A quick review of Air France short-haul Business Class

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This is my review of Air France’s short-haul business class on an A320.

With Air France soon bookable using your Virgin Flying Club miles, once the various authorities give their approval to the Virgin / Delta / Air France / KLM transatlantic joint venture, I thought I’d take a look at what Air France long-haul has to offer as a redemption.

I booked myself a one way Business Class flight to Dubai.  Since I cannot use my Virgin Atlantic miles on Air France just yet, I transferred 42,500 American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles and booked from there (taxes were £321).  Transfers from Amex to Delta are INSTANTANEOUS which, as I wrote in this article, means that booking is stress free as there is no chance of losing your seats waiting for the points to arrive.

Taking Air France meant a connection in Paris.  At Heathrow, Air France uses Terminal 4.  Despite being the Cinderella terminal it is in decent shape although very quiet.  At 6.30am on a Tuesday the premium security channel was virtually empty and I was through in no time.

Air France short haul business class review

I reviewed the SkyTeam lounge in Heathrow Terminal 4 in this article.

Over the last couple of years I have been deliberately trying other ‘legacy’ short haul airlines in business class, as well as paying for ‘front row’ benefits on low cost carriers such as Vueling and easyJet, to see if anyone is offering anything special.  I continue to be disappointed.

Whilst British Airways Club Europe has its critics – this is, after all, the cabin which offered me a choice of a salad or a salad, both served with a side salad, from Barcelona recently – I need to come clean.  I haven’t found anything better than British Airways Club Europe on my search.

There are a few reasons for this.  One is that the seating is very similar across airlines, even on the budget carriers.  Secondly, I always take a bulkhead seat so I don’t get caught out by BA’s tight leg-room in rows 2+.  Thirdly, especially as breakfast, I find the BA food to be more suited to my British tastes.

Air France short haul Business Class seating

Let’s take a look at Air France short-haul business class seating.  As you can see, there is a decent amount of leg room in Row 1.  This is a PR picture:

Air France short haul business class review

and this is my ‘real’ picture:

Air France short haul business class review

At least on my aircraft, the D-E-F seats had about 1cm more room than A-B-C.  The bulkhead on the A-B-C side has a window in it, however, which you may prefer to staring at a blank wall.

Do not sit in 1C.  I should have learned my lesson by now.  1C sticks out halfway into the aisle, more so (it appeared) than on other airlines.  Air France let me board first because I was in Business Class but this meant that everyone else on the aircraft banged into me whilst boarding.  It wasn’t good.

The middle seat is kept empty as you would expect.  There is no table covering it, unlike in Club Europe (although BA is removing these on new aircraft) and because the arm rests don’t swing out it seemed like a lot of wasted space.

Air France short haul Business Class food

The meal was the biggest oddity.  I’m really not sure what Air France is doing.  Take a look at the picture below.

Air France short haul business class review

Bottom left we have chilled plain omelette with piquillo cream.

Bottom right we have one solitary piece of pastrami and a chunk of cheese.

Above that is a pot of chocolate granola with blueberries.  This does NOT come with milk and the crew gave the impression that I was the first person to ever ask for some.  They had little idea what to do and eventually turned up with seven sachets of UHT milk which I poured over it.  Impressively one sachet had gone off and the contents had turned solid.

Top left is a pot of quark.  The guy next to me thought it was yoghurt and poured his granola into it.  This is wrong, because quark is technically cheese.  The Air France menu card makes it clear that quark is part of the main meal and the granola is the desert.  My quark was also looking a bit odd and had to be replaced.

Conclusion

There was nothing about my Air France Heathrow to Paris flight to convince me that it is better than British Airways Club Europe.  

This is nothing against Air France in particular – I would say the same about Lufthansa, SWISS, Vueling and easyJet who I have also flown in the past year.

The only thing that would make me choose this flight over a BA one is that Terminal 4 and the SkyTeam lounge are quieter than Terminal 5, at least in the morning.  The SkyTeam lounge was so empty that it actually felt creepy, however, and anyone with First Wing / Fast Track access at T5 is likely to find the overall BA experience more cheerful.

My trip was about to improve.  The next part of this series will look at one of the Air France lounges in Paris and the Air France Boeing 777-300 long-haul experience which isn’t at all bad.

