XL Airways Review
Roundtrip JFK to CDG
Summary: If every customer knew the rules, adjusted their expectations, and periodically reminded themselves of the a bargain price they received, then 99% of the time, they would be happy with XL Airways.
As I searched for an affordable, round trip flight non-stop from New York to Paris online, I came across an airline I had never seen before: XL Airways.
For my particular dates and time preference, XL offered the cheapest option for a round trip ticket. Like many, I never heard of the French airline, so I was apprehensive. I had flown on a with a myriad of low-cost airlines in the past and save for a couple times (that’s all it takes), they were more than fine, so I’ve been slowly beginning to trust budget airlines again.
I found as long as you did your research on the budget airline’s fees (for things like baggage, seat selection, and meals) and were able to filter out the nightmarish bad reviews edge cases, you’d come out plesantly surprised. Basically, if you’re expecting international service for a ticket you paid domestic prices for, you’ll be disappointed.
So research I did. And like many of you, I was a bit spooked by so many terrible reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. However, after reading review after review, you get a sense that’s the bad reviews are mostly customers expecting too much and unique problems. Ultimately, I kept coming back to the fact that I was paying less than $500 for a non-stop round trip from JFK to CDG. I wasn’t looking for foot rubs and turn down service.
Not Perfect, But Not Bad
Yes, you can’t check in online and can’t choose a seat until 72 hours before your flight’s departure. Yes, the plane is on the older side. The seats don’t have individual entertainment, USB, outlets or personal air. The wifi is bad / non-existent. All of this is manageable — just prepare yourself ahead of time and continually remind yourself that you paid a great price. Now, let’s get into some of the biggest complaints you’ll come across online:
Baggage: We’re all a bit traumatized by baggage, so read up on how much you’re able to bring onto the plane. With our JFK-CDG flight, XL provided a relatively-generous baggage and carry-on policy. Each passenger gets one complimentary check in baggage (up to 20 kg / 44 lbs), one carry-on (5 kg/11 lbs), and a personal item.
Seating: Oddly, I paid for what I thought would be more comfortable seating on my flight to Pairs, but found that they were pretty cramped. And we’re two small-framed guys (5’6 and 5’8). While on the flight back to New York, we didn’t reserve ahead of time and found the seats to be roomy and super comfortable (seats 6J and 6K).
Meals: We got one meal going each way and the food wasn’t half bad, meaning that it was half good! And it was complimentary, so I can’t complain. For my taste, the arriving flight’s breakfast (some form of cinnamon apple crepe) was terrible while the departing flight’s dinner service (chicken penne pasta) was tasty! My partner enjoyed both enough to eat them.
Service: Service was good to great. On the way to Paris, service was good. On the way back they were great — offering drink service several times. Service was similar to flying on a domestic flight.
Check in: Despite hearing horror stories, we had no issues on either leg of our trip checking in, but this all depends on how full (or not) your flight is.
How to enjoy XL Airways
In addition to all the normal preparations for a long haul flight, here’s what we recommend to first time flyers of XL Airways:
- As with all airlines and especially budget airlines, set your expectations accordingly by researching and understanding their policies.
- Read all about their rules for baggage, check-in, and seat selection
- Pack lightly
- If you can, weigh your luggage before you leave the house/hotel
- Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours and 30 minutes before your flight departs.
- Charge all your devices before leaving the house
- Bring a device pre-loaded with movies and entertainment
- Bring a portable charge
- Buy some snacks before your flight
Listen, don’t play around with budget airlines and you won’t get played. Make sure you pack lightly and know the rules going in. If I worked the check-in desk for XL and you were even 2.5 lbs over on your check-in, I would have zero sympathy for you. I’d look at you and think “What do you want me to do?”
In reality they won’t remind you, so I will: you got a great freaking deal on that international ticket and in turn, you are not entitled to anything but a comfortable, safe flight. Most non-budget major carriers are sticklers for luggage weight too, so why expect that with a budget airline?
Do your work and preparation up front and those savings can be applied toward the enjoyment of your holiday. Those hundreds of dollars you saved on XL can go toward not one, but five nicer meals in Paris, paying an extra 10€ for those Skip-the-Line tickets at the Catacombs or the Louvre, or splurging on a few exclusive high-end items at the Printemps department store.
Based on this experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to book XL Airways again especially if the savings were as dramatic. My presumption of anyone booking on a budget airline is for the savings, so with that, I’d rate XL Airlines four stars.