First impressions I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 at 0645 for my 0735 flight AF1781 to Paris CDG. It's probably the last time I'll fly with Air France from this terminal, as the carrier is moving to Terminal 4 at the end of October. As I was already checked in and travelling with hand luggage only, I went straight to security, which was quiet at this time of the morning. Boarding commenced at about 0715, and we were in the air at 0745.
The aircraft Air France is unusual in that it offers a three-class product on this short-haul flight – Voyageur (economy), Premium Voyageur (premium economy) and Affaires (business). The seat is the same throughout this Airbus A319 aircraft, but in Affaires the middle seat is kept free. On this flight the first ten rows were Affaires (with row ten being the emergency exit), followed by a curtain, then three rows of Premium Voyageur (11, 12 and 14), then another curtain, then eleven rows of Voyageur. For a seat plan of this aircraft, click here.
I sat in seat 14E in Premium Voyageur – note that in this case the seat is actually what was previously referred to as Tempo Challenge, rather than the new long-haul Premium Voyageur offering that Air France has recently introduced (see online news, September 23). There didn't seem to be a whole lot of benefits to the Premium Voyageur class on this flight, as the seat is exactly the same as in Voyageur, and you do not get the middle seat kept free as in Affaires. You also do not get lounge access as Affaires passengers do. The only advantage I could see other than greater ticket flexibility is that you get a meal – albeit an inferior one to Affaires passengers - while Voyageur customers only get a biscuit or snack (to see my return journey in Voyageur for more details, click here).
Where to sit? With only three rows in the Premium Voyageur class on this flight, there wasn't much to choose between them, although personally I would always go for an aisle seat, followed by the window, avoiding the middle whenever possible as you inevitably end up with encroaching elbows on both sides when the flight is full. This also applies to the Voyageur cabin, but not Affaires as the middle seat is kept free. If I had been in the Affaires cabin I would have opted for row 10 for the extra room provided by the emergency exit.
The flight The flight was pretty much full in all cabins. Drinks were served as soon as the seatbelt signs were turned off, along with a meal consisting of an open chicken and lettuce roll, a pot of fromage frais, another roll, butter and jam, and a carton of orange juice. The captain announced that owing to bad weather at Paris CDG we would be delayed in landing, but then about ten minutes later he said the holding time had been less than expected, and that we would land on time after all.
Arrival The fog was such that the runway couldn't be seen until just before we landed, but sure enough we touched down on time at 0950.
Verdict Good service, although I'm not convinced of the need for a three-class offering on such a short flight.