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Air France offers solid value and great availability for those booking with Flying Blue miles. The Pros: A true lie-flat seat, aisle access, good food and excellent in-flight entertainment options. The Cons: narrow seats, no Wi-Fi and no hot food offerings in the lounge.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card® from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
While Paris (CDG) to New York (JFK) may sound like an extremely glamorous route, it’s served by a lot of subpar planes and products. On the lower side, you’ve got La Compagnie and its angle-flat seats on the 757, as well as Air France’s A380, which probably has the second-worst product out there — a result of angle-flat seats and no direct-aisle access. American Airlines flies 757s, as does Delta; I flew on the 777, which has a herringbone set-up and a configuration that’s not ideal because it’s not private and you’re exposed to the aisle.
Even though my business-class flight to Paris on Delta’s 777-200 wasn’t in the most spacious seat, it’s still one of the best ways to fly between New York and Paris. I’ve flown Air France’s first class La Première product on the A380 and 777 and loved both flights, so I was excited to try out the carrier’s lie-flat business product. Today, we present a full review of Air France’s option on this route: the Boeing 777-200.
To book this flight, I instantly transferred 62,500 Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue, Air France and KLM’s frequent flyer program. This got me a one-way ticket in Air France business class, a pretty good redemption considering a one-way flight usually goes for several thousand dollars. I did have to pay $326 in taxes and fees on this award ticket, but since I used my Platinum Card from American Express, I ended up earning 1,630 Membership rewards points, worth $31 according to my most recent valuations, because of the 5x points bonus you get for booking directly with the airline.
There are several other ways to book a flight like this, such as transferring points from Citi’s ThankYou points program to Flying Blue. If you have any ThankYou points lying around, I would definitely transfer those to Flying Blue over Membership Rewards — I say this because Amex has more transfer partners, especially ones that are more valuable, compared to Citi’s ThankYou program. You could also transfer Ultimate Rewards points from Chase to Flying Blue. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card are offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 within the first three months, respectively, so those could help get you close as well. Lastly, you can transfer SPG points to Flying Blue. For every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer to Flying Blue, you’ll get 5,000 bonus miles deposited in your account. Right now, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is offering a 75,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
Since I was booking this ticket just a few weeks from my travel dates, I saw round-trip flights going for about $7,500. In other words, one leg of my journey would have cost around $3,750, meaning I scored a value of about six cents per point by redeeming Membership Rewards points, a fantastic deal considering I usually count them at 1.9 cents apiece.
Check-In and Lounge
I took the 7:00pm flight from CDG to JFK, which allowed me to have an entire day in Paris and because it was an off-peak flight to the US — most leave earlier in the day — going through the airport was a breeze. Air France has a Sky Priority check-in lane so getting through immigration was easy as well.
The lounge was spacious and I had no trouble finding a seat although parts of it were being renovated when I was there.
The club is two stories, with lots of natural light, complimentary Wi-Fi and showers. Note that the lounge in Terminal E (which I was not in) also offers free spa treatments from Clarins, a luxury French skin care and cosmetics company.
At first, I thought the food offerings were a little sparse since there weren’t any hot items, just some salads — other Air France lounges in Terminal 2C, E and G do offer hot meals though.
The artichoke salad, pictured below on the right, was absolutely divine and was seriously the best lounge salad I’ve ever had in my life.
Champagne, vodka and wine were all available self-serve.
There was also a small variety of liquor to choose from.
I would have appreciated it if this lounge had the same Tattinger Champagne that’s served on board Air France flights, but I only saw Palmer & Co. Vintage 2009, which retails for about $50.
Pouilly-Fuissé, a white wine that originates in the Burgundy region of France and goes for around $25, was also available.
Cabin and Seat
The plane I flew was a 777-200 with no La Première first class cabin. According to Airfleets.net, it was delivered in 2001 and has only been operated by Air France. If you’re flying in business class, Air France does offer paid upgrades to La Première (on planes that have it) that’ll cost around $700 or more. You can ask about that when you check in at the lounge — the staff said they generally offer them.
I would not recommend choosing the last seat in the cabin. As you can see below, it doesn’t have two windows like all the other seats. For the most part, though, all the other seats are the same.
The middle two seats are great for couples traveling together.
The aircraft contains 40 lie-flat business-class seats, with 28 in the forward cabin, where I was seated in 6E. Behind that was another cabin with 12 more business-class seats, while farther back are 24 premium economy seats and 216 economy seats.
Every seat in business class had direct-aisle access, meaning you don’t have to climb over a sleeping seat-mate if you want to get up during the flight or have someone crawling over you.
