The wonderful intra-European business class. Unless you’re lucky enough to travel on an itinerary that includes a jumbo jet, like Finnair on some flights to Helsinki or BA/Iberia to Madrid, the business class experience in Europe is best described as budget. More. There are good reasons for this, after all the flight to Paris is around 1h50, but they just aren’t particularly exciting to review. With that in mind, Air France provided a very standard business class experience in Paris that was part of my San Francisco itinerary, whose La Premiere first-class lounge was reviewed here and the flight here.
I arrived at the airport quite early because at the time travelers still needed a Covid-19 test to get to the United States, which took place in the grim disused building of the North Terminal which could be fondly described as vintage.
After that, I head straight to the Air France KLM check-in area. It was about 6 hours before the flight, which is much earlier than the time indicated. I was initially turned away and headed for the rough looking Starbucks on the upper level instead. About 1 hour later I noticed that the queues had gone down, the number of check-in counters reduced and a change in staff. I took a chance and showed up four and a half hours before departure.
Security was smooth despite previous weeks with a lot personnel issues. The wait for my bag to be checked by security took fifteen minutes due to the volume of passengers, although it could have been worse – and at least I was now airside.
Air France business class passengers departing from Dublin have access to the Terminal 1 lounge, which I reviewed here. In short, it’s a cramped space that needs a general overhaul and is getting very cluttered, but they make great coffee at the barista bar.
If you’re flying economy class and want to pay for lounge access, skip the T1 lounge and head to the revamped The East lounge instead. hereoffers a much better experience at a similar entry price or is included with Qatar, Etihad and Emirates Business Class tickets.
While I haven’t traveled to the US portion of the terminal which offers undeniable convenience for certain destinations, the rest of the airport feels outdated and cramped. Boarding for our flight was on time but the whole process was a total mess with passengers getting confused with the Vueling flight which took place at the next gate. Also, no proper system was adhered to for boarding areas, which calls into question the value of this process in the first place. Author’s Note: I feel like post-pandemic many travelers are completely ignoring boarding areas, which I find extremely frustrating!
Once through the messy gate process, we boarded the plane smoothly. Next to the signature winged seahorse logo, which I introduced and liked from Air France La Première, there was an icon to signal the WiFi that this flight had the service activated. Although completely irrelevant, unlike aglobal and Star Alliance carriers, Air France does not seem to clearly display its allegiance to SkyTeam at the point of entry. This signals an ambivalence within the alliance towards SkyTeam initiatives… it will be interesting to see how Virgin Atlantic adopts the program once he joined.
Due to French regulations at the time, the cabin crew postponed sanitary kit on board which included a medical mask, small wipe and hand sanitizer. I wish airlines would continue to provide at least boarding wipes given the limited cleaning that occurs during short turnaround times.
For this flight, I sat in seat 1A. The 3-3 layout with an empty center seat and an adjustable curtain will be familiar to frequent passengers of British Airways Club Europe. The Business Class cabin is differentiated from the Economy by the red leather headrest covers compared to the slightly funkier headrest cover at the rear of the aircraft. Unlike some British Airways aircraft, there was no table that could be deployed in the middle seat for more space.
Like all bulkhead seats, legroom was excellent while the seat was comfortable for that short hop across France. This seat would be bearable for a longer flight, but in the absence of real competition for intra-European business class, Air France and others have no incentive to improve the hard product or to remove the flexibility that the actual configuration.
A small pouch is on the bulkhead itself which was enough to hold the water provided after boarding as well as a few small items like my other phone and the Finnair amenity kit. A compact safety card completes the elements of the pouch.
Meal service started with a glass of champagne, which tasted crisp and after a quick google search they used Deutz Class Brut champagne. No menu was provided but they also had soft drinks, beer, wine, coffee and tea. As a coffee snob, the instant variety served by Air France was mediocre and needed a dose of sugar to make it drinkable. This is a downgrade to the admittedly weak filter coffee of other airlines.
A platter of cold dishes was served on this flight to Paris. It was salmon on a bed of a cold dish of sweet potatoes and a bean salad that tasted fresh and surprisingly good. The roll was excellent and not soggy as is the case on other airlines. Meanwhile, the cheeses served had delicious nutty and medium flavors respectively, although I would have enjoyed a soft brie alongside the two hard cheeses. Dessert was a strong lemon flavored mousse on lemon cheesecake, providing a sour and refreshing way to end the light meal.
As previously stated, Wi-Fi was available on this flight. The Air France Connect portal provides access to a mobile map, destination weather and free basic games. For true internet access the cost seemed a bit excessive for the short duration of the flight costing either EUR 15 for streaming or a more reasonable EUR 5 for the browsing option. At least there was no data limit, which is another bug on other airlines, while a message pass concludes the options which are free.
There was time for a quick look at the bathroom which was the usual wait for a narrow body plane. No special amenities like British Airways The White Company soap and moisturizer are provided in the Business Class cabin.
As mentioned in my introduction, Air France offers a decent but uninspiring experience on its shorter business class intra-European flights. The food was perfectly good and the seat was comfortable enough for the short hop to France, but I think other airlines offer the French flag carrier’s business class offer better on the continent.
While British Airways is criticized by many travellers, for valid reasons, I believe they have one of the best intra-European short-haul business class experiences in their Club Europe cabin. British Airways food is better and on many routes it is served hot not cold, while menus are provided so one knows what is being served during the journey.
I wouldn’t bother with Air France’s short-haul business class again, unless I’m paying for a similar long-haul fare or need to top up my Virgin Flying Club tier points balance. Like so many of their competitors, the offer is simply not exciting or worth the high prices charged for point-to-point travel to Paris.