I recently returned from a five-day trip to London with my family. Before booking our flights in March, we asked my uncle’s travel agent to help us find the best airline deals.
Normally we’d just go for the economy tickets since they’re the most affordable. But since we were taking a red-eye to London, we felt pretty strongly about having seats that turned into beds, which you can only get in business or first class. Also, this was the only big trip most of us would be taking this year, so we were willing to splurge a bit.
The next day, he sent over a few options. We could fly economy from New York to Heathrow for about $A1,054 per person, premium economy for $A1,980, or business class on a big-name airline for about $A4,614 each. We didn’t even inquire about first class — we knew it would be too pricey.
But there was a fourth option: Fly on a newer, boutique all-business-class airline called La Compagnie for $A1,964 per person, which beat the premium economy and business class prices on all other airlines.
I’ll admit, I had never heard of La Compagnie before, and I was a bit hesitant to book a flight on a newer airline I knew nothing about. But I did some research, talked to the rest of the group, and decided it was worth a try.
Before I left, I told some friends and colleagues about the airline. None of them had ever heard of it either, so I decided to document the return trip. Keep scrolling for a glimpse at what it was like to fly La Compagnie from London to Newark.
I learned that La Compagnie is a small, independent company that has been around since 2013. The airline only flies to and from London, Paris, and Newark, New Jersey. The catch? It doesn't fly in or out of Heathrow, London's big airport. Instead, it goes in and out of Luton, a smaller airport just north of London.
It turns out that this is actually a pro, not a con! Luton was only about an hour from our hotel in the heart of London, and Heathrow would have been 45 minutes ... so, not much of a difference there. Plus, we learned that checking in, going through security, and navigating the airport with a group of seven people and a baby is much easier at a smaller airport than it is at a big, busy one.
The process of checking-in and going through security in both airports (Newark and Luton) were better than most airport experiences I've had. Because La Compagnie is a boutique airline with only a few flights per day, very few people are actually checking in at any given time. That meant there was no wait on either end.
The ticketing agents were extremely friendly and efficient. They explained where the lounges were (which we had complimentary access to) and that La Compagnie had its own security line (which was also empty!). We flew through the check-in and security process, and had enough time to enjoy the airport lounges.
At Newark, La Compagnie passengers are granted access to the 'Art & Lounge' space. It's quiet and comfortable with a nice food and drink selection. At Luton, passengers have access to an executive lounge called 'Aspire', which is modern and sleek, and also offers a large selection of food, snacks, and drinks. Below are some photos of the Aspire lounge at Luton airport.
Drinks, snacks, and food are complimentary. At the Aspire lounge, however, you have to pay for certain fancy alcoholic beverages. The lounge also offers free Wi-Fi and spa services.
There is also a room with three 'SnoozePods', which through the use of intelligent lights and sounds promote full sleep in a pre-programmed 20-minute cycle before 'gently waking you'.
About 45 minutes before our scheduled take-off, an Aspire lounge employee announced that it was time for passengers on my flight to begin making their way to the gate. When I got there, I boarded our Boeing 757-200 immediately -- no waiting!
On both aircrafts, the all-business-class cabins had 19 rows and 74 seats. Neither of my flights were sold out, and there were plenty of open seats.
When I got to my seat I found a bottle of water, a pillow, a blanket, and a travel care kit, which included ear buds, a toothbrush, socks, Caudalie face moisturizer, a pen, an eye mask, and other goodies.
Every seat also had a Samsung Galaxy Pro tablet which you could remove from the port. Through these devices, La Compagnie offers TV shows, movies, music, magazines and newspapers, and E-books. The tablets can also be used to view the in-flight menu and other information.
The seats are certainly spacious and comfortable. They recline to a 175-degree angle and have a built-in massage feature, which I took full advantage of.
My 16-month-old niece certainly enjoyed the recline feature. The seats didn't quite turn into completely flat beds, but they got close enough.
Upon boarding, the flight attendants came around offering champagne with cranberry juice, or just plain cranberry juice. Everything on the plane was complimentary.
Next they handed out comfortable noise-cancelling headphones. Sadly, these had to be returned at the end of the flight, but it was nice to have them for the seven hours we were on board.
On our return flight, which left London at 5:40 p.m. (London time) and arrived in Newark at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time), we were first served a light first course of tuna, a cheese and fig plate, and some sort of pie around 6:00 p.m. It was all surprisingly delicious.
About an hour later, we were served dinner. Passengers had a choice of chicken in a red wine sauce, or spinach and cheese tortellini served with warm bread. I went with the pasta. It was simple, yet flavorful. And the portion sizes were perfect.
Finally, we were served a course similar to what you'd eat at high tea in London. The flight attendants came around with the 'tea and sweets' meal -- which included a scone with jam and clotted cream, a macaroon, a miniature carrot cake, two finger sandwiches, juice, and tea -- around 9:00 p.m. London time.
On our red-eye from Newark to London, we had been served dinner after take-off (fig quiche and goat cheese tart, with potato and bacon soup and dessert), and breakfast (eggs, french toast, and croissants) before landing.
Normally one to be wary of aeroplane food, I thoroughly enjoyed every meal. Of course, I didn't like everything (for instance, the scones were cold and hard -- and after enjoying amazing, warm scones in London, these just didn't compare). But I ate almost everything!
Throughout the flight, a few baskets filled with candy and chips were left out for passengers to help themselves to.
There were three flight attendants on each flight. They were very pleasant and attentive. They didn't disturb passengers with a million unnecessary announcements, but came through the aisle with the drink cart frequently, asking us if we'd like anything.
I wish La Compagnie flew everywhere, because if it did, it's the only airline I'd ever fly again. My experience wasn't perfect (for example, my arm rest of the return flight was broken, so I had to switch seats) but overall, it was one of the best travel experiences I've ever had. And at less that $A1,980 per person for a round-trip business-class ticket to London ($A2,373 to Paris), the value is incomparable.
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