REVIEW – Air France Business Class Lounge : Paris CDG – Terminal 2E – Hall LMarch 15, 2020
REVIEW – China Southern International Sky Pearl VIP Lounge : Guangzhou CAN T2March 19, 2020
Air France (AF)
- Flight: AF 86
- Class: Business Class
- From: Paris (CDG)
- To: Guangzhou (CAN)
- Duration: 11h35m
- Aircraft: B777-200
- Seat: 7L
- Frequent Flyer status during flight: Garuda Silver
- Cost: £650 for Tunis to Paris to Vietnam round trip in Business Class
- Flight date: June 2018
I was really excited to fly Air France in long haul Business Class for the first time. In the past I’d always associated this airline with its antiquated seats on the A380, pilot strikes and a lack of reliability.
Recently however my flight in Air France short-haul Business was as good as I’ve ever experienced within Europe and the lounge experience in Hall L of Paris CDG airport had been very positive too. Although I was disappointed to see that my originally scheduled Dreamliner had been substituted for a 777, I was lucky enough to be on one of the retro-fitted aircrafts featuring the exact same seats as the 787!
I wasn’t able to book seats online and calls to the airline resulted in AF telling me to call CZ, who issued the ticket, and vice versa. As such we were lucky to get two window seats together when we checked in. I was allocated seat 7L with Kamara sitting in 6L in front of me.
The first thing that struck me as I stepped on board was the fact that the seats appeared to be packed quite close together, much like those on the Finnair A350. The colour scheme used by AF is also surprisingly drab and unappealing. The shade of white used on the seats matches the walls and bulkheads and gives the effect of one unending, utilitarian mass.
I actually don’t mind having a seat at the back since I can see the entire cabin laid out in front of me and it feel a little more private than when people are behind you. Row 7 only has one window though so I would definitely avoid it on a day flight, especially since the window is misaligned.
There was a large feather pillow and a thin blanket waiting for me on my seat. Opening up the storage compartment on my side table I also found a set of noise cancelling headphones.
The headphones used by AF are generic but did a reasonable job of blocking out ambient cabin noise.
Also waiting at my seat was a coat hanger labelled with my seat number. I placed my jacket on it and this was quickly spotted by a member of the crew who whisked it away. Although the seat controls are old school push buttons, the seat has decent connectivity with both USB and universal power supplies.
Although the seats feel a little cramped due to the proximity of your screen and the back of the seat in front of you, the footwell is ample. There is more than enough space for both those who sleep on their back as well as those of us who sleep on their sides.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that slippers were provided, together with socks and a shoe bag. Walking around an airplane in your socks is a mistake that most people only make once!
Prior to take-off the crew came around to distribute amenity kits and warm towels as well as pre-poured water, orange juice and champagne from a large tray. I much prefer when the full drinks menu is accessible pre-takeoff with bottles presented and poured at your seat, as is the procedure on Qatar Airways, but I understand that not all airlines are crewed to this level.
Interestingly menus were not provided prior to departure but duty free leaflets were. This is the first time that I’ve actively been handed a duty free brochure as a Business Class passenger and I felt it cheapened the experience somewhat, much like when Ryanair incessantly try to sell you scratchards. I understand that airlines require ancillary revenue in order to survive but I don’t expect the Business Class cabin on a full service carrier to be the appropriate place in which to do this.
The amenity kit was fairly standard save for the Clarins creams, which are definitely above average quality for Business Class amenities.
We pushed back on time and I’m happy to report that the service was great throughout the pre-departure experience, particularly when it came to top ups. Once the initial glasses were distributed from trays the crew made sure to return and top people up at their seats from bottles. I’ve been on other European carriers where the crew feel that their duties are over once a single drinks round is complete so it was great to see this crew really kicking into action whilst also engaging in friendly chat with passengers.
As soon as the crew were released they came around to distribute menus and take dinner orders.
I was surprised to see that there was no choice of starter offered but this was offset by the fact that both cheese and a dessert are offered. When flying British Airways for example you are only given the choice of one or the other, although in practice the crew will generally accommodate those asking for both.
Meals on Air France Business are presented on trays rather than being served by hand. However, some thought has clearly gone into the design of the plates and bowls. Small touches like the ribbon tied napkin and the red salt and pepper shakers also added to the visual appeal. I was also pleased to see the cheese presented together with the starter and salad, leaving the necessary time for it to reach serving temperature prior to me devouring it in my usual, ravenous fashion.
The starter was both healthy and delicious, given the amount of time I spend encased in metal tubes I am always happy to be served a meal more along the lines of what I would ordinarily eat on the ground (although I’m not averse to having a complete blow out from time to time!).
In that vein I opted for the lighter option of cod as my main course, a dish which was beautifully cooked. I appreciated the fact that the sauce was presented separately but I couldn’t help but feel that the tin foil cup meaningfully cheapened the presentation. Kamara opted for the sweet and sour pork, which she said was rather fatty and not particularly appealing.
Noticing this, the crew offered her the gnocchi which she much preferred. The crew were charming throughout the meal and very interested to hear how the meal service compared to our experiences on other carriers.
I tried my best to rebuff the crew’s suggestion of dessert but was ultimately defeated. I found the two sorbets to be sickly sweet but the chocolate and caramel baton cake was worth every single calorie. The coffee was in the upper echelon of what I’ve encountered in Business Class and was served with a frankly unnecessary but tasty piece of chocolate.
