This is my review of Air France business class, flying a Boeing 777-300ER from Paris to Dubai.
Last month I headed down to the Middle East for half term with my family. Instead of flying British Airways from London, we decided to use Virgin Points and booked on their partner Air France. We travelled to Paris a day earlier via Eurostar and did some sightseeing before heading to Charles de Gaulle the next day.
The cost of the Paris detour was more than covered by the saving in taxes and charges. We paid £200 each for the one way trip, plus 50,000 Virgin Points, compared to £470 in taxes and charges had we gone with British Airways.
(A quick apology. As with the lounge review yesterday, I did this trip after damaging my iPhone camera and the pictures are not as sharp as they should be.)
Air France is, seat-wise, a mess
Air France likes to compete with Lufthansa to see how many different business class products it can fly at the same time.
The seat I review below is the seat used on the core business class routes.
A brand new business class, similar to the one I flew but with doors, has just been launched and will be refitted onto 12 of the oldest of the Boeing 777-300ER fleet. You can see this seat on the Air France website here.
These aircraft currently have angle-flat business class seats (remember those?). Luckily the A380 fleet, which was ordered with angle-flat seats in business class (duh!) was scrapped during the pandemic.
The bottom line is that:
- you should get the seat I review below
- if you are very lucky you will get a similar version with doors which is brand new
- if you are unlucky you will get a ‘wedgie’ angled-flat seat, but this is more likely to be on secondary routes
Air France Boeing 777-300ER seating
Here are some PR pictures of the most common seat, which is the one we flew:
This is the Safran Seats ‘Cirrus’ seat, also used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines amongst others.
In the flesh, it looks like this:
This is a cabin shot from an earlier flight because we boarded too late this time:
Here are a few general thoughts:
- we were on a 4-class aircraft which has one row – yes, just four seats – of first class. In this variant, there is a 4-row business class cabin behind and then a far larger 11-row business class cabin. We were in the 4-row business class cabin (Row 5) which felt more private and also meant we were served first.
- every seat is a good seat – the 1-2-1 layout means that solo travellers have privacy and even those in the middle seat will find their head (if not their feet) a long way from their neighbour
- all seats are forward facing – perhaps a statement of the obvious, but not necessarily if you are a long-term British Airways Club World flyer
- there is a lot of storage space – you have the cupboard with the striking red interior (see the top photo above) plus a large console table and your own baggage bin above the seat
- your feet have quite a bit of space – whilst they are under the back of the seat in front, it is not a tight cubby hole (see picture above)
- privacy from the side isn’t great – here’s a shot of my daughter taken from my seat
- connectivity is good – there is a plug socket (which will take UK and European plugs) and a USB charger
- wi-fi has been introduced since I last flew Air France, which was a huge improvement (it worked well for me – the cost for the full flight was €6 for messaging, €18 for light browsing, €30 for streaming)
- the only people who may not like the seating are couples who want to chat, as even in the middle pair of seats you cannot see the face of the person next to you when sat fully back.
- the seat appears not to have an arm rest on the aisle side but this is not the case. There is one but it is sunk into the seat. If you give it a push it pops out and can be raised up. The armrest must be down for take-off and landing.
- the TV has to be folded back for take off and landing so you don’t get full ‘gate to gate’ entertainment
- despite the seat now being a good number of years old, it was still in very good condition – the only real signs of wear were on the surface edges where the gilding was coming away
The seat has everything I like about a business class seat – storage, acceptable privacy and space. I really couldn’t care less about not having a door, especially on a day flight.
As this was a day flight, I can’t comment on how good the bed is for sleeping. I put it flat for a period to try it out and it felt fine for my 6’2′ frame but that’s not the same as trying to get eight hours sleep.
One criticism I had of the crew is that they did try to enforce sleep. We left Paris at 1.45pm and landed in Dubai at 11.25pm, which was 8.25pm Paris time. This is, by any standards, a day flight and yet the crew decided to dim the lights for an extended period. It wasn’t quite as bad as when I did this flight in 2018. On that trip the cabin flights were turned off entirely for two hours in what was, Paris time, late afternoon.
Air France business class amenity kit
Business class amenity kits generally fail to inspire these days, and the current Air France is no exception:
There was a toothbrush and toothpaste, a pen, flight socks, an eye mask and some earplugs. The best bits were a miniature Clarins moisturiser and hand cream.
