Contributor: David Bernard
You don’t have to fly a lot in order to appreciate good service, and in a world of ever-changing airline service sometimes a little can go a long way. Economy seats are becoming more crammed, and even the food is becoming more skimpy (if you even get some). However, when you travel more, sometimes the odds begin to play out in your favor. As I wrote about earlier this year, in December I took advantage of an offer at check-in that I just couldn’t pass up. I was lucky enough to take the same offer again last weekend on my way to Paris, and although a 3-hour delay due to weather definitely put a tax on the service, I can certainly say that these offers are still sometimes worth considering. Well yesterday on my return to NYC, I was graciously given a seat in business class, after a very admiral gentleman asked to take my premium economy seat since it was next to his wife, and he wanted to sit with her for the flight. Since business was full, his options were limited and he offered me his seat up front instead.
As opposed to my previous business class experiences on Air France in their A380, this one was on a Boeing 777, which they have retrofitted with their updated cabin design. Right away I already could feel the difference. If you compare the photo gallery in this post with the photos from my A380 business class experience with Air France, you can definitely see a difference already. The on-board services are pretty much the same, but the seats and layout are very different of course. Now, the A380 is certainly a larger aircraft than a 777, but a 2-2-2 configuration is very different from a 1-2-1 (which of course has all aisle access, and larger “suite” space). That being said, carriers like British Airways and Emirates have adapted their A380 fleet to work on the spacious configuration while not sacrificing too many seats. To their credit though, Air France does plan on renovating (which was just recently pushed back to 2019, but still it is in process)
Before I could even contain my excitement, the attendants graciously welcomed me into the cabin and gave me a pre-departure glass of champagne. Settled in our seats, we then proceeded to taxi to the runway for takeoff.
Shortly after lifting off, the crew came around again offering a second round of drinks, as well as the French cuisine signature starting dish, the amuse bouche. To start I was served a small bowl of mixed nuts, as well as a second small dish of marinated cucumber and salmon tartare. Normally I’m not fond of fish myself, however I pleasantly ate all of it without a complaint. I even got to try caviar for the first time and I must say that it is very interesting.
After everyone had warmed up their palates, cabin attendants came around again to serve the second course (of course accompanied by another round of drinks). For this course I was served a delicious duet of salmon, some fregola pasta with butternut and artichoke (not my favorite combination but I at least tried it), lamb’s lettuce salad with beetroot, and of course a selection of breads and cheeses. I found the variety to be quite good, and I must say that even though I did not eat everything, I left the course feeling satisfied. After all, it was just the appetizer.
For the main course, we had four choices. Lamb, chicken, eggplant, and shrimp were all available on the menu. After some tough thought, I settled on the lamb, a dish I really enjoyed once I saw how it was prepared. It was served in a Mediterranean-style sauce and accompanied with polenta and green beans. I found the sauce to be particularly tasteful, and the lamb was so tender that just putting the fork into the meat split the pieces (something that almost made it difficult to eat at times haha). The polenta was creamy, which I was appreciative of, and the green beans were as to be expected with not much else to review there since they’re just green beans.
Following the main course, I settled back with some apple sorbet, which was very rich in flavor, and then digested my food following that with some creamy hot chocolate. All and all, I was very approving of the beginning meal services. Of all the carriers I’ve flown, Air France seems to usually get their food handled correctly. Only during their delays does the food quality seem to suffer.
After everything was cleared, it was time for me to settle back and watch some shows on my bed. I reclined the seat all the way to it’s flat position and settled in for a few hours. The entertainment system on Air France is usually very packed with a wide variety of shows, and there always seems to be more than enough for me to pass the time. Even at some points I had actually fallen asleep accidentally. It’s something that lately I’ve noticed business class does to me. Normally, when I fly Economy, I rarely sleep unless it’s an ultra long-haul flight. Even then, it’s still only usually just for a few minutes. In business class however, it’s hard not to fall victim to the comforting recline of the bed, especially when they give you a decent blanket instead of the cheap fleece ones in the back of the plane.
Approximately two hours prior to arrival, I put in my request for the remaining light course of food on the flight. Now, perhaps I haven’t flown business class enough yet, but I was very surprised to see in the menu that this course was actually something which you had to request instead of it being served by default. The Air France Boeing 777-200 however only has approximately 16 seats in business class, so after some thought I realized why this was in place, especially since most people were still asleep with the lights off while I dined on the selection of food and did some work.
Following the last meal, the attendants came back through again and quickly cleaned up my spot and I returned to some work for the final hour and a half left in the flight. As far as the seat itself goes, I can definitely say that this newer configuration layout for Air France is much more conducive to a productive atmosphere. I actually put together so many future articles for this flight in an eight-hour flight than I’ve done in all of my flights on their out-dated A380 business class combined! The “suite” itself can set itself up like your own office space, with two tables for work, and your fold out TV screen. In addition to the ample storage and table space, I was even delighted to find my own cabinet with a mirror, where I could store my phone, tablet, and business class amenity kit during the flight!
Have you flown Air France business class lately? If so, comment and share your experiences below!