Air France to Commit to Inferior Business Class Seating for the Foreseeable Future

Upgrade: Travel Better notes that Air France is upgrading their business class seats. But that they won’t be introducing true lie-flat seats, and that these below industry standard seats will take three years to roll out.

Crazy, huh? It amazes me that Air France continues to enjoy a positive reputation amongst the general public, at least here in the US and among the less-traveled. One assumes that this is driven simply by a belief that the French exhibit quality and style. And that they haven’t actually flown Air France recently.

Certainly Air France’s ancient angled-flat seats need replacement. On my last Paris trip I flew the carrier’s business class, wanting the non-stop for the short hop across the pond and for what would be a quick trip. Key elements:

  • Seat had pieces coming off, and wasn’t especially comfortable. With United and British Airways and others offering or rolling out true lie-flat, Air France’s aging and decrepit seats are wholly uncompetitive. What could convince them though to remain below industry standard for the foreseeable future?

  • Service was surly in both directions. Not surprising. Amenity kit was as meager as I’ve seen, a notch below Alitalia even.

  • Food was decent departing Paris, but inedible departing Washington DC. And I know they’re French (and British Airways does this too) but flights to and from North America ought in my view to have more for breakfast than yogurt and a croissant.

Without even plans ot go fully flat in business, I have no great desire to repeat the experience.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. That is a rather uncompetitive move. I REALLY hope Lufthansa doesn’t do the same thing whenever they get around to overhauling their premium cabins.

  2. Wow, whine much? Who gives a shit about an amenity kit? I’ve flown business class dozens of times and don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use anything out of them.

  3. @Scott – it was part of my overall impression of their business product, just a small example of how it struck me as below average across the board. I wouldn’t make my decision based on the amenity kit. But I do appreciate some of the thoughtful items the better ones contain to make a flight a bit more comfortable.

  4. I feel the same way about Aeroflot, especially the “surly” part. But I get crucified by the Russian apologists each time I bring it up over at FT. Gary even spanked me once for that.

  5. After one trip on Air France I’ll do my best to avoid them, and my opinion has nothing to do with business class…

  6. I don’t often fly Air France – CDG is hell on earth – but when I have I’ve found it ok. Admittedly, I’ve only flown economy across the Atlantic (wine options above average and helps dull the pain) and business in Europe (fairly edible light snacks). I’d take issue on breakfast though – I’ve found the heated up powdered eggs and anemic sausage to be revolting, and UA’s yogurts to be massively over-sweetened and thus inedible. Give me a good French yogurt and croissant anyday.

    That said, flat bed seating is the killer app Eastbound and, if they don’t have it, they’re not in the game. Just as well that CDG isn’t a such a major hub that you cannot avoid it. Much better to use LHR which, despite its bad press, is generally pretty efficient, I find.

  7. Every aspect of in flight service matters when deciding on a premium carrier
    the food,service,on board amenities and for many the wine.Its called the total experience
    Thats why they charge a premium to differentiate
    Take a flight on Emirates and Singapore in First and it will feel like a Delta economy flight in comparison
    I would certainly avoid Air France at all costs after the report here and elsewhere.And I haven’t heard much good from other business travelers either regrading their experiences

  8. I bought 3 biz tickets on LAX-CDG last year for a family vacation. The seats were nothing special (similar to AA). Food and beverages were bad, except for the little piece of foie gras. Service was indifferent. We’re going to CDG again in December and I didn’t pick AF even though they were running a special on J. The move to stick to angled seats makes no sense.

  9. Air France is already an airline I’d try to avoid because it is part of SkyTeam, which has the weakest mileage program.

  10. @Scott Wow, fly much? Sounds like you don’t brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face, or use eyeshades to sleep. Some of us who fly a lot prefer not to look or feel like hell or carry in our hand luggage more than we need to.

  11. Very embarrassing for AF considering mediocre Star Alliance carriers like Egypt Air, Turkish and US have fully flat on their new business products.

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