Just as United and Continental airlines are merging to create the biggest giant in the skies, a newer, smaller entity called OpenSkies is expanding its flight itinerary to include a round trip offering between Washington D.C. and Paris-Orly Airport. The two very diverse worlds of airline travel, budget and luxury, just got a little further apart.
The $3 billion deal with Continental states the name will be United and it will retain approximately 7% of global airline capacity according to Agence France-Press. A study done recently by About.com states that “preference for a specific airline hardly matters at all when selecting air travel. Among the most important factor in choosing an airline for 84% of participants, was baggage fees.”
It’s ironic that during a time when large airlines are nickel and diming passengers over baggage, food, and even bathroom fees (like the airline in Ireland), British Airlines is expanding its all-business class fleet. In 2008, British Airlines purchased French airline L’Avion for 54 million pounds, then merged it with its European operations in 2009. These beautiful Boeing 757 aircrafts hold a mere 84 seats, which are designed for 180-degree reclining into a fully flat bed. Most airplanes have about 200 seats.
Cabins of the OpenSkies planes look like they were designed by 84 executives who all got together and decided to ditch their private jets for PR reasons during the recession. They were willing to be more flexible on their flight schedules, but didn’t want to give up anything in the luxury of their seating, dining or in-flight privacy. Wal-la: OpenSkies.
The new route launched this week that flies out of Washington D.C.-Dulles will feature an exclusive menu by Michel Richard, owner of Michel Richard Citronelle and 2008 James Beard Award winner for best new restaurant, Central Michel Richard. Last week a sampling of the quality of Michel’s types of creations was available at the OpenSkies launch party atop Washington D.C.’s Hay Adams Hotel. Spoonfuls of a creamy ahi tuna mixture sprinkled with tiny crispy rice pieces were delicious and indicative of the small, but exuberant dishes served at Citronelle.
So what will it set you back if you prefer pommes frites instead of peanuts? Fares on OpenSkies start at $1,109 with round trip ticket purchases not including tax. On website onetravel.com, I found a round trip ticket on Continental from Washington to Paris for $1,209, but that includes two stops. I think the lesson here is that travelers do have more options than they might realize.
The consolidation of United and Continental probably won’t result in huge changes for most travelers. The merger will put them into the black, but OpenSkies sounds like it will be putting travelers into the blue.