Air France business class food and drink
Before take-off I was given a glass of Pommery Brut Royal champagne. This technically sells for £40 but is regularly discounted to £30.
I had a second glass after take-off and it came with a pack of ‘Crepes Fourrees’. These are essentially crispy tubes stuffed with cheese – it was a novelty to me, but a pleasant change to the usual post take-off nibble.
Air France works with Anne-Sophie Pic on selected food items, a partnership which has beeen running for many years now. Pic runs the acclaimed restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel at Tower Hill and back in 2019 (I can’t find more recent data) was the only female chef in the world with three Michelin stars.
With a 1.45pm departure time, there was no doubt that we would be getting a lunch menu.
First up was this appetizer of shrimp tartare and pea cream with lemon and ginger:
I was quite impressed with it – it was something different with a good mix of flavours. It came with a small baguette, butter and a side salad, and I ordered some more champagne.
I chose, as my main course, “poultry and poulette sauce with tonka bean, creamy polenta with mushrooms”. All four mains came from Anne-Sophie Pic and so come with sort of twist on standard airline food.
I admit that this doesn’t look too great in the photo, but it was very well put together by someone who understood how to mix flavours and textures that work well at altitude.
The other three options were:
- beef cheek and coffee pot-au-feu, and a sweet onion consomme
- pollock with seaweed, lovage sauce, spinach and fennel compote
- conchiglie pasta, Swiss chard and lemon coulis, creamy lightly smoked ash-coated goat’s cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds
Nothing straightforward here! To be fair, my son – as picky as your standard 11 year old – had the same chicken dish as I did, thought the polenta was mashed potato and declared himself happy.
Dessert was listed as ‘vanilla cream puff by Philippe Urraca, morello cherry clafoutis tart, Opera cake’, to which you could add sorbet and desert wine if you wished (so I did!):
There was also a cheese course which I passed on.
Before landing there was a light snack, which was an improvement on what I received four years ago when I last took this flight. It was described as a ‘puff pastry bun with curd cheese, smoked salmon and vegetable julienne’, with a desert of ‘red berry coulis on plain thick yoghurt’ and a ‘crunchy vanilla cream puff’:
It certainly beat the British Airways long haul ‘afternoon tea’. If I’m honest, I preferred the simpler chicken goujon roll which I was served as a second meal on Virgin Atlantic when I flew to New York two weeks ago.
Air France IFE
Regular HfP readers will know that I am not an fan of IFE. My idea of a good flight is to collect together all of the magazines that are sitting around my house unread and to plough through them in one multi-hour session!
For research purposes I did try out the IFE. The English-language selection was weak – not surprising, given that I imagine a large percentage of Air France flights are between two non-English speaking countries – but the TV was a decent size given that it is fairly close to your face.
The most recent film I could find was ‘Elvis’, but it’s not exactly been a vintage few months in your local cinema either. As often happens, the TV series available are just a selection of random episodes, eg just three episodes of ‘Friends’. In fact, everything seemed to be capped at three episodes.
The TV is angled away from you when stowed, as you can see below, but pops out on a hinge when you want to watch:
The headphones were good with one quirk – they are hard-wired into the red storage cupboard next to the seat. There was also a small screen on the remote control for anyone who wanted to watch on that instead:
Air France business class – the conclusion
I enjoyed my Air France business class flight, as I did when I last flew it four years ago. The seat size and privacy, combined with the high quality food, made the seven hour flight time whizz by.
The seat continues to hold up well in a world of doors and half-doors, and I would have no problem flying this on a longer trip or overnight. The only issue with Air France is ensuring that your aircraft has this seat – or the brand new version with a door – and not the older angled lie-flat version. The A350 fleet is definitely OK, and with the A380 fleet gone the number of aircraft with the angled seats is much reduced.
Air France and KLM – I still need to try KLM long-haul business class – have been a great addition to Virgin Flying Club. Even with Virgin Atlantic joining the SkyTeam alliance in January, I imagine that the existing joint venture partners – KLM, Air France and Delta – will still make up the bulk of redemptions.
You can find out more about Air France long haul business class on the Air France website here – oddly the site shows the old angled lie-flat seat.