Last month I had the opportunity to experience the ‘Uncrowded and Uncompromising’ tag line for myself on Eos Airlines, the new NYC/London service that has been creating quite the buzz lately. Eos flies 757′s usually outfitted for 220 people with only 48 guests — giving each flyer 21 square feet of personal space. They truly identified that despite how comfortable you make a seat, the area, space and environment around you are still just as important as the space you take up on your own.
I took just about every minute of my six hour flight (even before I boarded the plane to New York) to eat, sleep, read, entertain myself, hold an ‘in-flight meeting’ and really get a feel for the entire
Stanstead Airport and The Club 48 Lounge
If you like incredibly busy, loud, and obnoxious airports, stay at Heathrow. If you like a relatively small and peaceful place, Stanstead, the newer international hub is an hour and change outside of London, is your new spot. It’s fairly easy (and inexpensive) to get to via train from Kings Cross in Central London. Eos also offers chauffeur service of pretty good value. Cabs on the meter will end up running you in the 125+ GBP range — not worth it and a bad mistake (oops).
I only had a few minutes in the Club 48 lounge, but it had all the usual comforts you would expect: some good snacks, a full bar, WiFi and comfortable chairs and couches to relax in. One thing that did dawn on me when I walked in was “wow, this place is small”, and then realized: I’m about to board a massive Boeing 757, with only 48 other people. Turns out there were a few no-shows and only 40 of us on board. Spacious, indeed.
The Airplane Seat (AKA, the Suite)
The 48 seats on the plane are staggered in a way that nobody is sitting directly next to each-other, and almost disappear into their own cocoons with space on either side when reclined. This was a great change of scenery after flying in Virgin’s Upper Class, which although very comfortable, kept making me wonder how close I actually was to the person next to me (I call it luxury-sardine style seating). The seat itself was as comfortable sitting up as it was fully flat — and it was fully flat and horizontal, not one of the slanted-seat-nonsense other carriers seem to be selling. The best parts of the suite were the oversized tables (sturdy enough to hold a laptop and dinner for two), and the ability to have someone else in your space for a chat, or a meeting and still remain comfortable. The foot rest is actually the companion seat and is of decent size, even equipped with a seat belt of its own.
Getting Work Done
I don’t know any other airline or seat configuration that allows four people to comfortably converse over one table that isn’t a corporate jet or Air Force 1. After settling into my own seat, I popped back to visit a friend and we were able to have a informal meeting at 36,000 feet with enough room for a couple of drinks and both our laptops — sitting across a table from one another. Doing any type of business face-to-face is pretty key, so I welcomed the ability to leave behind the neck-creaking pain of trying to converse with someone for hours on end sitting next to them. Two full AC power outlets were in the side of the seat. No word on WiFi, but my fingers are crossed for its anticipated introduction. When internet is on board, I think working like this might be one of the most productive places ever. Private, uninterrupted, and comfortable with few distractions.
Eos hands out Bose Quiet Comfort headsets, and uses some kind of super touch screen think-pad type device — a ‘Personal Media Player’. The idea is really quite interesting and makes management of media very easy, but I’m not sure Eos, as a small airline, has the buying power to take advantage of the device. I found the movie and entertainment selection to be pretty slim, although I did almost lose my mind watching Jeremy Piven in Smokin’ Aces. My hope is the selection widens over time — it’s bound to happen. I did enjoy deciding where I wanted “my screen” to be, which afforded me the freedom to watch movies in all sorts of contorted positions (some more comfortable than others).
Snacks and Food
For the most part, I do my best to eat before I get on a long flight and bring enough good snacks to last the entire journey. I was hustling to the airport in the first place so I had no such luck — but the in-flight food beat my expectations. Although it wasn’t top-notch gourmet, I give them a round of applause for trying to replicate a 5-star dining experience at 37,000 feet. Cooking and reheating food on an airplane probably isn’t easy; I had a shrimp and scallop dish over rice which was very good and just enough to hold me over until I could find a proper meal on solid ground when I landed. The best part of the in-flight food on a service like Eos was that I could have it cooked for me when I asked for it…when I was hungry. Not before, not after.
Catching Some Zzzz’s
A bottom sheet, a couple down pillows and a nice duvet make all the difference when it comes to catching a proper nap on an airplane. So does getting horizontal. Let me reiterate the getting horizontal bit. Blood flow, breathing and the like can’t slow down unless your head and feet end up at the same level — sleeping on a slant is a big joke. Those things and a pair of good earplugs and I was pretty much set for my time in dreamland. Looking at the ceiling of a plane is a surreal experience, but the freedom and space around me made a pretty huge impact on my comfort level. I could have thrown a hissy-fit with my pillows over a bad game of counting sheep and nobody would have noticed.
Why I’d Fly Again, and Again, and Again
Point blank, Eos was private jet treatment at a very tiny fraction of a usually enormous “fractional ownership” cost. If you book in advance, a round trip flight will run you just over $3,000, which is literally 1/4 of what a flight on a Virgin, British Airways or other first class service will cost you. I believe the future of air travel isn’t in the majors, but a handful of small outfits dedicated to superior experience, value, and maintaining long-term customer relationships.
So, what was missing?
When they outfitted a fleet of 757′s with fresh interiors and 48 new ‘suite’ like suites, they forgot to do much of anything with the lavatories — except a couple of flowers and some product. Still uses standard paper towels, still has the weird blue liquid in the toilet that reminds you of cartoons. What gives? My guess is the next battle in the sky will be about the bathrooms — when will someone innovate on a larger, more comfortable place to do your personal business?
Editor’s disclosure: I flew on this demo flight for free, and Eos is now a proud sponsor of this site. No, I was not paid a penny to write this article and I would pay (and will often) to fly with Eos again in the future.