Air France launches its new fully-flat business class seat

Air France has finally joined the ‘fully flat seat in business class’ club.  The airline recently announced that it was about to start rolling out a new product.

A total of 2,102 seats will be installed between June 2014 and Summer 2016 on 44 Boeing 777 aircraft.  Designed by Zodiac, it is a version of the new seat being used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines.

Air France new business class 3

At first glance, I have to say that it does look impressive, especially with a 1-2-1 layout.  All seats have aisle access (unlike BA) and come with a 41cm TV.

The ‘cost’ of the new layout is a drop in seat numbers.  The Boeing 777-300 aircraft will lose nine seats to 58 whilst the 777-200 will lose nine seats to become 40.  The impact of this on reward seat availability seems fairly clear!

Air France new business class 2

As you can see from the photographs, the seats are arranged in a herringbone pattern.  This is emerging as the most effective way of matching seat density with privacy, assuming that an airline has rejected the BA ‘ying yang’ model.

What is not clear is what is happening with the rest of the Air France fleet.  Once these 44 Boeing 777’s are converted, there will still be 20 unconverted aircraft.  That’s before you add in the A380’s, A330’s and A340’s!

Air France new business class

It would be especially odd if a third of the 777 fleet was left unconverted, as it would make it very difficult for customers to be sure of the new seat.  And if they aren’t sure of the new seat, I’m fairly sure a lot will continue to defect to BA.

The formal press release is here.

Double Avios (1000 per stay) with Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Buy cheap Avios points with Tesco Fuel Save
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. 1-2-1 that’s pretty good compared to ba’s 2-4-2..

    • That’s not quite a fair comparison though since these seats are angled and the rows overlap. The main benefit over BA will be the direct aisle access.

      The reduced seating density will translate to more space, just not necessarily where it is useful.

  2. Looks stunning and AF seem to have added a certain French style to what is fast becoming the standard for business class.
    It’s interesting how AF release real pictures of real products whilst in same week the best BA could do for a new Firts product was a picture if the seat number and table!
    It looks like in the next few years at least we can expect even lower ex EU fares as BA trys to compete with new products of AF KLM as well as the onslaught from the Middle East. Sure it won’t help redemptions but I have pretty much given up in BA in any case, as it is now so hard to find seats.
    I haven’t paid for a BA long premium seat for two years preferring CX to the East and AA to the USA and have been lucky that AA intruduced their new seat on routes I use. It is really fabulous and whilst missing the panache of Cathay it really does give BA first a run for its money.

    • Agree it’s much better than just a picture of a seat number, although these are renderings rather than actual photos 😉 (see the pattern of light from the reading lamp, the extremely straight curtains, the colours that are just a little too punchy, etc.)

  3. James67 says:

    Having originally set the trend I fear BA are now sleepwalking into a tippung pount where they will rapidly lose premium market share. I cannot believe their complacency, even their new F is woefully inadequate. They are taking their best customers for granted AF J looks good but IMO the best j product is TG a380.

    • You might be roght but remember BAs set up is more space efficient. At 35, 000ft real estate is very expensive and efficient utilisation thereof may be the most important factor here. Expect a tweak but not an abandonment of ying yang when the A350 arives

      • James67 says:

        But I am paying for that space, the cabin ambiance is important to me. The reason I much prefer TG and SQ j on an a380 is a combination of quietness and stability of flight, along with great seats and the space/cabin ambiance mix the1-2-1 layouts provide. I am not interested in BAs operation efficiency, I’m interested in what I get for my £s. BA is not cheap and as such I feel I am getting much less per £ than other carriers offer me. I think other pax, like me, will increasingly go elsewhere: the price/foot pax space on BA is probably higher than a y other airline in most cases and that is often for a horrible old 777. No thanks. I already largely abandoned the hotel loyalty game. If a huge devaluation comes to BA also I will abandon airline loyalty too in favour of best value on a flight by flight basis.

        • Sure, but the decisions are ultimately taken by BA management on the basis of what they think is right for the commercial success of the airline. As such it is a big picture tradeoff between the competitiveness of the hard/soft product, price, number of seats available to sell, operational costs, effectiveness of the loyalty scheme etc.

          Clearly some people will be more concerned about this like direct aisle access than others. Some will care more that BA Club World guarantees them a flat bed regardless of route or aircraft. Others will be less experienced travellers and may not give much consideration to the differences that exist elsewhere / may just be focussed on building their Avios and Tier Points to a worthwhile amount.

          Does reducing the overall capacity in order to make the remaining seats more attractive make sense to the decision makers? That will depend on the loads and revenue across the route network. If they are healthy then retaining the status quo may well make better business sense in the short term at least, even if it means losing a few customers as a result.

          As and when that changes I have no doubt BA management have their eye sufficiently on the bottom line to make the necessary changes.

          • Also be careful what you wish for. Fewer seats would mean fewer redemptions!

          • I’m not wishing for it, if only on that basis :-)

            I suspect redemption availability is a bigger issue in the scheme of things than whether or not all Club seats have direct aisle access.