The Air France website is here if you want to know more.

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Comments

  1. Agreed, not sure there are any other airlines that can compete with BA CE. We keep comparing infra EU with infra Asia flights, but the reality is quite simple BA and gold benefits that come with the BAEC are the best on the market.

  2. ” I haven’t found anything better than British Airways Club Europe on my search.” Rob needs to try Aegean..

    • Shoestring says:

      does Aegean offer a proper Business seat?

    • Does Aegean fly from UK to many European destinations?

      • Yes, via Athens! Often very cheap in winter – useful for status runs though due to APD and other factors usually cheaper in the direction of mainland Europe to UK (e.g. CPH-ATH-LHR for £50 plus free upgrade as I am A3 Gold)

        • and DIRECT to Cyprus – A3 is one of the best offerings both for Economy and Business on the EU market, plus enormously generous FF programme

        • @ John… any other tips for A3 status runs? Thinking short haul business. I visit Greece regularly but usually using RFS. Could easily route via CPH or elsewhere if status were achievable. Thanks for suggestions.

    • I agree, Aegean may not offer anything remarkable on the seat front, but the food is consistently excellent and the service consistently genuinely friendly and of high standard. Limited availability from London though (only Athens, they scrapped Larnaca a while ago)

      • Well it’s worth considering for Eastern Europe, such as Romania Bulgaria Turkey and they also go to Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, you can still do Larnaca but non-direct.

    • Have flown HER-ATH-EDI & CFU-ATH-EDI in last couple of years with Aegean and am very impressed. In fact have an ATH-EDI flight booked for this summer all in economy as business not available on seasonal flights. Front row seats of aircraft have extra room and available for small fee. In my experience Aegean have the best economy flight experience in Europe, admittedly with a small number of destinations for UK residents.

      • Dimitri says:

        +1 for Aegean. Far superior to BA Club with additional leg space for all business class seats compared to economy and better all-around product. Even for economy class passengers during my last trip from Athens (..with BA) while we were seating waiting for the gate to open, Aegean staff were going around and scanning peoples’ passes so that their boarding can go faster and hassle free without a queue!

        Club Europe passengers had to wait in the queue to board.. And because you have all these FF people there are even so many of them in the queue as opposed to the much more exclusive Aegean Business which is typically much smaller and fewer priority passengers.

        I don’t know why Rob keeps saying that he hasn’t found anything better than British Airways Club Europe… Come on Rob!!

        • Shoestring says:

          Probs means nothing much better from UK—> Europe unless you have got all day to make some crazy connection via Athens or that & need the TPs (Star Alliance)

        • He gave you a clue in one of the sentences: “I find the BA food to be more suited to my British tastes.” Fatty bacon butty is far better than a piece of feta with olive oil and fresh salad and a greek yoghurt plus an elaborate dessert. Each to his own…

        • The bacon rolls are generally seen as the main selling point of the Galleries Club lounges.

        • “The bacon rolls are generally seen as the main selling point”

          ! If that’s your measurement device, that’s a hell of a low bar.

          And, to be fair, they are sh1te. Barely cooked, predominantly fatty.

        • Rob doesn’t travel a huge amount (joys of being a dad I assume!), but it’s not like Aegean is a great option unless you’re flying to Greece or further East.

          Having your boarding cards scanned while sitting down seems weird. How do they know who has already been scanned when you board the aircraft?

  3. I think your issue with breakfast is down to cultural difference. Having grown up in Germany, I do like quark with granola. And cold omelette is something I’ve had many times, especially when my Spanish aunt makes it. But I do agree it’s somewhat different from what a Brit would expect from breakfast.

    • Agreed, although not to my taste, I’ve seen my German relatives use quark and yoghurt interchangeably, so I think saying ‘this is wrong, because quark is technically cheese’ is actually wrong!

      • Quark is technically cheese, as is mascarpone, but how you eat them is up to you.

    • It’s got nothing to do with cultural differences, what AF offers is not going to fill even a corner …

      • Agree this meal makes the salad with salad option look appealing and they serve this as their premium offering, makes marks and spencer BOB look impressive!

