Review Date: May 2006
By Lisa Richards
High Altitude Luxury
Please note that this airline is no longer operational.
A Luxurious Mission
The airline industry is one of the hardest to break into and survive in – long-established companies (or ‘incumbents’ as Dave Spurlock, CEO of Eos Airlines calls them) and the under-cutting cheap airlines mix headily with rising fuel costs and the threat of terrorism, meaning that launching a new airline takes not just guts, but an awful lot of capital (Spurlock raised a cool $87 million). Eos, the luxury airline, is the brainchild of Spurlock, who saw the opportunity to introduce business class-only flights across the Atlantic, from New York to London – one of the busiest routes in the world. And it is here that my adoration, respect and love of Eos begins; I think it’s safe to say that Eos has changed my whole view of long-haul travel, meaning that I can never, ever travel to NYC again unless my bottom is firmly placed on a super-comfy Eos seat, with a pre-take-off cocktail in one hand – served by one of their gorgeous staff – and complimentary Bose headphones in the other. In fact, such was my excitement prior to my flight to New York’s JFK that it reminded me of how I felt when I first boarded an airplane. I was planning my outfit, my reading matter, playlists for my iPod and an array of products so that I could moisturise, spritz and relax mid-flight.
The Ethos of Eos
Eos’s first flight took place on 18 October 2005. The airline purchased three Boeing 757s and reconfigured the 220-seater planes with just 48 business-class seats – fully-flat, of course – and with a mind-boggling two square metres of space (that’s 21-square-feet in old money) per passenger. With tickets costing a good few thousand dollars less than the big players’ business class seats (let alone their First Class seats), you can see why Eos’s concept appeals not just to businessmen and women who travel across the Atlantic regularly, but also to leisure travellers who want to start their trip in style without blowing their entire budget.
And start in style you do. I dropped off my Guy Salmon Range Rover and headed into Stansted’s packed departures terminal. Armed police ominously weaved in and out of the bucket-and-spaders, who were snaking around the terminal for their cheap seats to popular resorts. At the very far end of this Norman Foster-designed airport (wasted on the package holiday brigade) is Eos’s check-in desk – away from the madding crowd and in its own little oasis of calm. And with not one single person in front me.
Cue the first of many, many hallelujahs. I was warmly welcomed, smiled at by a handful of very friendly faces and my passport examined and bags checked-in within minutes – nay, seconds. I was then introduced to the member of Eos staff that would kindly take me through fast-track security – as we walked through to airside security, the queue snaked back and forth with what seemed like thousands of impatient-looking travellers.
Not a pleasant way to start your holiday or, indeed, a great way to prepare for your meeting. We waited just a matter of minutes in the Fast Track queue to pass through the X-ray machines, and I was then escorted onto Stansted’s shuttle train – via a massive spending spree in WH Smith’s – which would take me to Eos’s own departure lounge. Now, when I say departure lounge, I’m not talking about the vast architectural space that you’d experience in Virgin’s Upper Class lounge at Heathrow (complete with spa) or Lufthansa’s temple of modernity. This is more of a partitioned-off seating area, with a few (not particularly comfy) chairs, a strange selection of canapés (they need to sort out their caterers), piles of glossy magazines and free-flowing Black Label Lanson Champagne served by adorable staff. There’s also a concierge desk, manned by Quintessentially, who can book your theatre tickets, sort you out with a limo from the airport or secure you a table at a hot restaurant. Being a highly organised (some might say ‘anal’) sort, I’d already bagged the best tables in town (months before my departure date, due to the excitement of the impending trip) and had a limo waiting for us, so we spent the two hours before our flight flicking through magazines, checking our emails and supping Champagne. To say we were relaxed before we boarded is an understatement. The only downside was having to share the loos with the rest of Stansted’s travellers. However, as an incredibly famous and respected actor settled himself down across from us, a huge glass of red wine in his hand, I felt another wave of excitement – and to be excited before a long-haul flight is something that I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time.
Once our flight was ready for boarding, the crew, dressed head-to-toe in black, came to collect us from the lounge – a lovely touch. We ambled towards the plane, and were shown to our own rather substantial share of the Boeing 757 – kitted out to look like an enormous, very swanky corporate jet. The cabin boasts fully-flat beds (as you’d expect) which are long enough to comfortably accommodate a six-foot, six-inch frame, a work station so you can meet with your travelling companion or have dinner with them, privacy so you can eat, sleep, work, watch movies or knock back the G&Ts without feeling like you’re being watched by your fellow passengers, and enough floor space to be able to pop to the loo without disturbing the person next to you (thanks to the patented staggered configuration of seats). Spurlock and his team at Eos have truly changed the way that we fly. Eos is not just about offering comfort to its 48 passengers, it’s about overhauling an industry by offering a truly innovative service.