Overall the meal was good but not great. The wine (Pouilly Fumé La Perrière) and champagne (Deutz brut classic) were excellent and I appreciated both the design of the crockery and the healthy starters. However the tray service, orthopaedic cutlery and stumpy glassware make it all too clear that you are on a plane and the main courses were nothing special. The best Business Class dining experiences deliver a level of elegance that lets you imagine that you are at a restaurant on the ground. Although the service was excellent, the overall meal fell short.
The one to beat is still Singapore Airlines.
After the meal I went to freshen up before getting some sleep. One of the crew saw me heading towards the bathroom at the rear of the cabin holding my PJs and advised me to head to the front where the bathroom has far more space to get changed.
Although I appreciated the fact that the bathroom had plenty of space to get changed in and also offered a couple of colognes, it was otherwise an Economy bathroom. No hangers for clothes, a stock grey sink, no flowers, no facial mist, not even any moisturiser. It was as barebones as any Business Class bathroom I’ve ever seen on a wide-body jet.
On the way back to my seat I passed a buffet display of snacks and drinks. The offering was pretty decent, particularly since the menu offers various dishes that can be ordered any time as well.
I returned to my seat and made up the bed.
Since the seat across from me was empty I took an extra blanket and pillow, using one of the blankets as a mattress pad. If you only had one of each this would definitely not result in a comfortable night’s sleep. All of the US carriers and BA offer significantly better bedding.
I wanted to watch a film before going to sleep but honestly the selection was very limited. Bizarrely some British and American films had been dubbed into French with no option to watch in the original English language! Although the remote was relatively modern and responsive the screen was anything but – the bezel was almost as large as the visible screen area.
The saving grace was the fact that I had the dulcet tones of Bruce Dickinson to lull me to sleep ????
I tend to be a light sleeper and woke up after around 4 hours or so. With most of the cabin still asleep I was able to enjoy a couple of quiet cups of coffee and adjust my bodyclock to Asian time whilst looking out of a small crack at the bottom of the window. The crew were once again excellent, coming over and asking me if I needed anything as soon as I returned from the bathroom and converted my bed back into a seat.
I ordered a double macchiato, which was beautifully presented on a large silver tray with a glass of ice water, a box of biscuits and some Valrhona chocolates.
My second coffee was served with some Laduree macarons.
By the time that I finished my coffee, the majority of the cabin had woken up and begun to request breakfast.
The fruit was pretty uninspiring as was the tetra pack orange juice and the plain yoghurt. The cheese and mushroom crepe covered in bechamel sauce was absolutely incredible though! I seriously could have eaten three.
I finished the meal with a few mimosas as I sat back and watched the Chinese landscape below. A very relaxing way to see out the final hour of the flight.
First and foremost, the service was excellent. The staff were very engaging and friendly and were always looking to anticipate demands and make the experience as comfortable as possible for passengers. On this basis alone I’d be happy to fly AF again.
The seat however is good but not great, with the closeness of the seat in front being very evident when compared to similar products on Qatar or Air Canada for example. The overall finishes in the cabin and bathrooms are also very generic and plain. Other carriers add mood lighting, wood panelling etc. whereas Air France appear to have just gone for the stock configuration in red, white and blue. On that note the IFE screen is frankly embarrassing, the viewable area isn’t much bigger than most people’s phones these days and the entertainment selection was lacking when compared to AF’s peers.
The food was good for the most part. The ingredients had clearly been heated and plated separately, with great presentation (cafeteria tray excluded). The drinks list, including coffee, was great too.
Overall there is a lot to like about Air France Business Class on the 777-200 but the hardware lets the experience down in places. Thankfully hardware is a much easier issue to fix than staffing. Adding titles to the IFE, installing larger screens and adding more comfortable bedding is all achievable with relative ease. If Air France was to do this then it would certainly find itself in the upper echelon of full service carriers.
China Hotel Reviews
Here is a selection of our most recent China hotel reviews:
- Part 1:
- Four Seasons Tunis : Premier Room
- Part 2:
- Air France : Business Class – A321 – Tunis to Paris
- Part 3:
- Air France Business Class Lounge : Paris CDG – Terminal 2E – Hall K
- Part 4:
- Skyteam Lounge : London Heathrow T4
- Part 5:
- Air France Business Class Lounge – Paris CDG – Terminal 2E – Hall L
- Part 6:
- Air France : Business Class – B777 – Paris CDG to Guangzhou CAN
- Part 7:
- China Southern International Sky Pearl VIP Lounge : Guangzhou CAN T2
- Part 8:
- China Southern : Business Class – A321 – Guangzhou CAN to Saigon SGN
- Part 9:
- Park Hyatt Saigon : Deluxe King (w. Pool Access)
- Part 10:
- The Reverie Saigon : Junior Suite
- Part 11:
- Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge : Saigon SGN (Domestic terminal)
- Part 11:
- Vietnam Airlines : Business Class – A321 – Saigon SGN to Cam Ranh CXR
- Part 12:
- Amanoi : Mountain / Ocean Pool Villa
- Part 13:
- Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge : Cam Ranh CXR (International)
- Part 14:
- China Southern : Business Class – A330 – Guangzhou CAN – Paris CDG