Why Eos Airlines is the best airline operating today [Updated April 2008]

Update: April 29, 2008

Eos Airlines has filed for bankruptcy and is no longer operating. See my entry here for more details.

Update: April 14, 2008

I figured that I would update this post since, believe it or not, it is my most popular blog entry on the entire site. Since I first posted this a year ago, it has been viewed over 145,000 times and I have received many emails about it from people all over the world.

Since I originally posted this in April 2007, I have continued to fly Eos a number of times. I should also note that I have continued to fly Silverjet and Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, as well. All of these airlines provide excellent service, but Eos still remains my favorite and is, by far, the most, ummm, luxurious, of these carriers. My choice of carrier, however, is usually dictated by price. If you are flexible enough to plan your trip 30 days in advance, Virgin usually offers some excellent “Z Class” fares several times a year, which are the cheapest you can usually find for this class of service. Eos, however, remains very competitive and I should note that I recently flew them for $987 each way.

In the last year, a few things have changed since my original review:

  • Starting May 5, 2008, Eos will start flying from Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (EWR) to Stansted. This is far more convenient to many of the execs who live in the Jersey and NY State suburbs. For me, this helps save a significant amount of time, since traffic to JFK is miserable. I suspect a number of those traveling from Manhattan will also choose EWR, since it is often quicker to get to EWR by car when compared to JFK. Eos will also begin service from JFK to Dubai later this year.
  • Last summer, Eos completely re-furbished their Stansted lounge. It is now significantly more comfortable and the food selection is far greater. Service in the new lounge is excellent.
  • The food on board is still excellent, however, they have made a recent change to the format. Instead of offering a larger appetizer to start the meal, they are now serving passed hors d’oeuvre. Their concept here is that people no longer want a very large, belly-stuffing meal while on board and this new format gives you the choice to “graze” as you wish. Some of the appetizers are very tasty, while others I could do without, but, overall, I think this is a good move. The size and frequency of the service still fills you much more than you probably need to be filled! We need to keep in mind that the NY-London flight is less than 7 hours, so the two meals you get on board are more than enough.
  • They have started their own magazine, called Eos Class. This is a nice quality publication and is very different from any other in-flight magazine.
  • Eos has hired something called a “Chief Lifestyle Officer”. I’m not sure what this guy does, but it sounds like a job that I’d like. How can I apply?

Overall, the quality of service remains superb. I really hope this airline survives. With the demise of MaxJet late last year, as well as the more recent demise of 3 US domestic airlines, the US airline industry continues to be unstable. This is a quality operation, however, and I hope its niche has allowed to be fiscally successful.

Please see below for my original review.

Original Post below (April 29, 2007):

I must admit that when it comes to air travel I am:

a. spoiled
b. very, very, very lucky

Of almost forty airline travel legs last year, I only sat in coach three times. There’s no secret to how I do it and it has nothing to do with my particularly charming ability to flirt with the ladies who work at the check-in counter.

First and foremost, I can thank the fact that I fly out of a major hub airport for Continental Airlines, which means that I fly Continental or their partners 99% of the time. Because of this, I have reached their OnePass Elite Gold status every year since 2000. Also, since I typically purchase tickets at high fare classes, Continental calls me a “CO-Star” (CO being the airline code for Continental – a cute play on words). This basically means that they are supposed to treat me like I’m someone special when I arrive at the airport (which they do…sometimes). Continental’s generous free available upgrade policy, coupled with their dedication to their higher-paying passengers almost always ensures that I fly first class, even if I don’t buy a first class ticket.

As I mentioned, I almost always buy expensive fare classes. If you’re not familiar with the concept of fare classes, airlines have different categories of tickets, each of which has different restrictions and different prices attached to them. The “Y” class it typically the unrestricted, refundable coach ticket class, which costs the most out of all fare classes. Due to the fact that I often travel last minute, I am often “stuck” with Y-class tickets. Due to my Elite status on Continental and SkyTeam, their policy is to offer me a no-charge upgrade at the time of ticketing if a first class seat is available. This is common on many airlines – if they need to bump people up to First Class, higher fare classes are usually chosen first.

Having lived and worked in the UK very often over the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to experience Continental’s BusinessFirst class, Virigin’s UpperClass and British Airways Club Class a number of times. Yes, I know that I’m a spoiled sonuvabitch, so please expect my apologies in advance. All of these services are quite nice and you can’t really complain too much, even with Continental’s BusinessFirst, which is slightly a step below the other two. Considering that I cannot sleep in a coach seat – I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall with massively wide shoulders – taking a coach flight overnight usually means that I lose the next day to re-adjusting when I arrive in London. That really sucks. On the contrary, if I have a sleeper seat, I can almost always function when I arrive, even in a business setting.