The seat itself was very narrow. SeatGuru says they’re 21.5 inches wide, but when I pulled out my tape measure, it seemed to be only 19 inches wide, the same width as a seat in premium economy.
I could not sit shoulder to shoulder since it was so narrow so I had to sleep on my side as you see can see in the photo, below. Business-class seats have 61 inches of pitch and when you transform them into the lie-flat position, you end up with 77 inches of bed space.
The flight was pretty cold the whole time, which I liked. On my Delta flight to Paris it was 76°F, which was a little too warm for me.
The amenity kit I received was pretty simple and included all the usual suspects for personal grooming and hygiene, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, comb, chapstick and lotion.
A 16″ touch screen housed our in-flight entertainment system, which allowed me to choose from a good mix of American and foreign movies, TV shows, games and a cool interactive map. The carrier also updates its programming every month.
The noise-cancelling headphones were probably a little higher quality than you’ll find in most business-class cabins, but still weren’t as nice as the Bose ones I received on American Airlines.
There was a little storage unit that was just big enough to fit my Macbook Air.
Another compartment held magazines and water, while each seat came with a standard universal power outlet and a USB port.
Food and Beverage
I started the flight off right with a glass of Champagne.
A selection of wines were also available, one red blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault) from the Rhône Valley, a 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Eyglières. The other is a blend from Bordeaux (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) — a 2012 Haut Médoc Château Paloumey. Air France provided two whites, including a 2014 Albert Bichot Chablis Domaine Long Depaquit made from Chardonnay grapes. Additionally, there was a 2014 Fournier Pere & Fils Les Deux Cailloux Pouilly-Fumé made with Sauvignon grapes.
And for the Champagne, Air France offered Taittinger Brut Reserve, which goes for around $45 a bottle on the ground.
Air France offers meals by Michelin-starred chefs on trips departing from Paris. Mine were inspired by Thierry Desseauve, with help from sommelier Paolo Basso. On flights departing from the US and Canada that are heading to France, you’ll be served meals designed by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. Here’s a look at the menu I received on my flight:
- Mise En Bouche
- Green and white asparagus with orange vinaigrette, smoked duck breast
- Apricot glazed foie gras square, tonnato sauce, poached shrimp
- Chopped pistachios and cucumber pickles with mixed green salad, toasted pine nuts
- Carrot and coriander soup
- Lamb Stew with its sauce. Medley of green vegetables, snow peas and carrots
- Poultry glazed with citrus honey and rare peppers, caramelized pineapple and mango, vegetable sticks
- Pollack, mussel jus with confit Menton lemon zest, stewed vegetables
- Ricotta, lemon and asparagus lasagna with sweet bell pepper and pineapple sauce
- Seasonal Salad
- Selection of gourmet cheeses
- Saint-Nectaire AOP, Chaource AOP
- Chocolate and caramel baton cake
- Ice cream or sorbet
- Fresh fruit salad
- Light Snacks
- Savory treats: Goat’s cheese clafoutis tart, chicken tortilla, tomato, mozzarella and black olive skewer, pickled red onions
- Caramelized apple compote
- Verrine with strawberry and basil coulis, apricot shortbread biscuit, vanilla choux pastry
- Small bowl of vanilla ice cream
My pre-flight snack was pretty tasty.
I began with an appetizer of apricot-glazed foie gras with tonnato sauce and poached shrimp.
I got fish and mussels with vegetables for my main course.
For dessert, I started with the fresh fruit salad.
Later, the flight attendant brought me a snack plate with a goat-cheese clafoutis tart; chicken tortilla; a skewer with tomato, mozzarella and black olive; and pickled red onions with caramelized apple compote.
There was also a snack basket in the galley with lemon shortbread cookies.
Chocolates and other sweet treats were available as well.
You could also help yourself to more drinks, including Champagne, if you so pleased.
In all, I thought Air France offered a solid experience, although as a business-class flight it does not stand out — and the seats were a bit tight. Note that if you have broad shoulders or are pretty tall, you might find the seat uncomfortable. That said, it’s still got a fully lie-flat seat compared to a lot of other transatlantic options and is much cheaper than Delta when you’re using SkyMiles — I coughed up 175,000 miles on the way over, but with Air France, you’ll get a good value using Flying Blue miles with a decent seat, tasty food, great IFE options and an acceptable lounge. Overall, it’s a solid option if you want to hop the pond and get back to New York well-rested.
Have you flown in business class aboard Air France’s 777-200? Tell us about your experience, below.