Review: Air France A350 Business Class

Filed Under: Air France, Airline Reviews
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While I’ve flown Air France several times before, I specifically flew them from Toronto to Paris because I wanted to fly the A350. Toronto is currently the only North American city to which they fly the plane, and it’s a new addition to their fleet.

Background On The Air France A350

Air France has a total of 28 Airbus A350-900s on order, which they plan to take delivery of through 2025. The airline took delivery of their very first A350 in late September 2019. As of now the airline just flies the A350 to select destinations in Africa, as well as Toronto.

What I found most intriguing about the A350 is that Air France chose a new business class seat, though it’s arguably not actually better than the reverse herringbone seat they’re currently installing throughout the rest of their fleet.

Usually product consistency is something to aim for, so why would Air France do this? It’s because the first A350s were earmarked to go to Air France’s low cost carrier, Joon, but that has since been discontinued.

It’s my understanding they maintained the same interiors that were initially planned for the plane. I assume they could have switched them out, but it would have likely been very expensive, given that these commitments are made way in advance.

How I Redeemed Miles For Air France Business Class

Every month Air France-KLM Flying Blue publishes Promo Awards, which offer discounted limited time award tickets. In mid-October they even published limited time Special Edition Promo Awards, which were even better.

Among those was the ability to fly one-way business class from Toronto to Paris for 32,000 Flying Blue miles plus about $200 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges. That’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, given the new plane type.

While Flying Blue has dynamic award pricing, for context business class rates usually start at around 60,000 miles one-way for this route.

Earning Flying Blue Miles Is Easy

Flying Blue is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital OneChase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou, meaning you can transfer points earned from a variety of cards:

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Air France Business Class A350 Review

Air France 351
Toronto (YYZ) – Paris (CDG)
Tuesday, November 12
Depart: 6:45PM
Arrive: 8:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr30min
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 6A (Business Class)

At the door I was greeted by two friendly flight attendants and pointed right towards my seat. They boarded the entire plane through the forward door, which isn’t ideal since it means everyone boards through the cabin (sorry for the lack of quality cabin pictures, as they boarded business class right after wheelchair passengers, so lots of people were ahead of me).

Air France chose a completely different business class product for the A350-900 than they have on other planes, as they chose the Zodiac Optima seats. These are the same seats you’ll find in United Polaris.

The reason they chose this configuration is because of how efficient it is (given that the plane was supposed to go to Joon) — they have 34 business class seats between doors one and two, while most other other configurations would put at most 30 seats in that area.

Air France A350 business class cabin


Air France A350 business class cabin

As far as seats in the center section go:

  • In even numbered rows you have seats that are close together and far from the aisle
  • In odd numbered rows you have seats that are far from one another and close to the aisle

There is a privacy partition that can be raised between center seats, should you end up in one of the “cozy” seat pairs next to a stranger.

Along the windows you have the same general pattern.


Air France A350 business class seats

In odd numbered rows you have seats that are closer to the aisle and further from the windows, so these wouldn’t be my preferred seats.


Air France A350 business class seats


Air France business class seats A350

The best seats to pick are the window seats in even numbered rows, which have the best views and most privacy.


Air France business class seats A350


Air France business class seats A350


Air France business class seats A350

To the right side of the seat was a fairly large console where you could place things during the flight.


Air France business class seat console A350

There’s even a partition you can pull out for a little bit extra privacy (which is something United doesn’t have in Polaris).


Air France business class privacy partition

Then there’s a storage compartment that can be opened and closed, with a mirror and a hook where you can hang the headphones. This is also where the entertainment controller is located, and immediately beneath that you have a 110v and USB outlet.


Air France business class seat storage

To the side of that you have a reading light and seating controls.


Air France business class seat controls A350

Beneath that are three seat pre-sets.


Air France business class seat controls

One concern I have about many seats is how small the footwells are, though I was impressed by the size of this footwell. I found it to be spacious, whether sitting up or laying down. There was also a USB outlet underneath the entertainment monitor.


Air France business class seat footwell

The tray table slid out from the seat in front, and was easy to use. It was a good size, but you could still maneuver it so that you can get up while it’s extended by turning it 90 degrees to the side.


Air France business class seat tray table

The armrests on both sides could be folded up, so that you could maximize the width of the sleeping surface.


Air France business class seat armrest

One nice high end touch is that the windows had automatic shades, so you could lower and raise them at the push of a button.

Air France A350 fancy window blinds

I wasn’t a fan of was the lack of individual air nozzles. Fortunately the cabin was kept surprisingly cold for a European airline, and I never felt warm.

Air France A350 overhead console

All around I thought the cabin was comfortable and sleek. I’d say I’m mostly indifferent when it comes to this seat vs. the reverse herringbone seat Air France otherwise has. Both seats are good.

