I'm Here on Business

It’s All Business (Class) on La Compagnie

by Lauren Lumsden
La Now boarding. Photo courtesy of La Compagnie.

If you’re like me and sleep tends to elude you on a regular basis, shelling out for business class airfare when you’re crossing multiple time zones is a justifiable splurge — within reason. (Outside of reason: Last year, I went to Dublin from New York and the cheapest roundtrip business class ticket with lie-flat seats was $10,000 on Delta. My bank account cemented my place firmly in economy seating.)

But if I don’t get at least a few hours of shut-eye on the way to my destination (my body will NOT go to sleep unless I’m fully horizontal; thank you, insomnia/anxiety), I am a caffeinated and delirious waste of space the first two or three days of any trip. Being calm and well-rested at the start of a trip feels like justification enough for a more expensive ticket.

The very good news for people traveling from New York to Paris, Milan, or (seasonally) Nice is that Paris-based boutique airline La Compagnie has prices that are consistently cheaper than its competitors. (And, therefore, consistently justifiable.) As the one remaining business-class-only airline in the world, every single seat gets you a fully reclining bed, a few meals, unlimited good booze (if sleep isn’t your thing), and all the other higher class bells ‘n’ whistles.

Cheaper, you ask? Okay, it’s never going to be “cheap” (alas), but I pulled a cost comparison for roundtrip, nonstop business fares from Newark to Milan on the same May 2024 dates, all with lie-flat seats and comparable departure/arrival times.

La Compagnie: $3,059
British Airways: $3,548
Air France: $3,656
Emirates: $5,018
United: $5,237

I searched more dates to make sure this wasn’t a fluke — and La Compagnie was the most inexpensive option every single time. The lowest nonstop roundtrip fare I could find for this route in the near future was $2,700 and then for any date, period, was $2,400 (next January).

La Compagnie is the perfect airline for people who don’t normally fly business domestically (e.g. me) but consider it for cross-Atlantic trips. I recently took the airline from New York (Newark) to Milan (Malpensa), their newest route, and almost every detail of my journey was on par with or better than business class on the more expensive, mass carriers.

Sweet dreams. Photo courtesy of La Compagnie.

In Good Compagnie

La Compagnie, which opened its doors in 2014, operates two new Airbus A321neo 76-seat jets. (The bright, sky blue planes are hard to miss on the tarmac.) These aircraft have a perfect safety rating and, according to La Compagnie’s website and Google Flights’ carbon footprint column, they produce at least 20 percent less CO2 emissions than competitors. The carrier attributes the latter to three things: the make of the plane, the lighter loads they carry, and “new sustainable aviation fuels.” So when you’re trying to reconcile business class seats with carbon output, this detail may lessen your guilt the tiniest bit (though I’m always skeptical).

Passengers are allowed two checked bags plus free transport of any sports equipment, which is handy if you’re planning a jaunt to the Swiss Alps from Milan for some time on the slopes (and I hope you are). Another fun detail: Because La Compagnie is flying to and fro the world’s art capitals, you can check your canvases at no additional cost as well. (You know you're fancy when.)

One recommendation: Do a little research on the location of the check-in counter before arriving at the terminal or find an info desk. Because they’re a boutique airline, the designated area was a bit tucked away in Milan. I had to wander a while before I found it.

Everyone who flies with La Compagnie is given priority access to TSA in the US and to the Italian and French equivalents, which made security painless. Unfortunately, the Newark lounge was closed for my departing flight due to airport construction (it has since reopened), but I was offered a $30 voucher to use anywhere in Terminal B, which is, I’ll be honest, a little meh (there’s a bar/restaurant called “Unusual Times” – lol, thanks for the honesty). La Compagnie shares its Milan lounge with a few other airlines. It was pretty standard: decent espresso, a little buffet of salad and mini sandwiches, plenty of wine, large, private bathrooms, and nice views of the tarmac. I wouldn’t want to live there, but it was a pleasant place to pass a few hours, especially since it wasn’t too crowded at noon on a Friday.

The process of boarding – both at Newark and Malpensa – was the easiest and fastest I’ve ever experienced, a real feat of modern aviation. Thank goodness I wasn’t dawdling in a Hudson News; I might’ve missed the flight.

That's entertainment. Photos by Lauren Lumsden.

Ready for Take Off

The interior of my plane was pristine, decked out in more of the blue color scheme. The seats — arranged two on each side — were comfortable, didn’t feel like they needed to be Lysol-ed down, and spacious: 75’’ long when fully reclined and 19’’ wide. Each had a quilted blanket, an anti-allergenic pillow, noise-canceling headphones, and an amenity kit with socks, a toothbrush, earplugs, an eye mask, and Comfort Zone products. The WiFi worked the second I boarded. As I settled in, I was offered a glass of Piper Heidsieck champagne (Marilyn Monroe’s favorite) and non-alcoholic French Bloom (which I opted for because … sleep).

Bravo to whoever had the idea to get creative with airline safety videos. La Compagnie’s didn’t disappoint: It features two attractive people in white spandex doing yoga while going over the protocols as ambient music plays. Nothing like a moment of Zen mixed with the idea of a “oss in cabin pressure. Genius.

Adding to the theme of calmness, the plane was remarkably quieter than any other aircraft I’ve ever been on — I’m guessing this is another testament to the newness of the aircraft. It was like a consistent and pleasing white noise hum for the duration of the flight. It also went great with the meditation videos they offer in the entertainment center, because of course they do, especially while flying over the Swiss Alps on a clear day.

Sky snacking. Photos by Lauren Lumsden.

Flying High (On CBD Supplements)

The entertainment center on my flights had a delightfully random collection of new movies, classics, and French films. On the way over, I watched Barbie, and on the way back, I took in films I’d long forgotten: Howard’s End (young Helena Bonham Carter is lovely) and Crossing Delancey (whatever happened to Amy Irving?).

The meals were sereved about an hour after takeoff and an hour before landing, and service was perfect: attentive but not hovering. La Compagnie prides itself on good organic wine and an ever-rotating menu, sometimes created by name-y chefs. Truth be told, I didn’t love the food served on my flights. On the way over, I had sweet potato soup, a cheese plate, a cold chicken/veggie dish, and fruit tart for dinner and a fruit plate and pastries for breakfast. Still, was it better than the off-brand Hot Pocket I recently ate in another airline’s economy seat? Definitely. And would it measure up to other business class meals I’ve had on other carriers? Sure (though I still dream about a meal I had on Air India a decade ago).

Half an hour before I planned to try to go to sleep, I took a CBD supplement from Whole Foods. Now, the real test: Would I actually sleep? I reclined my seat all the way, pulled up the blanket, slipped in the earplugs, and…

I slept for four and a half hours of the eight-hour flight. That is a personal aviation record, and I have La Compagnie to thank for a much, much better me for my first few days in Milan.

The business class lounge in Milan. Photos by Lauren Lumsden.

Room For Improvement

While I would absolutely recommend La Compagnie, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that on the way back to New York, my flight was delayed then rescheduled for the next day. The reason I was given when I asked: “an operational issue.” I was delivered this news via voicemail and wasn’t given a callback number. In the message, however, they offered €600 for my troubles, plus a €200 hotel stipend.

I had to quickly rearrange plans and find a hotel for the night, but I was happy to have another day of A+ vintage shopping, strolling the Naviglio Grande, and eating risotto. That said, I did wonder if the airline’s small fleet led to more delays/cancellations than traditional carriers. I, for one, am willing to take the risk.

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.