Tried & Tested

Air France B777-200 Affaires (business class)

26 Jan 2012 by Tom Otley

CHECK-IN I arrived at Hong Kong International airport at 0845 for my 1055 departure on flight AF183 to Paris Charles de Gaulle. I had checked in online and dropped off my bags in the City Centre Airport Express station, so only had hand luggage. There was a short queue at security, and I then walked to the Air France lounge at Gate 60 (there is a shuttle service available on the lower level as this is a long walk).

THE LOUNGE It wasn’t crowded, though I imagine it fills up for the 2335 departure. There was a selection of hot and cold food, and I used the free wifi until the flight was called.

BOARDING Business passengers have priority boarding so I was straight on to the aircraft by the front doors, with economy flyers using a different entrance. A hanger for my coat was waiting on my seat, and it was then secured in a wardrobe. I was offered champagne, juice or water.

THE SEAT I was in 1B, at the front of the business cabin on this B777-200. The configuration was 2-3-2 across five rows, with a galley and washroom separating it from premium economy. The cabin was smart with a dark blue carpet and pale shell seats with grey armrests. Since I was in the front row, the seat had a footrest but in the other rows people placed their feet on the edge of an alcove below the seat in front (Air France terms this “an integrated fixed footrest” offering “a more stable sleeping position”). The seats don’t have much storage space but in the front row there is a magazine rack on the bulkhead wall.

There is an amenity bag tucked away in a small gap between the seats, where you could keep a paperback book, and another small area under the armrest containing Sennheiser headphones and a small bottle of water. This was a little dusty, I found, and I had to clean the headphones before I put them on. The in-flight entertainment screen was larger than I expected, at 10.5 inches. The seat has a number of preset positions and is easy to raise and lower. It also has an adjustable headrest. Fully reclined, the bed is of the angled lie-flat variety rather than fully-flat. The table is a good size and stayed firm when I used it for dining and working. There is a power socket between each seat. The amenity kit contained socks, an eye mask, earplugs, a shoe bag and shoe horn, earphone covers, a toothbrush, a comb and a Clarins skincare product.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I’d avoid the aisle seats, since the walkway is quite narrow – you can touch the seat across it without leaning sideways. I found that as people walked up and down they would brush against me, and anything on the edge of my table risked being swept on to the floor. While the light colour scheme and modern fittings help to reduce feelings of claustrophobia, it can be a tight squeeze, though the shell structure – which you recline into – gives more privacy than some competitors.

THE FLIGHT Since this was a day flight and I only wanted to nap rather than sleep, I was looking forward to the food selection. This comprised an amuse bouche, a starter of Parma ham, grilled vegetables and shrimp, and a choice of four mains – pan-seared fillet of beef with a brandy and herb jus, fillet of ling fish with lemon thyme cream sauce, artichoke hearts and eggplant with basil and bell pepper coulis, and roasted char sui pork. There was also a selection of cheeses and desserts.

The wine menu listed two reds, one white (Alsace Blanc Pinot Gris Réserve 2006, Maison Trimbach) and one champagne (Duval-Leroy Brut). Incredibly, there was none of the white on board (it was used up on the flight out, apparently), and no substitute. Instead, I tried the reds, a Mercurey 2008 by Antonin Rodet and a Haut-Médoc Château de Carmensac 2007, both of which were lovely. In the galley there were snacks and drinks. The seat power functioned without a hitch, so I could work, and I also liked the AVOD (audio-video-on-demand)choice of films – perhaps there could have been more recent releases, but there was a very good selection of French and world cinema.

ARRIVAL The remainder of the flight passed without incident – apart from frequent warnings of turbulence – and we arrived early in the morning at Paris at 0545, ready for my transfer to London.

VERDICT The cabin is smart, the service good and the food not at all bad, but it was unbelievable that there was no white wine. While the seat is new, it is angled lie-flat rather than fully-flat, which for many business travellers makes all the difference if they are paying the extra for a good night’s sleep. It is less noticeable on a day flight, however.

FACT FILE

  • PLANE TYPE B777-200
  • SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-3-2
  • SEAT WIDTH 21in/53cm
  • SEAT LENGTH 79in/200cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Hong Kong via Paris in March started from £2,280.
  • CONTACT airfrance.co.uk

Tom Otley

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