Tried & Tested

Air France B777-200ER business class

28 Aug 2014 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND

This was one of the first flights for the new business class cabin being retrofitted across Air France’s 44 B777-200ER and B777-300ER aircraft. It’s the first fully-flat business seat for the airline.

The roll-out will take two years, after which it will be installed on Air France’s A380s and A330s (the A340-300s will be retired). 

BOARDING

I had arrived on a connection from Heathrow for flight AF0008 to New York, departing from Gate K41. I boarded at about 1900.

THE SEAT

The three-class B777-200ER has two business cabins configured 1-2-1 (A, E-F, L), with rows one to seven in the front, and rows ten to 12 behind. There are only two washrooms for the two sections.

The second cabin is flexible – Air France intends to convert it into premium economy during the summer months.

There’s a lot to like about the seat. While it’s the same basic Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus product as used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines, Air France has customised it with the help of designer Mark Collins of Design Investment and agency Brandimage.

The footrest is much larger than on AA and Cathay, which makes a big difference when sleeping. An alcove allows room for your knees; turn over, and you have space towards the aisle. The aisle-side armrest also goes up and down.

The extra room to spread out in makes it equally good for a long day flight.

The 16-inch Panasonic in-flight entertainment (IFE) touchscreen pivots out from the seat in front and is easily reached when upright, although is difficult to watch when fully reclined.

here is also a large touchscreen handset that is quick to respond. In-seat power points accommodate international plugs. The noise-cancelling headphones are stored in a locker to one side, which can be used for extra storage, and the overhead bins are spacious.

The table is ingeniously designed, sliding out from a larger side table (which can hold your laptop when food is served). It folds out and is big enough to work on and still have room for a drink. You can come and go from your seat without lifting the meal tray, giving a real sense of freedom.

The seat itself is elegant with dark upholstery and blue leather arm and headrests.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

I don’t think there’s a bad seat, but I’d avoid rows one and seven because of their proximity to the galleys.

Window seats are all good, although row 12 has a slightly obscured view because of the engines. Window seats in row 11 are fine, but the overhead locker is partly used by cabin crew.

THE FLIGHT

After take-off I was given the new, stylish amenity bag, apparently inspired by the Air France Concorde pouch.

Starters for the meal included Thai-style vegetables and shrimp, and sautéed scallops with ras el-hanout spices, pasta salad, edible flower petals and foie gras terrine. Mains included pan-seared beef tenderloin with Béarnaise sauce, cod fillet with herb vinaigrette, and a dish by Michelin-starred chef Régis Marcon of steamed chicken with honey and soy sauce (subtle and delicious).

Service was from the front of the main business cabin so there was a considerable wait for passengers further back. There is an express menu.

Wines included Ayala Brut Majeur champagne; Louis Jadot, Mâcon-Villages 2011; Michel Chapoutier, Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2010; and Château de Camensac 2008, Fifth Grand Cru Classe.

For sleeping it would be good to have an under-blanket on the bed. I didn’t recline the arm, leaving it up to give protection from the aisle, but there was so much room I wasn’t bothered by any footfall.

On awaking I was served a light meal.

ARRIVAL

We left in the early evening and arrived at JFK on time.

VERDICT

Very good. A thoughtful adaptation of the Cirrus seat, with everything you could want for a long-haul flight in business – a comfy fully-flat bed, direct aisle access for all, lots of room to work and sleep, in-seat power and a good IFE system.

Air France regulars will be waiting impatiently for this product to appear on their flight.

FACT FILE

  • DEPARTURE TIME 1910
  • FLIGHT TIME 8hrs 5mins
  • AIRCRAFT TYPE B777-200ER
  • CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 20.5in/52cm (26.7in/68cm when fully reclined)
  • SEAT LENGTH 77.1in/196cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Paris to New York in October ranged between £2,084 and £3,632 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT airfrance.com


Tom Otley
 

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