Aircraft Type: B777-200
Class: Business Class
Date: April 2016
Ever since our failed chance to experience Air France’s new business class last year, we’ve been keen for another opportunity to experience Air France’s latest and acclaimed new hard product, that has moved the carriers 2 x 3 x 2 seating to a 1 x 2 x 1 seating, which offers all aisle access, something that carrier Emirates needs to realise is fast becoming industry standard for a long haul business class. On a recent trip to Sao Paulo, our latest writer Sandro Squillace managed to secure an upgrade to business class from premium economy meaning it was the perfect opportunity to trial Air France’s pointy end of their 777-200’s.
On The Ground
Air France has pretty excellent ground services around the world through its connections with KLM and SkyTeam. Being an upgraded sector from Paris only, we were an economy class passenger from London’s Terminal 4. However, as the upgrade was pre-planned, and the longest leg of the flight was in business class, we were able to use the Sky Priority lane in Heathrow’s T4 check in.
This was a great advantage, as the queues for check in with Air France / KLM were fairly large, even though we were checking in at 5am for a flight to Paris. Sky Priority is available for Premium Economy passengers anyway, along with Business and La Premiere as well as member airlines premium tier frequent fliers.
Heathrow also benefits from fast track security and lounge access utilising the SkyTeam lounge which features Clarins spa services (not open this early in the morning) and hot and cold breakfast offerings depending which of the two floors you choose to relax in.
Even economy class passengers can choose from an impressive selection of shops and duty free offerings in the updated Terminal 4.
In CDG connection times meant that boarding was only 45 minutes after landing, which meant for a short overall trip (CDG boasts some of the shortest connection times through the whole of Europe – contrary to popular belief.) Even through a day of strikes, the process was seamless and effortless.
For those with longer connection times can take advantage of Air France’s several different airport lounges including their flagship long haul Air France lounge.
Our main report starts on boarding the 777-200 from CDG airport Terminal 2E. Boarding commenced on time and those with Sky Priority were invited to board first.
The new Air France cabin, which is available on most of their long haul flights (excluding A380s) now offer a 1 x 2 x 1 seating configuration utilising the reverse herringbone configuration that is becoming the industry norm for business class passengers – it’s a huge leap forward from their previous 2 x 3 x 2 configuration and suits both solo travellers and couples alike – without the dreaded middle seat.
While the aircraft features 280 seats in total, the business class cabin feels far from cramped. The forward cabin is split into 7 rows featuring 28 seats and the smaller micro cabin to the right of the entrance door features 12 seats in a smaller cabin of 3 rows.
The actual cabin decoration is fairly sparse. The white seats and walls are plain but colour is injected through the navy blue seats and carpet. We love the minimal use of the red colour found through the seat trim and curtains in the cabin. This may not be as comprehensive as the cabin design of other carriers such as China Airlines who spent a lot of time creating a unique environment, but its still a very chic and refined cabin experience and pleasant to the eye – and we don’t see it dating for a good few years.
Air France has done a good job of customising their Zodiac Cirrus seat, the same hard product found on Cathay Pacific. The Air France seat is incredibly chic, with faux padded shell, bright flashes of red found in the seat trim and storage units, and a luxurious dark navy blue seat fabric with leather headrest.
As soon as we arrived at the seat, champagne was offered and our coat was taken. It was then time to explore the seat that would be our home for the next 12 hours. On nestling into the space, the seat comfort was really noticeable and naturally being a Cirrus seat, there were a seemingly infinite amount of seat positions to cater for the passengers requirements.
There is also ample storage, both in the overhead bins and the seat itself, with the iconic red-lined side cabinet being the perfect place to store personal effects throughout the flight. The cabinet features a latticework of straps perfect for hooking on reading glasses or inserting tickets, it also has a vanity mirror, perfect for applying make up prior to landing.
When converted into a bed, the seat has plenty of space, and the small footwell where a passengers feet end up is still large enough to comfortably move your feet without constantly bumping into the furniture and feeling restrictive.
Air France’s most successful offering lies in their food and beverage. Just as we explored in our previous Air France trip, the carrier doesn’t cease to amaze with excellent quality dining options and fine wines even in business class.
You can see the full menu in the gallery above. After take off there was a drink service and the food order was taken. Being a day flight there was no sense of urgency or rush, yet the cabin crew were efficient and very attentive.
After a glass of Champagne and Mise en Bouche (Scallops with crispy vegetable), the large table was laid and a tray brought out with the starter and fairly large side salad and crisp bread roll.
The starter, consisting of two servings, a smoked duck foie gras terrine with mango chutney and a mozzarella cheese timbale with pesto sauce were both tasty and somewhat unexpected as a pairing was delicious, fresh and filling.
The main courses were available for both of the two services on the flight, for the first sitting, we decided to opt for the Shrimp Clafouti with tomato sauce with red curry, carrot pearls soybeans and olive oil. It was very filling, and while not the most beautiful presentation, incredibly tasty.
After dinner (and the cheese course), we were pretty full, so opted for a clean fruit plate and a small ice cream to cleanse the palette.
After the lunch service, a wide selection of treats were on offer, although we settled into the IFE and kept ourselves entertained before having an afternoon snooze. The snooze meant we slept through the second service which included an appetiser of beef and shrimp, followed by the same selection of main courses, however apparently the sushi was very popular.
The seat features an industry standard 16″ screen which is the perfect size for this seat. Unlike the previous incarnation of the business class product, the interface is much better and easier to use too.
Alongside the traditional IFE screen, which can be viewed using a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones housed in their bright red cabinet, there are a wealth of newspapers and magazines on offer including their substantial inflight magazine and Madame, their fashion and lifestyle magazine targeted to female travellers.
The touchscreen hand controller for those who don’t want to reach out to the touchscreen is sat next to the shoulder is the perfect place as it doesn’t get knocked easily and is easy to stow away when the seat is both upright and reclined.
Even before sitting down, where a coat hanger awaits your arrival, Air France set the scene for the extras that come with a business class ticket.
Hot towels, pre-dinner drinks, fleece lined blankets and soft extra large pillows and a designer day amenity kit that is filled with toothpaste, eye mask, and the usual amenities. The lavatories are decked out with Clarins lotions and cleansers.
We also really liked the slippers and shoe bag which we only normally see on flights to and from Asia.
Air France is often a carrier of choice due to the affordable prices they offer on most of their routes. Their SkyTeam partners also mean their earning potential on a variety of partner miles programs make AirFrance | KLM a good option for connecting passengers across Europe and Asia. All that aside, the airline delivers an excellent product that over delivers on price. It may not be as ostentatious as Asian or Middle Eastern competitors, but considering this product is built for business passengers, the lack of excess makes the product even more chic, practical and enjoyable. Air France has a consistent high-quality business class, that through its new cabins, will deliver on expectations for years to come.
The Big Picture