Over the past several months, I’ve had a few opportunities to fly Eos Airlines out of JFK in New York City to London’s Stansted Airport. Even through you may not have heard of Eos, truest me when I tell you that it’s pretty much as good as it gets in the air. They fly Boeing 757 planes with only 48 seats on board. Yes, these are the same 757s that most airlines jam 250 people onto, so you can imagine the space and comfort when you only have a maximum of 47 other travelers with you in the air.

I have to start by saying that the whole Eos experience is a little ridiculous at times. When you arrive at JFK or Stansted, there is a dedicated Eos representative waiting for you at the curb and they whisk you away to the check-in counter, insisting that they carry your luggage. I have no issue with other people carrying my luggage when I’m not capable to do so on my own – say, when I’m trekking up the north face of Everest and need a sherpa to tend to my rucksack. But the 100-foot walk from the curb to the Eos counter doesn’t require someone to grab my rollerboard suitcase. Nevertheless, I typically give in to the nice lady at JFK who once confided in me, “It’s good that you let me take your bag because my boss is right there!” I had images of a secret Eos dungeon under Terminal 4 at JFK, where disobedient Eos employees are whipped and caged. This is the type of attention rich people, important people, or people who think they are more important that they actually are, really, really like. Kudos to Eos for catering to them.

The Eos seating area:

The check in process takes about sixty seconds at both airports. There is no waiting whatsoever, as Eos recognizes important people are way too important to wait on line to check-in. (On one journey, the line at JFK was “backed up” with a total of 3 people while they were replacing a ticket printer and the two gentlemen behind me started complaining about the “slow service”. Some people crack me up.) When you are done checking in, you are then escorted – yes, escorted – by an Eos representative to the security checkpoints. At JFK Terminal 4, there may not be a secret underground Eos dungeon, but there actually is a secret underground International first class security screening checkpoint, which is almost void of all lines. For one flight, my total time from curbside to the other side of the security gates at JFK was 7 minutes. At Stansted, the story gets a bit more ridiculous, as your Eos escort doesn’t bring you to a secret checkpoint – she brings you to the very crowded “regular people” checkpoint, but ensures to make a big scene by bringing you directly to the front of the line, essentially allowing you to cut everyone else. After your passport is inspected, you are then brought to a dedicated security screening line, where the three employees working there were doing nothing at all but probably, as I can only assume, waiting for me to show up. (“Got to get up to go to work today, because Mr. Uriarte is showing up to be screened at 9:17am…”).

For the overnight flight from JFK, you’re then sent to the Emirates lounge, which is one of the best airline lounges I have ever been in, save the Virgin flagship Upper Class lounge at Heathrow. The JFK lounge is pretty stocked: first quality booze, free-flowing bottles of Veuve Cliquot, caviar, cold seafood stuff (shrimps, salmon, yada, yada, yada), premium chocolates, top-notch desserts, plus about 20 hot dishes (grilled filet of beef with grilled asparagus, seared halibut with an herb sauce, a large selection of great middle-eastern and Indian food, etc.). This is quite nice because you can choose to eat a pretty spectacular meal before you get on the plane, leaving you plenty of time to rest. At Stansted, the lounge is fairly basic and is pretty much just a sheetrock box that has been put up near the gates, although during my March 2007 trip, they posted signage indicating that they are developing a new Stansted facility. The food is limited to pastries and fruits which are catered in that day. The couches are, perhaps, the most uncomfortable things I have ever sat on. They were purchased for their aesthetics, not for their function and they really remind of something that you’d find in an Ikea catalog. Nevertheless, it is better than having to sit out in the terminal for hours before the flight.

When it’s time to board the plane, there is no mad rush to the gate, since people wander onto the plane up to just a few minutes before the doors close. These are the only flights I’ve been on where there was no one waiting to get on the plan when they opened the gate. I’m not kidding – the first time I flew on Eos, the gate agent called the flight and I was the only one there. Apparently, I wasn’t informed that it is cool to be fashionably late to your Eos flight.

When you’re on board, you notice that there is a very large flight staff, especially given the fact that there are, at maximum, 48 people on the flight. I would estimate that they staff 10 attendants on each flight, leaving a less-than 5-to1 passenger-to-attendant ratio on a full flight. On my first return flight, there were only 23 passengers, however. I must say that, by my standards, the flight staff is fantastic – maybe because my standards aren’t those of many of the people who fly Eos. I, personally, do no like to be waited on hand-and-foot, nor do I like any sort of fake, “I shall be your servant this evening” attitude. I also can’t stand the “I’m the one in the uniform, so I’m in charge” attitude, either. The frigid old maids who used to work British Airways’ international flights had been schooled in this type of intimidating service – the type makes me feel a little bit of guilty and a little bit scared when they shoot me a dirty look for not having my seatbelt fastened or tray table in the upright and locked position. Fortunately, despite the first-class service, the staff on every Eos flight is very down to earth and the service is truly unobtrusive. They are there when you want them to be there and they leave you to do your thing every other moment. They speak like human beings, not robots, and several of them actually like to engage in normal conversation. When Eos started flying last year, I recall reading an article in the New York Times, which mentioned that the airline went searching for team members from a pool of candidates within the high-end hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, resorts, etc.) – NOT the airline industry. Perhaps other airlines need to look into this model, as it clearly has paid off for Eos. On return flights, there is always at least one flight attendant who remembers me as a repeat customer. These people are good.

