I flew British Airways to Paris in business class with my wife and daughter. Our return trip was on Air France. I booked (3) seats Paris – Houston for 66,500 Air France KLM Flying Blue miles + $383.17 apiece.
These were miles I already had sitting in my account from a cancelled trip Austin – Amsterdam roundtrip at the start of the pandemic. Originally I’d booked BA Paris – London – Austin. I like the idea of the long overwater flight originating and ending in my home city. But a couple of schedule changes left me with a 5 hour layover at Heathrow and no good way to improve on that. With a 3 year old in tow I decided that was a non-starter.
May I begin by mentioning how much I hate Charles de Gaulle airport? It’s far from the city and even without traffic is a schlepp. But getting through the airport was time-consuming too. First we queued in the Sky Priority check-in area to show proof of negative Covid-19 test (or prior infection). Then we were allowed to queue for baggage drop off.
Both of these took some time, so that even though we’d arrived at the airport more than two hours in advance by the time we made it by train to our remote concourse and had cleared passport control and security our flight was set to board in just 10 minutes. And we’d still have to deposit our Covid-19 attestation in the gate before boarding.
Still, we made a brief stop in the lounge for a bathroom break before continuing to the gate.
Air France business class uses the same seats as Cathay Pacific and as American Airlines on its Boeing 777-300ER. This isn’t a new seat by any stretch, but it’s still a very good one.
The seat dates back 14 years to its first install on US Airways Airbus A330s. The Cirrus seat then was produced by Sicma, then Zodiac, and eventual Safran. For an airline that’s generally stylish, though, I find the color scheme to be fairly sterile in the Air France cabin.
Still, they’re fully flat seats with direct aisle access and for a time this was probably the best business class across the Atlantic. I prefer it over United’s Polaris seat, and indeed over any Star Alliance business class across the Pond.
Waiting at my seat was a blanket and a pillow. The pillow was fine but the blanket not nearly as good as the one provided by British Airways, and there was no mattress pad. To be sure it was a day time flight, but one that lasted 11 hours.
There was also a Covid Kit with medical-style mask and other items inside. Air France requests these masks or better, and avoids use of cloth masks.
I appreciate a pen in an amenity kit for filling out forms, though for US flights I don’t need to do that. Still, it should definitely be a standard until the world goes all-electronic and Air France flies to many destinations that are not. Here’s the amenity kit:
Before takeoff I decided to change into pajamas. On my overnight BA flight from Austin to London I wore a pair of American Airlines pajamas. For this flight I brought out a pair of United Polaris pajamas. On overnights, and day flights over 8 hours, I definitely want to get comfortable and the pair of jeans and button shirt I’d worn to the airport weren’t going to cut it.
Where Air France stands out most, I think, besides the basic seat is in its catering. It’s certainly possible to provide a nice multi-course meal in business class and other airlines should take lessons.
Here’s the menu for the flight:
After takeoff which was delayed by about half an hour for baggage loading drinks were served along with a box of packaged nuts. The nuts were rather plain, heated or not. Fine, but a lost opportunity for something more interesting.
The actual meal service, though, is an area where Air France shines. First, it was served in proper courses – a tray with salad and appetizer, followed by an entree, and then dessert. The shrimp appetizer was fantastic. I had the beef for me main and it was quite good. The cheese was fine (maybe my standards were too high after spending time in Paris), but I really enjoyed the selection of treats and sorbets afterward.
Now, I wasn’t nearly as impressed by the midflight snacks. There was a bar service setup in the galley and self-service chocolates and chips, neither of which were especially to my taste. They would make a hot sandwich for you however of meat and cheese. It was fine and nice to have on an 11 hour flight, but something you could definitely give a miss and not regret.
Maybe I was most impressed by the second meal service, not because it was better than the main meal (it wasn’t) but because it’s so much better than I expect for a second meal which is usually quite bad on U.S. airlines.
the cod dish was downright delicious, a comfort food that perfectly hit the spot, and a nice cake for dessert as well.
Flight attendants were both friendly and efficient throughout, always available, and I was proud of my three year old daughter who ate food, watched shows, played games and never got fussy at all on the journey.
When we flew home from Houston to Austin on United though, after two long haul business class flights in a week, we boarded the regional jet and she asked where her bed was?