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We quickly made our way down the empty jet bridge and boarded the 777-300 aircraft. Friendly flight attendants greeted us in French and English upon boarding and directed us to our seats. We enviously walked through an empty first class cabin with big, plush leather seats. I would have redeemed for first class, except that Delta does not allow for international first class redemptions- and even Air France only lets their elites redeem for first at highly inflated levels. I suppose this restriction is in place because Delta does not have an international first class product; however, that does not stop Continental, whose OnePass program allows first class redemptions on all Star Alliance partners- even though Contintental does not have an international first class cabin. However, as described here, I got this whole trip for 120,000 Delta miles, so I am not going to dwell on the fact that I only got business class. I fully understand how fortunate I am to travel in the business class cabin, considering I am 6’7â€ and riding in coach, even in an exit row, can be brutal for extended amounts of time.
This was my first time on Air France and I was immediately impressed by the clean and modern cabin of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The Affaires (business) class cabin is in a 2, 3, 2 configuration, meaning 2 seats on each side and 3 in the middle. The color theme is a navy blue and cream and the seats are all
new pod-style angled lie-flats. This means that you only see a shell in front of you and you cannot tell when the person in front of you reclines. The cloth seats were comfortable and there was a hanger on each seat which was pre-marked with your seat number. This helped streamline the boarding process and once the entire cabin was settled in and the doors were closed, flight attendants came around the cabin with hot towels and then trays of orange juice and champagne. This approach differs from some carriers who provide pre-departure drinks during the boarding process.
Contrary to what I’ve read about Air France flight attendants, our service was phenomenal. I guess it helps that my partner speaks fluent French, but they didn’t ridicule me when my elementary French came out butchered. In fact, they even continued to speak to me in French, when many people would switch to English.
Before I knew it, glasses were collected and we were ready for takeoff. The weather was clear and sunny, so there wasn’t a huge line waiting to takeoff, which was nice for a change, since I’ve sat on JFK’s runways for hours at a time (like the last British Airways flight I took). Takeoff was smooth and within 5 minutes, the captain turned off the seat belt sign. This is a fun feature of flying foreign carriers- I feel like US carriers keep the seat belt sign on forever- up to an hour at times. This allows the flight attendants to prep dinner service, which is very much appreciated on a 9:30pm departure flight. Menus were distributed-
Gourmet Appetizer- Maine lobster, wasabi mayonnaise and mango salad
Plat du Jour- Grilled fillet of salmon with barbecue sauce and rice wine vinegar, wasabi basmati rice and Asian-style green beans
Dessert- Berry tartlet
I decided to go with the beef and my partner got the salmon. The appetizer was absolutely delicious- by far the best first course I’ve had on an airline. The lobster was fresh and the wasabi mayonnaise just the right amount of savory heat.
The beef was just okay- I’ve had much better, specifically on Delta’s JFK-LAX business elite service. The potatoes and vegetables were a bit salty like most airline food.
After dinner, I wanted to get as much sleep as possible, so I immediately extended the bed into sleep mode and changed into pajamas (I hate sleeping in jeans). For me, being 6’7â€, this setup is not the most comfortable, since I cannot stretch fully out and I felt like I was sliding. For me, the only way to avoid the sliding feeling was to sleep on my side, which was slightly uncomfortable since the seat is not padded thickly enough. However it didn’t really matter, because my trusty Lunesta kicked in and I was about to get almost 5 hours of decent sleep.
Breakfast service began about 45 minutes before arrival. It was a continental breakfast, which I didn’t realize. I just chose one croissant when the cart came through, not realizing that would be it. However, I wasn’t hungry and we were landing in Paris, so I knew my culinary needs would be taken care of for the next 3 days.
Landing at CDG was smooth and taxi to the gate took about 10 minutes. Once at the gate, we were one of the first people off the plane, and once again got to admire the first class cabin. Customs was completely empty and a carefree border agent just looked at our passports and waved up through- no forms necessary at all.
At baggage claim, the timer said we’d have to wait 20 minutes, but after 5 minutes, the bell rang and baggage started coming out. Our priority bags were on the belt in minutes and we were off to take the RER into the city to the Park Hyatt Vendome- which will be outlined in the next installment of this report here.
Overall, I was impressed with Air France, but not blown away. The lie-flat seat is probably very comfortable for most people under 6’2, but being 6’7″, I felt cramped and if I was sliding. Food choices were minimal and if it were not for the delicious lobster appetizer, would have been sub-par all around. Service was friendly, though you can tell the difference when you are on a 4-class carrier and not in the top class of service. The service attentive, professional and quick, which is all I can ask for on an east-bound transatlantic flight. Overall, I was able to arrive in Paris somewhat rested- something that never happens when flying coach long haul.