    • flyingbee says:

      Is the quark in fact “fromage blanc”?
      Fromage Blanc is is a staple of the French diet (or at least in the area I live). It is very common as a dessert on children’s menus (with honey, compote or coulis) in restaurants and sicks of it on the shelf in supermarkets.

      Biggest shock is you got liquid milk to pour on your granola. On the domestic one-class Air France services we get powdered milk for our tea!

  4. James Aidan says:

    I haven’t travelled with AF, though I’ve never heard any good comments about the airline. It’s famed for poor service and the awful CDG hub. My observation, comparing BA with Lufthansa, Swiss and TAP, is that BA is the best airline, though TAP came close, let down by the poor lounge in Lisbon.

    • Genghis says:

      AF offers great bread. To be expected…

    • I use CDG frequently and, although it’s huge, it’s efficiently run and I would never describe it as “awful”. I don’t fly Air France as much as I used to but I’d say the service in Business Class is pretty good. Service (economy) on domestic routes is OK too.

      Rob, if you take an AF flight at a later time of day you’ll probably find the food much better. It’s not very filling but it is refined, good quality French cuisine. For my own taste though I agree with you that it’s no better than BA CE.

    • AF long haul economy used to include free champagne (maybe still does), a trolley full of goodies left out on the galleys far superior to club world’s fridge of snacks, and I never shed a year when overbooking meant a shedload of compensation and a free night in Paris

      • Jonathan says:

        Champagne is still included. I got regular top ups on my economy flight in December. Food was very impressive as well. Unfortunately seat was rock hard, even using the mini pillow as a cushion and the IFE screen was a similar size/resolution to a 1990’s GameBoy.

        CDG is also a horrible airport IME, not helped by the lack of third party lounges.

        It was my first Long Haul economy flight in a while & it wasn’t as bad as I feared but I did really miss the status benefits I would have enjoyed with BA & the miles return was pitiful for a 9 hour flight.

        • Mikeact says:

          There is Champagne and Champagne…….what you get ‘down the back ‘ is, sadly not that brilliant, I didn’t even recognise the supplier.

    • 2E at CdG is very nice.

    • I think it doesn’t really matter in practice because you aren’t going to fly TAP to Germany or Lufty to Portgual, and if you live in London obviously London Airways will have a broad list of destinations.

      • Chiponyourshouder says:

        Such as Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow , Edinburgh, Inverness and Belfast.

      • It’s beyond me why Little Red failed and the overwhelming majority of full service flights from just about any carrier goes to London when there’s supposedly all this unmet demand for it from the regions…

  5. “With Air France soon bookable using your Virgin Flying Club miles”

    Any info as to when?? I’ve searched high and low, and it’s been soon for months.

    • Shoestring says:

      March/ April

      but don’t hold your breath on low redemption price hopes – it’s not going to be cheap compared to RFS (Europe)

      LH might be better value and AF/ KLM offer some great monthly redemption promos eg save 30/ 40/ 50% on defined routes

      • Although if they just get added as partner awards VS FC members might not be able to access them. Have we heard anything re interchangeable mileage transfers yet? Without that it may be a case of phoning VS and hoping, a bit like some of the existing partner ones like Air NZ!

        • Agreed. Show me a VS redemption on ‘partner’ airline ANZ and I’ll share with you photos of my impressive collection of rocking horse poo and unicorn horns.

        • You can get them easily, just not LHR-LAX. Loads of availability, apparently, for – say – Tokyo to Auckland.

    • End of March is target date for the JV launching but still reliant on Government approvals, not sure if the US shutdown will have put it back a bit.

    • The_Real_A says:

      Do a dummy search on Delta… the route Tax`s for KLM/AF redemption short-haul are eye watering, almost double the price of low cost carriers before you even factor in points. I have never found value in 2-3 years of flying from the regions. (But at least they fly from HUY)

  6. Certainly looks disappointing, I would have expected far better food from AF! Even CityJet from Dundee to London City (when it used to run) had semi-decent AF catering!

    I’ve been caught out with tight bulkheads too many times to go for row 1 now, I find I can stretch out much better in row 2.

  7. ankomonkey says:

    In my opinion, Turkish Airlines offer a far better short haul business product than BA, onboard and in terms of Lounge Istanbul.

