As I explained in my review of the Air France Lounge in Terminal E – Hall K, the entire layout of CDG is a garbled and confusing mess. The numerous terminals contain not only lettered sub-terminals but also sub-halls within the sub-terminals! Most of the time you won’t know what part of the terminal you’ll be flying in and out of in advance. As such, it’s down to luck on the day whether you visit a slightly subterranean silo that was last renovated 10 years ago or a gleaming new facility that serves as the airline’s flagship.
Thankfully for us, our flight to Guangzhou was allocated a gate in Hall L of terminal 2E, which meant that we would be able to visit the newest Air France lounge!
The process of getting to the lounge was a little scary since it involved passing through a one way barrier, which also indicated that they were airport exits!
When you first step into this lounge the contrast between this and the older AF lounges in halls M and K is striking, the splashes of bright blue and yellow bring the lounge to life in a very tasteful yet playful way. The neon yellow seating in particular is very reminiscent of the accents used at Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives. Certain corners have that residential feel of the lounges designed by Studio Ilse for Cathay Pacific although in fairness this lounge still feels busier and more cluttered as a lot of the seating is communal.
The main room faces West over a major highway, which has the interesting effect of tying you to the outside world in a way that most lounges can’t. You’re not tucked away in a dark corner somewhere – you’re bathed in the light of the setting sun as thousands of vehicles stream beneath you. The effect is truly invigorating.
I am very fortunate to have a friend that is in a managerial position at CDG who reached out to me via instagram before this trip checking which flight I’d be on. He met us at the door of the lounge and guided us over to an area he had reserved for us, behind a velvet rope. As is always the case in situations like this I first felt a bit awkward about being given special treatment … but this quickly gave way to feeling like a rockstar. Besides, we had a guy re-enacting a scene from Lawnmower Man in the seats opposite to draw attention from us. VR headsets can be requested from the service desk but we’re simple people, we were more interested in the sunset and champagne!
The buffet area was stocked with a surprisingly large number of healthy options. I particularly appreciated the freshly rolled omelettes. Obviously with this being France there were numerous desserts and baked goods too…which Kamara particularly appreciated.
Much like the lounge in Terminal 2E – Hall K the alcohol selection was varied and impressive. Free flowing Laurent Perrier is a surefire way to elevate your lounge from the pack.
The coffee machine was serviceable but obviously in an era where many top Business Class lounges have barista service this is a missed opportunity, particularly since the large open kitchen was empty throughout our visit. They could easily have been taking coffee orders here in between set meal times. Elsewhere, there was a limited selection of hot dishes (including the omelettes that I mentioned earlier).
My first port of call was something resembling a warp core (a far more elegant one than the EVA Air version in Taipei), immediately adjacent to which was the Clarins Spa. In my experience the spas in almost every airport lounge are either savagely oversubscribed or shut. In this case the handwritten waiting list gave an indication that those with layovers under 5 hours would have no chance of being seen. The only lounge on Earth that runs a successful spa, not requiring advance reservations, is the Thai Airways First Class lounge in Bangkok. If you have to queue up and send emails this detracts meaningfully from the relaxation ostensibly provided by these services.
Moving on from the spa you have the art installation/ relaxation zone referred to as Zero G. I’m personally not convinced about the idea of falling asleep in the central circle, surrounded by strangers and passers by. The private curtained booths looked a lot more appealing.
Next to this was a section containing showers (keys must be requested at reception) – there were also two gender separated saunas that required no reservations. Since the area was filled with people in various states of undress I thought it best to avoid incarceration and kept my camera switched off.
At the far end of the lounge you come to the Detox bar, which is basically just a place to grab a bottle of water or a glass of Tropicana from a garish machine. Next to this is the Petit Salon, a quiet space where mobiles phones are prohibited.
At the time of my visit the final section of the lounge was yet to open. Le Balcon is an impressive looking cocktail bar with a 20s style art deco design and a cocktail menu curated by Hotel Lancaster in Paris.
Air France has universally been recognised as having one of the world’s best First Class lounges. The Business Class facilities had long been conspicuous for their relative state of neglect and disrepair. With the newly renovated Hall L lounge, Air France has made a strong statement of intent.
Gone are the dreary, utilitarian days of yore. Now Air France wants to present varied seating, art, cocktails and abundant light.
The lounge is a pleasant place to spend a few hours and I hope to return now that Le Balcon is fully opened and the open kitchen is now fully functional. I still wouldn’t go out of my way to arrive here early but if I discovered I had a 4 hour layover in CDG I’d be happy to spend the time here (and perhaps it would give me enough time to clear the waiting list in the spa!).