In a roll out across the 777 fleet, and part of the ‘Best & Beyond’ service and product renovation project, Air France have finally caught up with their international competitors by offering fully flat seating in their business class cabins.
The seating may look familiar, being adopted the world round for it’s successful mix of passenger comfort, practicality and privacy with airlines such as Cathay Pacific (Highlighted in detail in our trip report), American, US Airways, Delta and Dragonair to name a few. The JPA Associates-designed Zodiac Cirrus seat has been adapted for Air France by Mark Collins of Design Investment and BrandImage to offer a more customised product. Because it is the same seat found on other carriers, it is easy to compare it.
Air France naturally have promoted the seats as a Full flat suite with full access – direct access to the aisle, regardless of the seat’s location in the cabin; and Full privacy – a protected area through the seat’s enveloping curves, providing a true bubble of privacy in the sky. Whilst a welcome step forward, there is nothing groundbreaking here.
• A seat that converts into a completely flat bed for maximum comfort;
• Direct aisle access for every passenger;
• An enveloping structure of curves, providing a feeling of privacy;
• A seat that features all of the latest technology: a wide high definition touch screen, a touch
screen handset, electrical outlet, USB port and new noise-reduction headphones;
• A padded headboard, an Air France signature feature;
• An adjustable soft leather headrest;
• Space and multiple storage areas close at hand;
• A delicate-to-the-touch duvet, a XXL feather down pillow;
• High quality, down to the finishing: leather, choice fabrics, stitching
What they have done is play with the customisable options to the seat, offering a padded headboard for when the seat is in a bed mode, (which whilst new to this type of seat, isn’t a first, as Singapore Airlines offer a similar comfort product), and looking at materials used, a mix of leather and fabrics that impart an air of elegance.
There is one element we really do like, the simple seat controls, (which over the years have become more complicated to use than a VCR) which sit seamlessly in the brushed aluminium trim to the seat.
Whilst the seat boasts well over 6’6″ of bed space and the usual touch-screen gadgets that will make this seat a vast improvement on their current product, looking at the details we can’t help but feel they may have cut a few corners – and in a few practical ways is inferior to its older Cathay Pacific brother.
For example, the seat doesn’t have the fold out extender like Cathay and American offer, making the bed wider to sleep on, the seats also have a more plastic and unfinished feel, such as the pop down armrest. Here you can see the (lack of) attention to detail. Hard finishes sit alongside the leather armrest, making for a sleek design, but perhaps uncomfortable and awkward product. The tray table is actually lower than that on Cathay, which seemed the perfect height, and the storage area on the Cathay seat at the leg/knee level actually created a little more space for sleeping, so this AF bed will feel a little tighter.
Also the placement of elements, such as the power socket, is now down by your knee, making it difficult to access when the table is out. With Cathay it was near your seat controls, storage unit and at shoulder height, perfect for working.
So in all, from the initial information that has come out, we can expect a stylish, beautiful looking cabin, with simple clean lines and bold French colours, but seasoned travellers, who currently fly due to the hard product, may find when they fly with Air France, perhaps the seat is missing a little bit of joie de vivre. We hope to experience the product soon after it is rolled out in June 2014.