    • But you won’t use TK to fly from London to Paris (not that Rob was actually going to Paris)

      • ankomonkey says:

        If it meant I got to use Lounge Istanbul during transit then I’d certainly consider it!

        • Just make sure to check the aircraft first; my last TK LHR-IST-GYD cash J upgrade at the airport – it was late, delayed red eye, with a long layover for which I wanted the lounge access – got me the shorthaul upright empty middle seat configuration. What was I thinking! Maybe the four LHR delay compensatory pints was a factor?
          I found this website not long after I returned 🤷‍♂️

    • London to Istanbul is pushing the definition of “Short haul” a bit imo. Even BA itself operates A321 in long haul configuration (so lie-flat CW seats) on flights to Moscow which is the same 4h. Not sure about Istanbul though…

      • Sadly BA to Istanbul is a classed as short haul with the same Euro Traveller seats. I flew this route two weeks ago in Club Europe. On both journeys they never served a drinks round before the meal. On a 3.5 hour flight, they have plenty of time time. Plus the meal size was tiny. Very average flight and the only reason to fly Club is for the tier points.

        • Turkish economy on the 777 or A330 is arguably better than Club Europe on LHR to IST

        • I flew CE from Heathrow to Istanbul recently. I thought the service was actually pretty good (including a drinks service before my meal). Maybe just unfortunate timing?

        • Turkish runs 777’s with flat beds on some Istanbul to Heathrow services.

      • BA occasionally sends B789 and B777 to Moscow too and famously ran a 4-class B747 for a few years on this route branded as “BA’s shortest long-haul destination” (when political and business relations were thriving)

        • Andrew S says:

          I flew Turkish economy London to Cairo via Istanbul. Got full meals on both sectors (even though the hop to Cairo was about an hour). The food was excellent, including the mouse dessert!

          I’ve never own BA Club Europe, but Turkish economy was probably my best economy experience while in Europe.

  8. If the granola was the desert, maybe it was supposed to be dry… 🙂

    • I was served dry Granola on BA CW yesterday. I wasn’t overly disappointed given the previous meal was pasta with white sauce and peas…

  9. I know it was only breakfast time so you may not have been drinking, but did you manage to find out what Champagne (if any) Air France serve in shorthaul J?

  10. Virtually all my BA flights are out of City Airport on 2 – 2 seat layout aircraft. I find it a bit sub par that they sell all seats and there is not normally a free seat next to you. This said, I have never been in business on said routes, only watched from behind.

  11. Rob, “With Air France soon bookable using your Virgin Flying Club miles…”

    Have we any insight whatsoever as to earning potential? Even just a “yes, it’s likely” would be good.

    And will it be just trans atlantic, or route wide

    Asking for a friend who wants to go to Reunion…. 🙂

  12. I always don’t understand, why do flights in Europe not offer a proper business class seat? I’m sure if someone started doing that people may follow.

    I don’t buy the ‘flexible amount of business seats’ reasoning they have (they can decide how many they want on this flight and how many on the next). Doesn’t seem to be a problem anywhere else.

    I’m originally from Taiwan, so am already spoiled with long haul business class being run on short flights. Forty flights a day run between Taipei and Hong Kong and every commercial jet plane on this planet present and historically apart from the A380 run on that route, meaning you can pick which flights you go on that will have a ‘bigger seat’. Same thing with Taipei and Shanghai, all the Taiwanese airlines run their 77Ws on that. Cathay Dragon on flights on A32x between Hong Kong and China also have regional business class seats which is also far better than an ‘economy seat with a empty space in the middle’.

    • Welcome to Europe! The market doesn’t demand a proper business class seat on flights up to 4-5 h long; if you can fill half a 320 with bus pax in current configuration, but also only 2 pax, why would you change if the model works?

    • I think also Europe has developed with…on average…cheaper business fares than Asia, so there is less investment in the product. It would be almost impossible to get a business class return from Shanghai to Sanya for £220, but this is possible for London to Alicante on BA. Heathrow to Moscow om BA, which usually offers a much better seat in business, is priced at a more expensive rate.

      • Hmmm not sure about that. Next month I’m flying KUL to HAN and then HAN to DAD both in J and both less that £100….granted the flight from DAD to HKG was about £800 on CX.

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