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
As I strapped myself in, put my iPod into position, unloaded all of my travel essentials (this was a trip taken before the ban on liquids, so an array of Clinique and REN products were close at hand), pulled on my cashmere travel socks and organised glossy magazines into the correct reading order, a purser came over to introduce themselves, take my jacket, give me my amenity kit (containing L’Occitane moisturiser, lip balm, ear plugs, eye mask and a toothbrush) and Bose’s miraculous noise-cancelling headphones, and offer a glass of bubbly (which wasn’t nearly as chilled as it should be, but it set the scene nonetheless).
While I could continue about Eos’s more frivolous aspects, what really needs to be iterated is not just Spurlock’s vision and achievement of raising the investment for this luxe airline, but also the technology and innovation needed to create a safe, comfortable, opulent cabin that not only means that Eos’s passengers sleep under soft layers of cashmere and rest their weary heads onto bespoke pillows, but that they do so knowing that their seat/bed can withstand forward loads equal to 16 times the force of gravity, meet severe flammability standards and be constructed so that a plane isn’t grounded because a screw in your seat has become loose. This is industrial design to the nth degree, whilst also having to take into consideration one of Eos’s many USPs: the comfort and privacy of its guests. The process of gutting the 757 and introducing the unique seating configuration with the bespoke seats cost Eos a staggering $15 million in interior design fees, but they’re reaping rewards (and awards) as the seat’s unique design was awarded a much-coveted Red Dot design award this year (joining Porsche, Apple, TAG Heuer and Mercedes, all past winners).
After take-off (for me, the most nerve-wracking part of a flight), portable DVD players are given out while the next round of drinks arrives – a whiskey and ginger arrived, perfectly mixed, as did the menu. You can opt for the more leisurely five-course menu if you feel like taking your time and catching a movie or eating with your companion, or you can go for the express meal, which is served straight away, meaning you can get a good few hours sleep in before landing. If you do decide to sleep your way through the five-star service (why?), the cabin crew even offer a ‘turn down’ service – flattening your bed, putting on high-thread-count sheets, adding Tempur-Pedic pillows and a soft cashmere blanket. Sadly, they don’t tuck you in or give you a kiss on the forehead.
Tucking in, however, is something we did do on-board. Airline food, as we all know, due to the conditions in which it needs to be preserved and prepared, isn’t exactly gourmet fayre. Eos, however, class their menu as ‘restaurant-quality gourmet meals’ – a tall order when you’re dining at 30,000 feet. What arrived (delivered by hand, rather on the common trolley) wasn’t exactly cooked at the hands of Gordon Ramsay, but it was good, decent, tasty food – this is seriously impressive. The salads tasted fresh (rather than as if they’d been dunked in chlorine), the fillet of beef was not just wonderfully tender, but also really tasty, and the selection of cheeses, washed down with a rather fine red, finished the dinner off beautifully. I spent a leisurely hour or so dining with my travel companion, making plans for the trip and enjoying the service. Once we were done, my companion returned to her seat and we settled in to watch movies. It was my idea of a wonderfully relaxing evening, except that I was being waited on hand and foot, and my glass of wine was magically refilled. After a few more glasses, despite being terrible at sleeping on flights, however flat the bed, I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep. And not just a light snooze, but a full-on deep sleep. The purser gently woke me just before we began our descent into JFK on a crystal-clear evening, as the sun was setting over Manhattan’s stupidly romantic skyline. Fast-tracked again through passport control, and with Eos staff on-hand to take our bags off the carousel, I don’t think I’ve felt so relaxed and rested after a transatlantic flight.
I’m also sure that I’ve never before looked forward to my return journey so much: an 8.15pm departure which got us into Stansted at 8.30am. After a couple of hours lazing around in the Emirates first-class lounge, eating seriously good curry and drinking never-ending bottles of Veuve Cliquot (yep, I was in heaven) I boarded and slept like a baby wrapped in cashmere. Red eye? What red eye?
Fares start from around £1900 for an apex booking.
Tel: +44 800 019 6468
Book online at: www.eosairlines.com