This time last year, The Flight Deal reported rock-bottom Business Class fares with SkyTeam and the option of mixing Delta, Air France, and KLM operated flights from Dusseldorf to North America for $1,500 all-in. What a steal between the US and Europe! I booked a roundtrip flight on KLM for the outbound (Dusseldorf – Amsterdam - Los Angeles), and Air France on the inbound (Los Angeles – Paris - Dusseldorf). This Trip Report is the return leg back to Dusseldorf following a below average KLM Business Class flight.
Let’s have a look at Air France and their Business Class experience.
Airline: Air France (AF)
Route: Los Angeles (LAX) – Paris (CDG)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Duration: 10h 45m
Service: Business Class
I absolutely love flying out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, or TBIT. By US standards, TBIT is a leap ahead of the rest with a refreshing and modern-day airport facility designed to actually help you relax. With airy high ceilings and natural light, there's so much to appreciate about the architectural designs. More practical benefits, TBIT offers a world-class collection of shops and restaurants and an easy to navigate departure corridor.
Lastly, you’ll also find my favorite US lounge, the shared British Airways-Qantas-Cathay Pacific Oneworld First and Business Class Lounge, located inside TBIT on the Mezzanine Level.
At check-in, I was handed my boarding pass and lounge invitation. I was fully prepared to use the awful SkyTeam / Korean Air Lounge, but to my surprise, was handed an invitation to the Oneworld Business Class Lounge. The confusion must have gave it away, but the agent responded with, “we have received countless complaints about the Korean Air Lounge and have contracted special access for Air France premium passengers to use the Oneworld Lounge.” How awesome is that!
There's plenty to love about the shared Oneworld Business Class Lounge. For starters, it's aesthetically pleasing with lovely caramel colored seats balanced with metal accents. Secondly, they've done a fantastic job carving out pockets of private areas with ample seating. And lastly, the food offering is great, with plenty of hot meal options to choose from. This lounge beats out many lounges, including Korean Air’s former-First Class Lounge in Seoul-Incheon.
The Boarding Process
Boarding took place from Gate 156, the last gate along the South end of TBIT. From Lounge to Gate, the walk was around 5 minutes, which is great. TBIT by design is small and compact, which makes it even more appealing to fly out of, versus a football field sized Terminal. Boarding was scheduled to begin at 5:15PM, though the process did not commence until 5:30PM starting with First Class, followed by Business Class. Departure was scheduled for 6:00PM, and no announcements or updates were made around the delay.
The selected Gate was set-up with a biometric scan, which was interesting and my first time using it. I was asked to put by boarding pass away. I walked right up, took a photo, and the pony gates automatically swung open. It was efficient, simple, and very creepy.
After being scanned, we were once again held in the jetbridge with about 50+ pre-boarders, wheelchairs, and children. My hopes of taking an empty cabin shot were long gone at this point. And, if you know me, I live for empty cabin shots.
Air France operates two daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Paris, using both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER respectively. I specifically chose the latter flight as it’s operated by their Boeing 777-300ER, which offers their new Business Class lie-flat product, while the Airbus A380 unfortunately offers an angled-Business Class product which is absurd to me. Air France may be one of the only airlines to still offer a last generation product.
The Boeing 777-300ER is the workhorse of many international airlines. The aircraft is most distinguished by its twin mega-engines and elongated fuselage. It’s a very handsome looking plane, if you ask me.
At my seat were slippers, pillows, a blanket, and a coat hangar. Amenity kits and menus were later hand distributed, which was a nice and personal touch. The amenity kits came in 4 different colors, where I was able to select between Dark Blue, Light Blue, Aubergene, and Red. I chose Aubergene as it was the most unique.
The boarding process was a bit hectic given the late start. The welcome and drink service took place around 6:01PM, at scheduled departure, and roughly 30 minutes after boarding commenced. It was a rushed welcome with champagne and water offered. I went with both.
Around the same time, the Captain added his welcome and announced a total flight time of 9 Hours and 40 Minutes.
The Cabin + Seats
The Business Class cabin on the Boeing 777-300ER may be the largest of any airline. At 58 seats, the cabin is split between two sections, with a smaller section located after First Class, and the main section between the second and third door. I find very few Business Class cabins reach the third door.
The cabin interior design was stunning, and felt so spacious. Walking in, I immediately noticed the crisp-white walls paired with pops of Dark Blue and Red. The uniformity across the cabin gave the illusion of an elongated aircraft. The ambiance felt chic, sophisticated, and modern.
I selected seat 19A, the second to last window in the back second section. It was perfect, with a great view facing outward towards the window, and also of the entire cabin. Air France selected the reverse herringbone seat for its fleet upgrade, a seat similar to Cathay Pacific Business Class, American Airlines Business Class, and many others. This is Air France’s new Business Class product and currently only available on the Boeing 777-300ER, while their flagship Airbus A380 features a last generation angled-lie flat, which I would avoid. I believe Air France will be retrofitting their A380 fleet soon.
