CHECK-IN Air France offers first class (La Première) on 28 routes served by its A380s and B777-300ERs. To test it, I flew business from London to Paris Charles de Gaulle then overnight to Hong Kong. I arrived at CDG’s Terminal 2E at about 2015, five minutes later than scheduled. An employee was waiting on the airbridge and accompanied me through a side door down some steps and into a car, which drove me to the La Première lounge. I went through security then up a lift to reach it.
THE LOUNGE This is an impressive, serene place that may change in atmosphere depending on how full it is. It’s very large, with lots of cream leather. Clever strands of fibre optic cable delineate different parts of the lounge and sway like long grass if anyone passes by. The lighting is rather dim – you would want to be under one of the ceiling spotlights for reading. I sat in a corner by a plug to work, and asked for a glass of champagne, which came in the smallest flute I have ever seen. The brand was Alain Ducasse, a chef rather than a winemaker – the waitress told me it was not vintage but was made by Lanson for Ducasse. There was an à la carte menu but I intended to eat on board, so asked for a selection of charcuterie and cheese from the buffet. There is a spa, for which you have to pre-book. On the return journey I made sure to, and enjoyed a free 30-minute back massage.
BOARDING I chose to board late and was taken down in the lift to a waiting car, which drove me to the aircraft. I then walked upstairs to the airbridge. On board, I found my seat, 1A. My jacket was hung for me and I was offered juice, water or champagne.
THE SEAT The first class cabin on the B777-300ER comprises eight leather seats in a 1-2-1 layout (see seat plan here). Each has an ottoman that makes up the lower third of the bed when the seat is fully reclined. The ottoman is large enough for someone to sit on and has a drawer underneath storing a blanket and slippers. I was given a lovely sleep suit and an amenity kit with Clarins products. The table is large and good for working on (there is European and US in-seat power).
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Couples should go for the two centre seats; solo travellers the window ones. There is no noise from the business cabin, so meal preparation in the galleys is the only possible disruption – on this flight it was minimal.
THE FLIGHT We set off at 2325 and the meal service began soon after the seatbelt sign went out. Dishes were listed on an elegant white menu, which gave the air of being in a fine-dining restaurant. To start, the options were grilled mixed vegetables or duck foie gras (I had the vegetables, which was fine, if a little bland). Beef consommé with black trumpet mushrooms was then served, followed by sautéed langoustine tails or poached sea bass with shellfish sauce, and a selection of cheeses and desserts. I found the langoustines almost inedible – each was very hard and chewy. The cheeses were much better, and snacks were also available.
The wine selection was extremely limited for a first class long-haul service, with only one dry white – a burgundy (Pouilly-Fuissé vieilles vignes Château-Fuisse 2007). The champagne was Gosset Cuvée Célébris 1998, while the other white was semi-sweet – Cadillac Château Reynon 1996 or Denis et Florence Dubourdieu 1988. The reds were Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 2006 or Delas Frères 2007, or Bordeaux Pauillac Château Lynch Bages 2007, Grand Cru Classé. I changed into the sleep suit and an attendant offered to make up my bed, asking if I wished to be woken for breakfast. I had no trouble sleeping but didn’t find the bed particularly comfortable – with the large back cushion ending up halfway down the bed, it felt like there was a large ridge running horizontally. About 90 minutes before landing, breakfast was served.
ARRIVAL We landed at 1755 and were quickly off the aircraft. There were long queues at immigration but I have the e-channel sticker on my passport. The bags were quickly on the carousel.
VERDICT A lot to praise – the staff, one of the best lounges I have experienced, and the personal attention at Air France’s hub – but I was disappointed by the bed, which wasn’t that comfortable, and the food and wine.
- PLANE TYPE B777-300ER
- SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
- SEAT WIDTH 24in/61cm
- SEAT LENGTH 79in/200cm
- PRICE Internet rates for a return first class flight from London to Hong Kong via Paris in March started from £7,530.
- CONTACT airfrance.co.uk