Review: Air France Business Class, Paris – Houston

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?

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. You do realize the hassles experienced in a small way by you and in a major way by most of the world is due to the Covidiots here insisting on proof of negative tests, right?
    The airlines all over the world put people through all this hassle due to our own rules.
    I agree CDG is no picnic with a child (been there done that) but most of the misery is US caused

  2. Gary, you say the AF zodiac seat beats any biz seat across the pond on a star alliance carrier. However, Air Canada has an improved version of this seat. It also has easy connections through Montreal or Toronto and you get to preclear US immigration avoiding the usual passport control hell at IAH upon arrival

  3. Have a similar flight to the US with a 3 and 6 year old this summer. Thanks for the heads up on airport timing. How do you recommend traveling to CDG with kids? Train seems like the more pleasant option, but last time I just used a taxi.

  4. Did you get any looks, stares, or sneers bringing a little tyke into the biz cabin?

  5. ALL EUROPE airports require various queues for different purposes unfortunately. Flew Swiss Air (Zurich-SFO) recently and had at least 4 lines before getting thru Security/Customs etc.

    Star Alliance wins for CDG. Oneworld for LHR. All depends.

  6. I love traveling with my kids. I’m traveling with my wife, 9 month old daughter and 3 year old son to Singapore. Flying business on UA/SQ from AUS-SFO-SIN Next month. We took my son to Australia when he was only 9 months, right before they closed their borders, SAT-IAH-SYD in UA’s Polaris (by brand only. The seats were the older 2-2-2 config but worked great for us). Prior to landing, an older lady walked by us and said “I had no idea there was a baby on this flight. He didn’t make a noise!”.

  7. It’s always amazing to compare the differences between Air France and KLM. Two airlines, one company and so many differences. Unlike KLM, Air France has legit wine and generally higher quality food. The hard product is marginally better too since KLM still has 2x2x2 seating in business-class on some aircraft. However, Air France’s pillows and bedding in business are awful. On par with premium economy on other airlines.

  8. One more thing. In my opinion, Aeromexico is a happy medium between Air France, KLM and Delta. The flight attendant uniforms are as stylish and elegant as Air France. Likewise, the food and wine is also on par with Air France. But the bedding and amenity kits are more Delta and KLM.

  9. Nice and fair review.

    Thanks for it Gary.

    “The cheese was fine (maybe my standards were too high after spending time in Paris)”
    No your standards are fine. All people living in France are ashamed about that cheese selection in business, same cheese you can buy in any supermarket.
    AF should ask and pay Servair for a better selection.
    It is the same selection for more than 30 years and never change.
    Oh well! A topic about cost I guess.

  10. Kids are people, and they are allowed to make a fuss and be noisy. There should be no special praise for the parents of a kid who happens to remain quiet.

  11. Excellent review.

    One nitpick:

    I don’t know about any other Star Alliance airline, but this seat doesn’t look as good as the A350 Singapore business class, particularly the first rows of each cabin, and I flew that across the pond from IAH to MAN just last week.

  12. Will you be doing any writeups on Paris restaurants? I took my girlfriend to Paris for the first time late in 2019 and I followed one of your old posts about going to L’Ardoise when you first land. Such a nice recommendation, I can’t wait to go again when we’re back in Paris. We liked it better than the 1* Faubourg. Stayed at the Hilton Maison Astor, was perfectly fine. Anyway, wanted to say thanks for the L’Ardoise recommendation from whatever post that was all those years ago.

  13. Air France is hit or miss.

    This month they flew 2-3-2 angled-flat business class 777-300s multiple times transatlantically. This was a last week airplane swap and frequently scramble seats and separate families.

  14. Why don’t you need a pen to enter the USA? You always have to fill out the form right?

  15. Max Gross aka Troll please take your rude comments elsewhere.

    Gary nice trip report. I agree that CDG is a nightmare right now. Took my wife to Paris recently for our Anniversary. On the return home got to the airport nearly 4 hours prior to departure and nearly missed the flight. The AF pilot held the plane and apologized for the chaos and long waiting times at passport control and security. We went thru the expedited security line and still dealt with extreme delays.