The seat itself is a solid hard product, and my top pick for Business Class seats. I find it to be the most cozy, private, and spacious. I favor the seat most for the throne-like design feature and tall walls, which offers more privacy. To the left of the seat are your controls, TV remote, tray table, and cabinet which housed a mirror, headset, and even an elastic holster for your electronics. The design struck a nice balance between form and function. Well designed, Air France!
With the delayed boarding, the Flight Attendants were very rushed to complete the pre-welcome service. Even as passengers were still locating their seats and the crew rushing to clean-up and collect service items, the plane the pushback process. Passengers and crew alike were wobbling all over the place. It was amusing to watch!
The flight pushed back at 6:05PM, we taxied for take-off a few minutes later, and were airborne by 6:21PM.
The flight leveled-off 15 minutes after take-off. I love the sunny take-offs out of LAX and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Newspapers, hot towels, and menus were soon distributed. I’m assuming this took place after take-off given the frantic departure.
Drink service commenced where I ordered a glass of champagne and water. This was paired with an amuse bouche of tomato, mozzarella, olives, and pesto. On the plated were tasty cheese cookies, both savory and sweet. Tables were set nearly an hour later.
The first course was served, which consisted of foie gras, smoked salmon, a fresh salad, and bread. The foie gras and cranberry sauce was exquisite. So much flavor and delight.
For my main course, I opted for the Cajun shrimp. The dish was very well-cooked, though the sauce dried out a bit.
Cheese was then served finished off with fruit and a trio of desserts. This may have been the best fruit salad I’ve had on a plane. The mixture included very sweet and exotic fruits, like Lychee and Mango.
The main meal service concluded 2.5 hours later. Culturally, I understand meals in France are meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, I’m not sure this philosophy translated well in the air. A 2.5 long meal service is very slow for a 10-hour flight and leaves just about 6 hours of rest. Now, an express menu is also available, so be aware of both options for anyone flying Air France. Otherwise, the Flight Attendants were truly passionate about food and was evident in their recommendations. The gentleman serving the aisle even suggested I try their pear brandy, which he brought from Economy. This, however, was the best option after not carrying Bailey's.
I soon knocked out after the meal ended and woke up to find a cute Ladurée cookie box, and bottle of water placed by my seat. For those not familiar, Ladurée is a famous French bakery known most for their delicious macaroons. I really loved this sweet (pun-intended) and thoughtful gesture.
And, mid-flight between meals, Air France sets-up a striking and vibrant onboard self-service bar with snacks, and spirits. It's nothing special, except I'm loving the bright red.
The pre-arrival meal, or breakfast, was served on a single tray about an hour before arrival. Choices included a cold or hot continental breakfast. I selected the hot entrée, which came with eggs, bacon, and potatoes. This was also served with fresh fruit and a croissant.
The Entertainment + WiFi
The UX behind Air France’s onboard entertainment system, called Air France Touch, is beautifully designed. It was minimal yet modern, sleek and easy to navigate. Touch may be one of the nicest onboard systems.
As for content, Touch featured a wide selection of movies across all languages. However, expect just a few first-run movies, and a lot of French flicks. I opt’d for Grammy-winning movie Shape of Water, which was so entertaining.
Unfortunately, WiFi was not offered on this flight.
I managed to sleep for 6 hours. Air France already offers one of the best Business Class onboard seats so I knew my rest would be peaceful. What I love even more is how they’ve “carved” out additional leg space from under the seat console. Beneath the tray table, where you would typically find walled off, your legs can actually spread out which is great for side sleepers.
Air France also provides a large and plush blanket, and pillow. And, Air France, if you’re reading this, please sell your pillowcase covers because I’d love to own a set.
The Captain announced our welcome into Paris an hour before arrival, around the same time the second meal service commenced. We began decent 30 minutes before arrival, and touched down 45 minutes early.
We parked at a remote stand, which always baffles me on long-haul flights. Despite landing early, the flight was held-up for another 20 minutes due to a medical emergency.
Wow, am I a new fan of Air France, and there’s so many reasons to be. Compared to Air France’s European counterparts, Air France offers a solid Business Class product and one that exceeded my expectations. Why? Because they understand who they are as a brand and their brand philosophy.
Their brand can be best described as chic, sophisticated, modern, yet youthful. Every detail of their onboard experience is well-curated. From the all-white interior to its chic pillow case, the Air France brand is beautifully designed and flawlessly executed. The menu was also fantastic for Business Class standards, with a tasty starter, fresh fruit, and lots of flavor.
The soft product, or service, was equally great. Solely evaluating the Flight Attendants, I found all of them to be friendly, passionate about Air France, and quite engaging. While the experience wasn’t personalized, it was one that I enjoyed.
The concept of Business Class has significantly changed in the past 10 years – along with passenger expectations. While some airlines deliver above industry norms, others simply maintain a status quo. Air France has designed an experience that benchmarks where I believe Business Class should be measured. The key here is, Air France has clearly defined their Business Class product, and one that doesn’t overlap with First, or Economy.