The amenities while in-flight are very good. The food is consistently excellent and is always of the highest quality – this food is what you would expect in an upscale restaurant, not on an airplane. On the overnight flight to London, you can expect a full dinner with hearty starters, main course, dessert and cheese. A full breakfast is served 90 minutes prior to landing. When returning to JFK, they serve a lunch (called “lunch” only since it’s served in the afternoon – the quality and quantity of food is still as good as the evening dinner service), followed by high-tea service prior to landing. In addition, the plane is stocked with over 75 types of beverages, snacks, fruit, candies and anything else you’d need to keep your stomach (and liver) satisfied for the flight.

Some examples of the food:

For in-flight entertainment, you are given a personal video console and Bose noise-canceling headphones. The video console contains about 30 first-run movies, as well as a number of TV shows and music options (certainly enough for the 6-7 hour flights over the pond). Some people complain about the small portable systems, but I love the fact that you can place it anywhere you want, regardless of whether you’re eating, laying down to sleep or just relaxing. The video systems run out of power after about 3 hours of viewing, but a visual display notifies you to contact a flight attendant, who then plugs the unit in to your seat-side power port. Incidentally, these power plugs are standard North American household ports, which you can also use to power your laptop and iPod during the flight – no special EmPower adapter is necessary.

The seating area is great. There is a two-by-two seat layout, although I hesitate use the term “seat”. These are 21-square-foot suites, very similar to Virgin’s “Upper Class Suite”, but much larger, and provide you with a tremendous amount of personal space. The seat converts to a lay-flat bed, which totals six foot six inches in length. The tray table is extra large and can accommodate two diners facing each other. Your companion can dine with you, or you can hold a business meeting at the table using a second “chair”, which doubles as a footrest when you sleep. The seating material is very comfortable, and full-size pillows, sheets and duvets are included (they will “make your bed” on request, although I never ask them to).

Arrival at Stansted is easy and you’re typically off the plane and through passport control in only five minutes – far better than Heathrow. I always carry my suitcase on-board when I’m flying to London, so I can’t comment on the baggage service at Stansted, although I have had 20 or so minute delays in getting my checked luggage when arriving back at JFK (I suspect there is only so much control that Eos has over this). When you arrive at Stansted, you have your choice to be driven to your final destination in an S-Class Mercedes, or to take the Stansted Express train directly into London Liverpool Station. The train is very convenient, as it’s less than 45 minutes into central London, which is far better than anything you’d ever experience driving, particularly since Eos’s flights tend to arrive during the morning rush hour (usually 6:30am and 8:30am arrivals). On my last trip, I used the train when I arrived to London, as well as my return back to the airport later that week.

The bottom line is that this is an amazing airline. The planes are comfortable, the food is great and, most importantly, the staff knows how to treat their customers right. This is a level of service that cannot be achieved by any other major carrier, even if you purchase an international first-class ticket. The fact that there are only 48 people on each plane assures that Eos will give you the service that you need and do whatever they can do to make your journey enjoyable. A good example of this was on a recently flight when air traffic control delayed our takeoff by about an hour: the Eos manager-on-duty at JFK came up to the Emirates lounge, personally notified each passenger of the situation, and asked if anyone needed any help notifying people in London about our late arrival. What airline would ever offer such a level of service?

5 responses to “Why Eos Airlines is the best airline operating today [Updated April 2008]

  1. Pingback: 100,000 Miles Flown This Year. Boy am I jetlagged. « the chrisjur blog: chris uriarte

  2. Pingback: Virgin Upper Class Check-In Experience Gives EOS a Run for its Money Out of Heathrow « the chrisjur blog: chris uriarte

  3. Pingback: Update: Why Eos Airlines is the best airline operating today « the chrisjur blog: chris uriarte

  4. Pingback: The Final Word on Eos, Silverjet, Maxjet, L’Avion and Every Other Business-Class Airline That Tried to Whether the Storm… « the chrisjur blog: chris uriarte

  5. Pingback: Continental’s New BusinessFirst Lie-Flat Seats – Initial Review « the chris uriarte blog

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