I checked in online the day before my flight via the Air France mobile app I downloaded to my phone. I selected the seats I wanted (for free) and saved the boarding passes for both my London-Paris and Paris-Washington DC flights in the Apple Passbook app. Business class passengers can take two pieces of hand-luggage plus two in the hold, while first class passengers can take two as hand luggage and three in the hold.
My flight was departing London Heathrow Terminal 4 at 0620 so I had to get up early to arrive at the airport by taxi from East London at 0450. I found my way to check-in zone F, where there were two desks (F87 and F88) for premium passengers open. There was a ten-minute wait for the two or three people in front of me to be processed but I was then seen to immediately.
I had my one suitcase weighed, priority tagged and through-checked to DC. I was also issued with a single paper boarding pass for the two flights. I made my way to fast-track security, about a minute away, helping myself to a free plastic bag for liquids en route. There were no other passengers so I was through quickly (laptops out, jackets off).
Air France passengers can use the Skyteam lounge a few minutes away, to the right as you emerge from security. This is a two-floor facility with a VIP room on the upper level but as breakfast was being served downstairs, everyone was found at tables down here. Laid out on counters in the dining area were hot scrambled eggs, sausages (including veggie ones), beans, roast potatoes, tomatoes, bread, waffles and croissants.
There were self-serve soft drinks, coffees, champagne, wine and spirits – staff are around to help and clean up. Facilities here include showers, a spa (although this wasn’t open when I visited), lots of magazines and newspapers including The Times, and a living wall of plants. I left the lounge at 0545 to nip to Boots on the way to the gate before boarding.
Gate 15, a three-minute walk from the Skyteam lounge, opened at 0550. I got there at 0555 and passengers were called for boarding shortly after. Passports and boarding passes were checked and there was a separate lane for priority customers. Boarding was via an airbridge to the front of the plane – not many people had chosen to reserve a business class seat on this short hop so I was just one of three people in the nine-row cabin. Crew were very welcoming.
On this A320 there were nine rows of business class separated from economy by a moveable curtain. Although seating throughout the aircraft is 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F), middle seats (B and E) in business class are blocked off, so are effectively 2-2. They look stylish, in navy leather with red leather headrest covers, and red and white cushions. Each has fold-out tray tables with cup holders and jacket hooks.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Seats in row one offer the most legroom as they are behind the bulkhead. Sitting nearer the front means you will get served first and disembark quicker.
The plane pushed back at 0621 and made a slow trundle to the runway. Once a couple of aircraft had been given priority to land, we made our way into position and then fired up the engines. Take-off was at 0630. I nodded off for 20 minutes and when I awoke there was a breakfast tray on the table next to me.
It was a decent offering – a cheese scone with a few slices of cured meat, a pot of fromage frais with some mango compote, a mini jar of French orange marmalade, and a selection of warm croissants and rolls brought around in a basket. I asked for a cup of tea that came in a white china mug. Cutlery was full size and metal. There wasn’t much time to eat as the cabin was soon prepared for landing with trays cleared at 0707.
I had to stop working on my laptop at 0710 (0810 local time). Landing at Paris CDG Terminal 2E was at 0820. As the scheduled flight time is one hour 20 minutes, we landed 20 minutes early. After a five-minute taxi and a few minutes’ wait for disembarkation, passengers were allowed to exit the plane from the front. As my onward connection was in first class, a member of Air France staff (Vanessa) was waiting for me on the airbridge to escort me to the lounge.
Vanessa took me down to the ground in a private lift and then showed me to an awaiting BMW, which she drove a few minutes through the airport complex to the entrance of the La Premiere first class lounge. Once inside, there was an ID check (no need for X-ray scanning). I was advised that I would be met again at 1240 to be taken to the plane for my onward journey. By this point it was 0850 local time so I had about 3.5 hours to enjoy the facilities.
Although this is a short journey and doesn’t necessarily warrant flying in business class, the value comes from being able to begin the day with a good breakfast in the Skyteam lounge (or on the plane), and a stress-free, productive journey without the need to queue or worry about how much baggage you’re allowed to take. For business travellers facing a day of meetings, this can be worth the extra cost.
PRICE Internet rates for a return flight from London to Paris in April started from £427 in business class.