Those were the days when getting on an airplane was the fulfillment of anticipation of a trip. The planning and getting ready--the excitement of what our journeys would be--were fully crystallized once we stepped foot on the planes that would carry us away. Oh, rapture! We were flying to faraway places, where we would reinvent ourselves and be part of a new idea of what the world could be. Back in Mad Men days, and after, we even smoked cigarettes while we enjoyed our mile high cocktails to celebrate this good fortune.
And then the world became a darker place with 9/11. Many people in the United States became afraid of travel itself as well as new vistas that could be dangerous. Our temperaments are unlike our British friends who roam the globe with more fearlessness than we, their colonial upstarts. Did their experience with colonialism, in taking over peoples and countries make them more bold? Or do we feel more exultation in discovering our own huge continent....Or both? Do we feel the same wandering spirits?
So after this dark day in American history, our airport security was beefed up, as it should have been. In this process, the joy of getting on a plane has gone away like the good manners of our once more polite society. I know many people who don't want to travel much anymore, because it's such a dreary experience.
But, luckily, the worm has turned at least for those who want to come to Paris! We have OpenSkies, an all-business airline that flies between New York, Dulles-Washington, D.C., and the City of Light. Oh, you will relish these flights!
I had been interested in this airline since I first heard about it. I get their emails just like a number of other airlines and websites that supposedly offer fantastic deals which, somehow, I can never find a way to use. The problem was for me that I usually fly to the West Coast or to the South, when I'm headed to the USA, and OpenSkies schedule never quite fit me--or, so I thought.
And then friends of ours flew from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Paris, switching to OpenSkies at Dulles in Washington, D.C. They raved about their trip, and, then, for the first time in several years, I was planning a trip to the East Coast to meet my darling daughters in Charlottesville, Virginia. We would be starting a project together--a documentary--and visiting part of our family. I have been in France for eight years now, and I was feeling a bit disconnected to my blood and bone, and felt the need to be with them and remember our stories. OpenSkies invited me to make my own experiment of flying from the middle of the country to Paris, and I accepted.
Enter my first trip on OpenSkies, and it won't be my last.
After a harried trip from my apartment to Paris-Orly--the traffic was terrible--I found the OpenSkies check-in at the Number One spot in the line-up, and my turmoil was over. I was given the warmest of welcomes and deposited my bags with the airline seamlessly, and veritably glided through privileged lines as well as security. I arrived at the iCare Lounge, which several airlines share. It is rather small, but the sofas and chairs were comfortable, and the selection of food and drinks was good and plentiful. The staff was most helpful as well.
Then I stepped on the cloud that was my trip to Dulles on OpenSkies. You will see from these photos that there was so much room, both in my Biz Seat (which I felt lazily both stretched-out and snuggled-up in) and all the spaces.
I want to travel this way all the time!
As I am wont to do on long flights, I watched movie after movie, and enjoyed my delicious meal and wine. I chose a Gigondas, which is one of my favorite AOC's in France. The selection of food and drink was lovely.
The only blip on my screen was when once we arrived at Dulles. I didn't find U.S. Customs pleasant even for American citizens. The baggage area was enormous, and I thought not clearly marked. It was packed full of people and in total chaos. I heard a man telling an airport official that this was the worst airport he had ever been to. Was this an off-day? OpenSkies had kindly retrieved their passengers' luggage, but I missed the message in the blaring cacophony, and so waited until no other bags were coming around the carousel before I searched them out.
But even that didn't erase my delightful flight that was travel luxury. Yes, this was like the old days! Oh, and one can check three bags. For international travelers and expats (like me), who often carry a lot back and forth, this is a key bit of information.
After five weeks of working on our project, visiting with family and friends, and a slam-bang tour of the South, I began my return trip. I'd found a remarkably cheap flight to Dulles from Little Rock, and I sadly left my children to return home. I was a bit shocked when I got to the airport and discovered I couldn't check my bags all the way through to Paris. I would have to retrieve them in Washington and re-check them. This was an unwelcome surprise since I'd had such a bad experience at Dulles previously.
But I am happy to report that my experience at Dulles this time was exactly opposite to the one before! This was a relief as well as a pleasure. I picked up my bags easily, put them on a cart, and rolled them up to the British Airways/OpenSkies check-in. Again, I went through privileged lines, which, believe me, was deliverance if you could've seen the regular ones, which are part of the new travel-by-drudgery.
I had plenty of time to enjoy the British Airways Lounge, which looks spanking new, open, airy, and deluxe.
There are comfy club chairs looking out through a huge expanse of glass.
How did it feel sitting on my perch? Like airport Big Sky country.
I made some phone calls and enjoyed a glass of wine and a snack from the attractive selection. When our flight was called, I settled into my roomy and private nook of a Biz Bed.
And, again, I was treated like a queen.
I, again, was served champagne and chose a dinner of a Smoked Salmon and Trout Salad, and then a Parmesan-Crusted Cod with French Green Beans and Fingerling Potatoes, Blue Maytag and Cheddar cheeses, and Almond Cake for dessert.
Instead of staying up all night watching movies, I laid down my seat to make the completely flat bed, where I snoozed for the rest of the flight. I think I snored.
Travel may not be what it once was, but I'll tell you this, OpenSkies made it a pleasure again. And the price for a ticket on this all-business jet is peanuts compared to a Business-Class ticket on other airlines. It may be a bit more expensive than Coach, but if you want your trip to be to be relaxing and to be treated like a VIP instead of a sardine, this may be the airline for you when you're traveling to Paris.
All photos by Beth Arnold.
Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more of her work, go to www.betharnold.com.
Follow Beth Arnold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BethArnold