    We are flying J class on AF to LHR via CDG this coming New Years holiday. Coming back on VA Upper class. Bringing our 10yo daughter. She has been flying since infancy and is a great traveler.

  16. @Gary; I like your travel reports. You should do those more often. You present the information in a short and sweet manner. To the point with no surrounding drama or hype. Perhaps include some city/hotel/food reports. Thank you

  17. I dont know if we re talking about the same airline company, but air france is not that good as you mention.
    The planes are old and not clean when you compare it to Emirates for example, the price is higher…
    I m a frequent traveler between Paris and Middle East, India and some eastern countries and for sur airfrance remain my last choice.

  18. Being PAR-based I really enjoy AF food and service. FWIW, AF uses Ready to Fly so its possible to verify all covid docs online (and print BPs) before arriving at CDG. Skip the lines. 😉 I’m curious how the lines compare to LHR, AMS, or FRA.

  19. Congratulations for people who can afford to travel business.I only afford premium economy which is a little more comfortable than tourist. I just back from Chile with Air France and I was very disappointed with the food the quality was really horrible.and plus for a 14 hours flight was very disappointed that the quality and in 14 hours flight was given only a very poor quality of lunch and a horrible breakfast .

  20. I flew both Ethiopian airlines and Air France on business class recently, and being French I should probably learn towards AF…but no. CDG is horrible: waited over an hour and half for luggage and got disoriented on immigration. Besides, bed on AF Airbus 330 is really uncomfortable. The food wasn’t good. I has to spit out the veal as it was harder than my shoe . Ethiopian airline beds on the Dreamliner are great and really comfy. I love Ethiopian food and their second started is a tray of a mix of Ethiopian dishes with injeera…All in all better an African airline beat AF…lots to learn.

  21. Quality is going down as many places are emulating the US empire in regards to hyper capitalism-profiteering with delivering poor service wrapped in propaganda / lavish marketing.

  22. Air France has a poor business class check-in experience at Paris CDG. I wanted to check-in a small bag containing food that I could not take through security. I was carrying my backpack onboard. Air France’s agents refused to check my bag because it was too small. It seems like they make-up convenient rules in the moment. of course, my bag of food that was well protected in multiple bags was taken by security due to its liquids (mustards). I later watched as they loaded my 2 checked bag weight allotment with DHL cargo that I am sure they can increase if fewer passenger check bags.

    Also, there was no priority security service offered. You walk back out and into the mass line.

    The Air France Business lounge in 2E is very old and gets crowded. Many roped-off seats reserved for their important passengers. No Clarins free facial service available because of an “exceptional” closure. Food rather limited for breakfast. Very poor showers with no ventilation that leaves you sweating.

    The boarding process was poorly managed and a complete mess. They combine economy plus with business class in one line in an area that does not have enough room for all these passengers. Needless to say, people were cutting the line from all directions. We then had to wait in the bridge another 20 minutes after entering until they allowed use to actually enter the plane.

    Food was almost the same menu as you experienced, and I had the same feelings about the lack of snacks. Did not meet my expectations. The FA kept the curtain tightly closed throughout , and I had to practically crawl under it to get to the lavatory.

    I flew this same heavily worn 777-300 from SFO to CDG and it was delayed 3 hours due to electrical problems. On this flight from CDG to SFO, business class on this airline is not worth the extra cost.

  23. Having travelled many times on AF and throughout the EU vassals, the meals still look and taste unimpressive for AF. Many EU countries including, France have appeared to cut corners on quality, value, and quantity. It’s the salesmanship, the “sizzle” rather than true quality that they’re missing. It’s as if AF took propaganda lessons from the US empire (Eddie Bernay et al) on how to market their product the best, rather than actually being the best based on substance and merit. Perhaps, they’re too influenced by the US empire? Oh well, Onward and downward.

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