Category Archives: Openskies

OpenSkies Adds Economy Class to Its All-Premium Class Flights

OpenSkies, the British Airways-owned airline flying all-premium class flights to Paris Orly, announced that it will add economy class seating (again) to its 757s.

When the airline launched service about 4 years ago, they flew in a 3-class configuration, with a few sad rows of economy in the back of the plane. They then removed those seats and flew only with what they called Biz Bed (flat bed seating for about $3500 round trip) and Biz Seat (somewhere in between Premium Economy and Business Class, for about $2000, though often much less).

They expanded service to include not only Newark, but also Washington DC. That service ended last fall (with a bang, as they were giving away seats at $750 round trip), and they now only serve Newark.

British Airways, which I thought everyone assumed would shut OpenSkies down at some point, said it was re-investing in the airline, and as part of that, on June 19th they’ll add 66 coach seats to the aircraft, leaving 20 seats in the Biz Bed cabin and 28 in the cabin-formerly-known-as-biz-seat which is now called Prem Plus. Whew.

OpenSkies has learned what many others before it have learned: flying all-premium class service to Europe is difficult to do profitably. MAXjet couldn’t do it with all premium-economy-style seating; Silverjet couldn’t do it with all business class; Eos couldn’t do it with all first class. I remember that at Eos people were batting around the idea of adding MAXjet style seating in the back to lure in more leisure travelers when times were slow, but that didn’t happen. Finding the right mix of classes, while flying limited frequencies point-to-point is extremely challenging.

Few thought OpenSkies would survive long-term, so I’m not going to predict anything now. I think people tend to forget about it, but during the extremely expensive summer months, it’s often a great option for Paris flights.

And you can redeem British Airways Avios points for flights on OpenSkies — 75,000 points gets you a Biz Seat roundtrip between Newark and Paris, which is a pretty good deal (except for the $500 or so in fuel surcharges, which is not so good a deal).

Openskies to End Washington – Paris Service

Yesterday I wrote about Openskies’ $750 round trip business class fares from Washington DC to Paris. Those fares are still available, but now it’s a clearance sale: tucked away in a release about offering iPads on flights between Newark and Paris is a note that they will no longer fly Washington to Paris beginning October 29th. This leaves Newark as their sole destination from Paris.

Openskies is a steal (flights are usually about $1900 round trip in business class) and service is fantastic. It’s beyond extremely difficult to make all-premium-class TransAtlantic service work (in fact, no one has done it successfully as its own airline — BA does fly single class flights from London City to New York, but it doesn’t have to be successful as its own company). It’s a shame, because at those prices, it’s was a fantastic value for premium class service to Europe. We’ll see how much longer Newark can last. And remember, 75,000 BA miles gets you a flight to Paris on Openskies. It’s a great deal.

Roundtrip Business Class Flights to Paris from Washington: $750 on OpenSkies in October

(Thanks, Flyertalk)

Openskies has roundtrip flights to Paris Orly for only $750 ROUND TRIP (tax included!) in the business seat for travel in October. Yeah, that’s right – $750 in business class.

If you’ve never flown them, Openskies offers what they call “business seat” service, which is akin to what the old non-flat Continental BusinessElite seats used to be like (or are still like on the 767s). It’s a steal at this price.

FWIW – you’ll also earn about 11,000 British Airways miles for the trip.

Speaking of which, you can redeem BA miles for Openskies flights to Paris for only 75,000 miles (they consider the service to be Premium Economy, but it’s so much better than that). It’s a fantastic redemption option many forget about.

$400 Off OpenSkies Flights — Get Business Class Tickets to Paris for about $1500

Flash sale site RueLaLa is offering $499 OpenSkies vouchers for $99 (effectively a coupon for $400 off an OpenSkies flight). OpenSkies flies all-business class service from Newark and Washington to Paris-Orly. Flights are good through March 31st. OpenSkies often runs specials that knock the price down to between $1200 and $1500 round trip. Currently, tickets this fall are about $1900, so you’re looking at $1500 roundtrip to Paris in a great seat. I’d definitely wait to book until fares drop – they always run specials.

The voucher must be purchased by August 28th.

If you don’t belong to RueLaLa, you can use my invite code here.

OpenSkies Offers Money-Back Guarantee

After railing earlier this morning about how customer satisfaction doesn’t matter in the airline industry, Openskies (all-premium service between NY, DC & Paris) announced a money-back guarantee where they’ll refund the price of your flight (save for a handful of mandatory fees) if you’re not fully satisfied.  Fly between now and November 30th, and you’ve got 30 days after to complain to them.

