Air France Business Class Review – AF #9 JFK-CDG
First stop on our whirlwind, nostalgia-inspired tour of France & Italy (index here) was our flight from New York-JFK to Paris-CDG. I was able to find low-level award space using Delta SkyMiles for the flight (which is a feat in and of itself), but throw in the fact that I found Air France Business Class low-level award space using SkyMiles and it was downright impossible.
Nearly missing the flight
The trip really started for me about 2 or 3 days before takeoff as a winter storm was pummeling the Northeast. You see, because of Delta’s horrible award space availabilty, I booked the JFK-CDG, CDG-FLR and then VCE-JFK legs on the award ticket. To get from CHS-JFK-CHS, I bought cheap flights on JetBlue, which I would not recommend doing because of the anxiety it caused. We were scheduled to depart New York-JFK on March 7, and by March 5/6, the storm was pummeling the DC area and 1,800+ flights had been cancelled — mostly regional domestic flights. The problem with my booking is that if my JetBlue flight from CHS is cancelled but the Air France flight takes off as scheduled, then I’m left hanging high and dry. Similarly, if the JetBlue flight makes it but the Air France flight is canceled, then I’m stuck at JFK for at least 1-night. I called Delta to explore changing my flights, but they had not yet issued waivers for changes/cancellations so I was just stuck riding it out. If, however, I had booked it all on Delta and the CHS-JFK leg was cancelled, they would just auto rebook me on the next JFK-CDG flight–no big deal. I probably updated FlightAware 5 times/minute on our day of departure!
As our scheduled departure time neared, the JetBlue flight kept getting more and more delayed but it still appeared as if was going to make it back to JFK. The Air France flight, unfortunately in this case, was still showing an on-time departure. We were scheduled to arrive JFK at 8:00pm in Terminal 5, needed to collect bags, scurry over to Terminal 1, check-in for our Air France flights and then make it through security. I had determined it would be tight but doable–the last thing we had time built in for was a delay. Luckily the flight took off only about 1 hr late and we touched down JFK at 8:51pm, now really time to hustle!
We collected our bags and started running for the AirTrain. Fortunately, a train was queued up and we made it to Terminal 1 in no time at all. The Air France check-in lanes were already nearly deserted by both passengers and staff alike, a sign that we’re cutting it pretty close.
There were 3 separate check-in lanes for the different classes of service: La Première/First with one counter, Business with 5 counters and Economy with 10+ counters. The one perk of being really late to the party is that we cruised up to the Business/SkyPriority lane and were off to security in no time.
My memory might be escaping me, but the security line didn’t seem to have a separate lane for SkyPriority or premium class passengers, so we herded up with everyone else and started our lengthy wait.
Air France Lounge, JFK Terminal 1
Once through security, we were looking very good on time–still about 1.5 hours until departure! The Air France gates and lounge are very close to security, just hang a right in the terminal and you can’t miss it.
Featuring multilevel seating, the lounge had a very quiet, low-lit, comfortable atmosphere.
With the bottom level nearly full, we settled in upstairs to enjoy what little time we had in the lounge. McCown, per the usual program, requested a Bloody Mary–yes, at 11pm, only to wash it down with some champagne.
We found a selection of very French snacks–charcuterie, cheese, pickles (or cornichons if we’re getting technical here) and a few types of salad. Drinks were all serve yourself, open-bar style with all of the usual suspects and a few premium ones like Grey Goose etc…
Air France Flight 9 – JFK to CDG – Boeing 777-200
At about 10:45pm, we made our way towards the boarding gate, hopped in the SkyPriority/Premium cabin lane and headed off to our seats!
Boarding was quick and painless. We boarded at the 1st door along with First, Business and Premium economy, although in practice we could have boarded at the second door because Business class row 6 – 9 are aft of the galley.
Making our way back, we passed by the small La Première cabin–with just 4 seats total. To be honest, it didn’t look all that much better than Business (but maybe I’m just jealous since it’s unattainable with Delta SkyMiles).
The Business cabin has a total of 49 seats, 7 x 7 but divided by the galley and lavatory with 3 rows forward and 4 aft. The seats are angled lie-flat with a 61″ pitch. Here’s a poorly shot video of around our seat:
Settling in, there was more than enough space for all personal belongings thanks to the generously sized cubbies by our feet along with decent-sized LCD screens.
There was power at all seats in Business although it never seemed operational.
The Seat: While a good design, everything was feeling a little dated and rickety–the cabin had seen better days and it was starting to show. The “angled lie-flat” seats was just barely, hardly angled resulting in a very comfortable, nearly flat sleeping experience.
Eagerly awaiting our champagne (c’mon we paid good….points for this flight), the flight crew prepared the cabin for departure as we pushed back from the gate right on time at 11:30pm. We taxied back a few hundred feet and then stopped and waited for a few minutes. As trucks approached our plane, it became evident that we were about to be de-iced–if you’ll remember from the beginning of this post, we almost didn’t make it out of the US due to a grueling winter storm. It was my first flight experiencing a de-icing and it was pretty cool!
This little detour took about 1.5 hours from start to finish and we were airborne by 1am. The cabin crew wasted no time and quickly made their way through the cabin distributing menus and offering us pre-poured juice or champagne (is that a question?!).
According to the menu, dinner would consist of a Gourmet appetizer, choice of main course and a special selection of cheese and dessert. They also had a “Sur le pouce” selection which featured everything but the main course–an express meal of sorts. And, although that was advertised to be the exception, it was shaping up to be more of the rule on this flight as the flight crew quickly distributed food trays.
The Food: Overall, the food was excellent: a nice selection of cheeses, quality beef and good wines–what more could you ask for?
I accidentally ordered just the “Meal Express” which featured the gourmet appetizer of “Serrano ham, fish terrine, cream mayonaise with herbs.” The fish terrine and cream mayonaise tasted just like McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish (an all too frequent memory from childhood) but was good otherwise. I blame my taste aversion to McDonald’s for disliking it more than anything.
McCown (successfully) ordered off the real menu and got the “Pan seared tournedos of beef with Cafe de Paris butter, Bordeaux-style cepe mushrooms, mashed potatoes with basil.” The meat, served with traditional French multi-grain mustard, was amply salted and had a good flavor. Certainly better than anything in United’s transatlantic Business cabin.
Service: Despite seeming a bit rushed at times, the cabin crew did a great job. They were attentive, polite and very helpful. When I hesitated about which wine to order, one of the flight attendants poured me 3 glasses, insisting I sample each one as he described them–nothing like a wine tasting at 35k feet! I settled on the Burgundy, although they also had a delicious Bordeaux.
After a very quick and enjoyable meal, we prepared for a quick snooze:
About an hour before landing (and wayyy too soon after finally falling asleep), the cabin lights were back on for the Breakfast meal service.
We deplaned quickly and headed off to make our connection at the train station.
BOTTOM LINE: The quality of service in Air France’s Business class was superb. Even on a short flight like JFK-CDG (appx 6.5 hrs flying time), they don’t cut corners and provide a high quality meal and service. The flight was all the sweeter knowing that we had booked it with Delta SkyMiles.