Air France launched its new long-haul business class product on its Boeing 777-300 earlier this year, featuring the “three F”s – fully-flat, full aisle access and full privacy. It’s a major upgrade for the carrier and a very competitive transatlantic offering.
So far six of its 12 777s have been retrofitted with the new product, with the remaining six due to be complete by the end of the year at a total cost of €180 million.
Currently the upgraded product serves flights to New York JFK, Rio de Janeiro, Dakar and Johannesburg from Paris Charles de Gaulle, with upcoming destinations to include Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.
The carrier has also announced it will be introducing a new La Première (first class) product this year, with details yet to be released.
I arrived at JFK Terminal 1 at 1420 for the 1730 flight AF15 to Paris. The Air France check-in counters were directly in front of the entrance and there was a short queue in both Sky Priority and normal counters. Air France escorted us to a private expedited security lane (open 9am-10pm, US$35, reserve via flyvipone.com) and I was airside by 1445. Laptop and shoes had to be removed, but there was no need to remove liquids.
The Air France lounge is located by Gate 1 – a two-minute walk from security. It is a bright and airy split-level space (open 9.30am-midnight) with plenty of table-seating, although it did get busy and most were occupied. There was a selection of hot and cold dishes that were refreshed regularly, plus wine, Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut and Heineken beer.
The highlight of the lounge is the Clarins Spa, which opened at JFK in November 2022, where you can enjoy a range of 20-minute relaxing treatments in two beauty rooms (“Jet Lag Relief,” “Detox time” or “Eye-Must” treatments). La Première (first class) passengers can reserve these in advance, or they can be booked at the reservation desk on a first-come-first-serve basis for business and Flying Blue Elite Plus passengers.
We arrived at the gate at 1645 and boarding commenced immediately. After settling into my seat, cabin crew brought round a choice of orange juice or water, though Champagne was strangely not part of the initial welcome offering (it was offered as part of a refreshment service later at 1830). Boarding was completed by 1720 and we pushed back at 1730, before taking off at 1755. A seatbelt-style belt is required for take-off and landing in addition to the normal waist restraint.
The business class cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone formation with 48 seats split across two cabins. I was in seat 14H at the back of the business class cabin.
The new cabin is smart and elegant, adhering to an Air France colour scheme of navy blue and white with discreet touches of red. From the front, the white compartment, cabin walls and ceiling offer a bright entrance, while from behind, dark blue compartment backs create a cosier environment. Dark blue carpets features a traditional herringbone pattern, modelled on Parisian apartments, while Air France’s seahorse logo is subtly backlit.
There is plenty of overhead storage space, with the central divider fairly high creating a spacious feel.
As mentioned, key highlights of the new product are a fully-flat bed at almost two-metres long, direct aisle access for each passenger, and full privacy thanks to a sliding compartment door which ensures other passengers are out of sight.
At the same time, Air France has also worked to ensure passengers travelling together can do so in comfort, with the middle row featuring a fully retractable divider screen that can be lowered throughout the flight. According to the airline, passenger satisfaction of the new seats has seen a drastic improvement of 50 percentage points.
The seat itself is made from French leather, brushed aluminium and wool, and was very comfortable with soft padding. It came with a soft medium-blue microfibre pillow and blanket and a hangar for coats and jackets. These can be self-labelled with your seat number to ensure it’s easy for cabin crew to return such items.
Overall, the compartment felt very spacious, even with all the privacy screenings up. It has also been redesigned to offer more storage. Under the seat there is a large footwell to store small bags during take off, which is quite deep and comes with a light to ensure you don’t leave anything – though this is also the foot well for when you recline into a bed and would need to remove any items here in order to fit comfortably.
There is a large fixed surface area to one side of the seat, which was very handy to store things on, including laptops or finished meal trays. At the end of this surface area were a selection of pre-set controls to adjust the seat positions, which can be paused mid-movement to achieve the exact position required. There is also a ‘do not disturb’ feature is also available, which appears on the outside of a compartment, informing the crew that the passenger wishes to rest. An adjustable table slides out from underneath this with a clever off-centre fold design that improved stability. This could also be slid back and forth slightly.
There is another small storage by your feet for magazines or small items, where the safety card is stowed along with a bottle of water and a universal laptop socket.
A side compartment, emblazoned with an illuminated seahorse logo, included headphones, IFE remote, a mirror, and space to store small items. The inside is handsomely decked out in a caramel leather. A personal light is located next to this, with different intensity options.