It would, I think, take some serious, uh, guts to have them give you back the $1500 you paid for your flight, but there ya go.  I’m reminded of a friend’s father once trying to send back a $300 bottle of wine at a restaurant and getting in to a fight with the sommelier,  who wouldn’t take the bottle back.  That’s neither here nor there.  I can’t imagine many will follow through on this, but it’s a nice marketing ploy.

OpenSkies to Launch Washington – Paris

British Airways subsidiary and all-premium carrier OpenSkies announced that it will launch Washington – Paris flights in May, marking its second route after closing New York – Amsterdam about 6 months ago.  Summer prices for their BizSeat product (roughly equivalent to an extremely nice domestic business class) start at $1750 round trip, only about $300 more than coach seats on its competitors on the Washington routes Air France and United.

OpenSkies says they expect this route to be profitable in its second year, which is what Eos, SilverJet and MAXJet also used to say.  The airline also says that it expects the company to be profitable by 2013.

MAXJet was unable to make Washington – London work, though that was a more crowded route.  OpenSkies’ product is superior to United’s, but with only 5 flights per week they will still face difficulties competing with 21 flights per week offered by Air France.

Openskies started about 18 months ago, and the lifespan for all-premium TransAtlantic carriers seems to be about 3 years.  I don’t think this route is their last chance at success, but they really need to prove that this model works outside of their original citypair.

Quick Note Before the Weekend: OpenSkies Drops Amsterdam

On the heels of the news that they are looking for a buyer, OpenSkies has dropped its Amsterdam routes to focus on Paris, where it has built a nice (though likely not profitable) customer base.  Very sad to see the $1,000 roundtrip business class fares disappear.  Last flights are August 16th.

British Airways Looking to Sell OpenSkies

…And now, the end is near/and so I face/my final curtain…

British Airways has hired an investment bank to help it sell most of its stake in OpenSkies, the all-premium carrier flying between New York, Paris and Amsterdam.  Most airline-watchers wondered how OpenSkies could work after Eos, MAXJet and SilverJet all failed.  Then they wondered how it could possibly survive the downturn in the economy.  And why BA would operate a separate all-premium brand when it was rolling out its own all-premium 318s between New Yorkand London.  Well, it looks like everyone was correct and BA is trying to find someone to buy most of it (BA says they want to retain a stake, but we’ll see about that…)

Of course they’re saying they have interested parties (which is what Eos, MAXJet, and SilverJet all said), and that future prospects look good (ditto).  Sadly, they have a great product and a fantastic pricepoint.  Just like the 3 airlines mentioned above.  But the economics simply have not worked, and that isn’t going to change.  OpenSkies likely only has a few months left.  Splurge $1200 and fly them over to Europe – you’ll be happy you did.

British Airways May Be Closing Down OpenSkies

The Guardian is reporting that British Airways may shut down OpenSkies, its all-business class subsidiary flying between New York, Amsterdam and Paris.  The airline has reportedly been losing money since launch and last year canceled its expansion plans (including plans for a 5th 757).  To bolster its Paris operations it purchased L’Avion about a year ago, but even that move could not help them generate the yields necessary to make the French route work.

Some have suggested that BA has kept OpenSkies running as a defensive move against other airlines entering the market.  And while I buy that to some extent, its a moot point in the current environment when it would be highly unlikely that anyone else would try to launch an all-business class service today.

Should BA shutter the carrier it would mark the end of the failed 3-year all-premium trans-Atlantic experiment that has seen the demise of MAXjet, SilverJet and Eos.  Without frequencies, continuing traffic and loyalty programs (even though OpenSkies was aligned with BA’s loyalty program you need all three of those components), new entrant trans-Atlantic business class airlines don’t really have a chance.

(For my review of a flight on OpenSkies read here.)

The Middle of the Beginning of the End for Openskies: No Further Expansion

Openskies, the British Airways carrier now flying between Paris, Amsterdam and New York, is heading toward the same sad ending that faced 3 other all-premium carriers in the past year.  The Financial Times is reporting that BA is selling the 757s that it had planned to use for Openskies’ expansion across Europe.  It has signed a letter of intent to sell 11 of its 15 757s (the others are currently with Openskies).  The article suggests that the carrier hasn’t been hitting revenue targets (not a shock considering they are selling seats for $1000 round trip, including taxes, which is nowhere close to where they need to be).

It’s a shame because, like Eos, Silverjet, and MAXjet, they all have a solid, value-rich product.  The summer period is rough for business-focused airlines like these, so I can’t imagine BA will let it ride out through the summer.  It’s now just a matter of time before they close down the existing operation.  Quite sad.