We’ve really drawn the short straw when it comes to Business Class in Europe and North Africa, with the standard product being a variation on economy with a blocked middle seat. As such I wasn’t exactly overcome with excitement when boarding my first ever flight on Air France Business Class.
There’s no lounge to speak of in Tunis airport and fast track is only available when paying extra for a third party service.
The first indication we had that this was going to be a premium cabin experience is when Business Class passengers were called to board first at the gate, with agents ensuring that only those entitled to do so came forward.
Having grown very accustomed to BA’s Club Europe offering over the years, what first struck me about the Air France product is that they had gone one step below BA with their hard product. Air France – much like SWISS – doesn’t even block the empty middle seat with a tray table. It’s just… an empty seat. Exactly like in economy.
From a visual perspective the only discernible difference between this and economy is the red leather headrest with the word “Business” embossed onto it.
After take off, the curtains were drawn and printed menus were distributed. I was surprised to see that there is no choice of main course but with this being such a short flight that is somewhat forgivable.
Conversely I was very impressed to see Taittinger, a white Chablis and a Saint-Estephe red being offered. My expectations were high for the wines on France’s national carrier and I was not left disappointed!
I was very impressed when the meal tray arrived. The presentation is superb with small touches like the linen napkin wrapped in a grey ribbon, rounded serving dishes and of course an abundance of large prawns! Clearly the main course had been plated in a dish separate to the one it was heated in. This meant that there was no excess liquid and no obvious stains and marks on the dish like you so often get when plating isn’t a consideration.
The prawns were very fresh tasting and the spinach and quinoa were both perfectly cooked. The Saint Maure goat cheese is a real delicacy and puts the simple Cheddar on other carriers to shame. Whilst some may lament the lack of a more traditional dessert with sauce etc. I found the Paris-Brest pastry to be remarkably good. Of course this was all washed down with multiple glasses of Taittinger served ice cold from a large bottle.
I tried a little of Kamara’s and although I preferred my pastry I have to admit it was still really delicious.
This is a remarkably high end brand which we had otherwise only ever encountered at the Ritz Carlton in Kyoto. It certainly puts the ‘picnic cutlery’ on Qantas First Class into context.
The variety and quality of teas on offer was excellent, however my one disappointment with the catering came when I ordered an espresso. I was informed that only brewed Segafredo coffee was available. I was assured that they make it very strong and offered a small cup so that I could verify this for myself. Despite the fact that this wasn’t espresso, it was still orders of magnitude better than the brewed coffee I’ve experienced in any Business cabin with only JAL and Garuda’s personal cafetieres in First beating this in terms of non-espresso options.
Throughout the meal the service was polite, playful and proactive. It almost felt like we were enjoying a meal in a sunny Parisian bistro.
After we’d finished our coffees the crew came around to offer us bottled water and a very impressive basket of snacks.
Compared to BA Club Europe the service was a lot more relaxed and attentive (the passenger to crew ratio was much better on this flight than any that BA imposes on its staff and customers).
The food was absolutely delicious, presented in a very elegant fashion and accompanied with copious amounts of high quality champagne.
We arrived on time with devices that had more battery than when we boarded.
There honestly isn’t much more I could ask for in a sub 3 hour flight.