In terms of tech, the new business class has an impressive offering. First off, there are wireless charging ports at each seat for devices such as phones, which are located on the side table and worked efficiently throughout the flight.The seat also features USB A and C ports and a laptop socket.
A 17.3-inch 4K IFE screen has an anti-glare screen and excellent noise-cancelling headphones. Bluetooth connectivity has also been added so customers can use their own devices. More than 350 films are available, including a large selection of French movies, as well as TV series, documentaries, music and podcasts plus a new wellbeing selection, and the entertainment system comes in 12 languages. The screen could be controlled by touchscreen or a handheld device (which also had a touchscreen control) and was useful when in the reclined position and during meal service.
The cabin is also wifi connected, with four passes available, including a free option to send and receive messages or three paid options for more intense internet usage: Surf 1 hour €8; Surf Fully Flight €18; or Stream Full Flight €30. I used the full flight package and was impressed with the connection, which allowed me to email seamlessly and watch some content on Youtube.
One thing I found was the transition of the sliding compartments was a little troublesome – I was not able to close my privacy door and it required the help of two flight attendants. Likewise the central compartment required a few attempts to figure out the release mechanism.
During the beginning and end of the flight, LED lights delivered a charming “red, white and blue” hue to the cabin, mimicking the French flag, while these were darkened for periods of rest.
Large menus were brought round at 1805, printed in both French and English, along with amenity kits and a hot towel.
The amenity kits came in a lovely navy pouch that mimicked the herringbone design of the carpet, and are made from 96 per cent recyclable materials. The contents included a pair of navy socks, sleeping mask and ear plugs. There was also a toothbrush and toothpaste, pen, Clarins face moisturiser and lip balm.
Menu options comprised of a duck foie gras starter (no default vegetarian option), with Armagnac, pear jelly, quinoa and a vegetable medley.
Main dishes included braised beef with thyme sauce, duck confit gratin with a foie gras sauce, sautéed shrimp with vanilla beurre blanc sauce, and a mushroom risotto with chestnut cream, This was followed by a cheese selection and a dessert of opera cake, raspberry crumble and pistachio macarons.
There was also an Express dinner option which included a selection of cold dishes (starter, cheese and dessert) for those wanting to maximise sleep time.
The wine selection included an introduction from Sommelier Paulo Basso with two whites, two reds and a Pommery Brut Royal champagne. There was also a selection of soft drinks, aperitifs and hot drink options (including both Nescafe and Illy coffee options).
I had already selected my meal via a pre-flight email service that has recently been introduced. Air France said it has introduced this feature to ensure passengers can guarantee their first choice and to reduce wastage. Meals can be selected from two weeks until 24 hours before departure. I chose the beef which was fairly tasty, though a little on the dry side.
Flights departing from Paris can look forward to a new dining experience featuring cuisine created in partnership with leading French chefs who have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants (including Régis Marcon, Anne-Sophie Pic and Michel Roth). While this is currently restricted to flights departing Paris, the airline hopes to roll out the new culinary experience to other outports in due course.
At 1830 refreshment drinks were brought round with some snacks, and 10 minutes later the meal service began. However, the main course was not delivered until 1920, and cleared at 2000 – with just 4.5 hours left of the flight. I would have preferred a quicker service in order to get some more rest.
I noted that cabin crew defaulted to speaking French to passengers repeatedly, even when such passengers (such as myself) had shown they weren’t able to speak French. While the service was very friendly, I found the language barrier slightly disorienting for an international carrier departing the US.
Lights were dimmed five minutes after trays had been cleared. One thing I found was the overhead personal lights were quite bright, and I felt a little disturbed by lights of the passengers in front of me.
During a trip to the bathroom I found they were equipped with Clarins moisturising lotion and cotton pads, which was useful.
A light continental breakfast menu was served about an hour before landing, with fresh fruit juice, coffee, tea and hot chocolate, with bread and breakfast pastries, yogurt and fresh fruit salad. The menu indicated this could be supplemented with a hot dish of cheese omelet, spinach and potatoes, though this was not offered to me verbally during the flight.
Again, an express “Cafe Comptoir” version is available until 30 minutes before landing with a tea, coffee and breakfast pastry option.
We landed on time 0640, followed by a short taxi and were airside by 0650. I then navigated my way to 2E, Gate K via the automated people mover for a connecting flight to London.
I was very impressed with Air France’s new-generation business class. The individual compartments were both roomy and private and made for a very comfortable flight. The seat itself was comfortable and the tech offering was very impressive. The inflight catering, service and IFE options were also good – though I would like to try the upgraded meal service on flights departing Paris for the best experience.