economy and business class on other airlines, it made my decision easy.

I was impressed by the chic design of the Priority Pass Lounge at EWR.

Booking and Check-In

La Compagnie’s flights won’t show up on other travel-booking engines, so you’ll need to head to its website to book directly. Even though the last-minute fares are a great deal, you’ll find the best rates by booking early. I paid with my American Express Premier Rewards Gold since it gives me 3x points on all airfare, as does the Citi Thank You Premier card.

Checking in at Newark was seamless, with only one person in front of me in line. However, since there’s no TSA PreCheck available with La Compagnie, and Newark’s TSA is notoriously slow, I’d still recommend allowing extra time for security.

Food selections at the Premier Pass lounge.
Food selections at Newark’s Priority Pass lounge.

I visited the Priority Pass lounge before security and felt that it was nicer than most airline lounges. It featured a chic design and offered salmon, penne pesto pasta and a full bar. Note that you can also get access by signing up for a free Priority Pass Select membership with the Amex Platinum card.

La Compagnie's gate area.
La Compagnie’s gate area.

My flight was supposed to leave at 9:45 pm, but by 9:30 pm there hadn’t been any announcements about a delay. This initial lack of communication was a little frustrating, and though we finally began boarding at 9:45 pm, we didn’t actually take off until roughly an hour later.

The leg room available in row 3.
The leg room available in row 3.

On the Plane

The 757-200 had 74 seats, with 26 inch-wide seats in a 2 x 2 configuration. The plane was about 75% full, and I was able to change my seventh-row seat for seat 2A, which I think is one of the best on the aircraft.

I had plenty of leg room in seat 2A.
I had plenty of leg room in seat 2A.

It’s a bulkhead seat with extra legroom on the left side of the plane, and it’s not right behind the galley like row 1 on the right side of the plane. I lucked out, since the seat next to me was empty.

Cranberry Champagne was one of the pre-departure drink options.

For pre-departure drinks, I had a choice of cranberry juice or a cranberry Champagne mix with a little gummy bear treat in it. It was a nice change of pace, and I give La Compagnie credit for providing something a little unexpected.

Dinner was basic, and was served all at once on a single tray.

I soon fell asleep, but woke up about 45 minutes later, just as meal service started. This service took forever since there were only two flight attendants, which seemed a little low for the number of seats. In order to get my own meal and a drink, I had to make a real effort to get my flight attendant’s attention.

Dinner was basic at best, with a small, simple chive quiche; a frisée salad with a pat of goat cheese, artichoke hearts and little else; a cup’s worth of creamy potato soup with bacon; a crusty roll; a wedge of cheddar; and for dessert, a chocolate bombe glacée (this is a French airline, after all). But honestly, I didn’t book this flight for the promise of amazing food, so I wasn’t too disappointed. That said, I’d personally recommend eating something at the airport (check out Grand Central Oyster Bar at EWR’s Terminal C) and using the six-and-a-half-hour journey to sleep.

La Compagnie’s amenity kit.

The amenity kit was basic, but included all of the essentials as well as a few sample-size products from French skin care line Caudalíe, which uses grapes in all of its creams, lotions and serums.

The entertainment system included a Samsung tablet.

I was also provided with a Samsung tablet loaded with entertainment options and a moving map.

La Compagnie's angled bed may not be an industry leader, but it did the trick
La Compagnie’s angled bed may not be an industry leader, but it did the trick.

With 62 inches of pitch, the seat transforms into a thinly padded, angled bed that will never be thought of as industry-leading — but at these prices, I’m okay with that.

Bottom Line

Although the in-flight business-class experience doesn’t compare to major carriers that fly the same route, it’s a great deal for what it is and worth looking into if you’re planning a trip to Paris or London. It could also be a good option if you’ve wanted the experience of flying business but can’t typically afford a ticket in that section of the plane.

Although the service is on the slow slide and the overall product could be improved upon, if you’re looking for a better-than-coach experience at near-coach pricing, then La Compagnie is hard to beat.

Since business-class flights to Europe are often cheaper during the summer — and the flight itself isn’t that long from the East Coast — I’d recommend saving your miles or cash to splurge on business class redemptions to Asia and other far-flung destinations, opting to pay cash when you can get deals like this one instead.

Have you flown La Compagnie, or do you plan to this year? Please share your experiences or plans in the comments below.

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