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pillow and blanket, both of which were soft and plush.

Air France business class pillow & blanket

There were also a pair of pretty good noise canceling headphones. These are three prong headphones, though the audio jack had only one prong. As it turns out, there’s a three prong jack inside the storage cubby, which is where you have to plug it in.


Air France business class headphones

Also waiting at my seat was a hanger. The only reason I’m posting a picture of it is because they’re sort of brilliant. See the three things at the top that look like holes? Those are actually dials they can adjust to record the seat number of each passenger, so they know who to return it to.


Air France business class clothes hanger

Also waiting at my seat were a pair of slippers, a shoe bag, and a bottle of water.


Air France business class slippers


Air France business class bottled water

The boarding process was hectic, as you might expect for a fully loaded flight where everyone is boarding through the forward door.

At 6:55PM the captain added his welcome onboard, informing us of our very short flight time of just 6hr5min, due to strong tailwinds. He anticipated that despite the delayed departure we would still leave early.

A few minutes later pre-departure drinks were offered, with the choice between champagne, water, or orange juice.


Air France business class pre-departure champagne

Shortly thereafter amenity kits were distributed. There were four different styles of kits to choose from, though they all had the same contents.

Air France business class amenity kit

Menus were distributed after that.


Air France business class menu

A few minutes later the door closed, and at 7:10PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened.

Air France has a tail camera on the A350-900, so I loved being able to watch that. We had a fairly long taxi, and also taxied pretty slowly, presumably at least in part due to the snowy conditions. At 7:30PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 24R, with a surprisingly fast takeoff roll.


Air France A350 tail camera

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection.

Air France entertainment system A350

I started by taking a look at the map for our flight.

Moving map enroute to Paris


Moving map enroute to Paris

I then checked out the movie and TV show selection, which was excellent, as there were literally hundreds of choices.


Air France entertainment system A350


Air France entertainment system A350

Air France also has wifi on the A350, and they don’t have any data caps, which is awesome. There are three options:

  • Message pass, which includes free messaging throughout the flight
  • Surf pass, which is basic internet that costs 8EUR for an hour or 18EUR for the entire flight
  • Stream pass, which is premium internet that costs 30EUR for the entire flight

Air France A350 wifi pricing

I ended up getting the messaging pass on my phone (since it’s free), and I purchased the Surf pass on my computer for one hour for 8EUR. The speeds weren’t terribly fast, but presumably that’s because I didn’t purchase the most expensive plan. On a daytime flight I’d absolutely take advantage of the Stream pass to be able to stay productive, but on this short flight sleep was a priority.

I’m thrilled to see that Air France finally has a good option for staying connected inflight.

Service got started very quickly after takeoff.

Air France A350 business cabin

Just 10 minutes after takeoff warm towels were distributed.


Air France business class warm towels

15 minutes after takeoff one of the flight attendants came by for a “formal” welcome onboard, and she also asked me for my meal choice for dinner, and if I wanted to be woken for breakfast.

The dinner menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

About 45 minutes after takeoff drinks were served. I had a glass of champagne (Charles Heidsieck), which came with delicious packaged cheesy crackers.

Air France business class dinner — champagne

About an hour after takeoff the starter, salad, cheese, and dessert were served, along with a selection of bread. I had another glass of champagne to go along with it. This tray included:

  • Pan-seared scallops on a truffled shiitake mushroom duxelle, and shredded duck with tarragon, pickled cabbage with tumeric and yuzu marmalade
  • Seasonal salad
  • Cheese plate
  • Raspberry cheesecake, chocolate square, Morello cherry financier cake

I enjoyed the scallops, cheese, and dessert, though personally I’m not a huge duck guy, and the salad was bland.


Air France business class dinner — appetizer, dessert, and cheese

For the main course I ordered the grilled salmon with creamy lemon sauce, potatoes, broccoli, and edamame beans. The dish tasted really good, though I do wish airlines would get better about presentation of sauces.


Air France business class dinner — main course

After the meal I was asked if I wanted tea or coffee. I saw they had cappuccinos on the menu, so I ordered one of those, figuring they had a new espresso machine/milk frother on the A350. Only after I received it did I remember that Air France has powdered cappuccinos (as far as I know), so I quickly regretted that.


Air France business class dinner — cappuccino and dessert

The meal service was done about 90 minutes after takeoff, and all around I thought it was pretty good. The crew was professional and personable, though not in an over the top way. The service on Air France in business class is a bit assembly line-esque, but this crew definitely made the most of that.

All around I’d describe the meal and service as being solid and above average, without being memorable, it that makes sense.

By the time the meal was done we were over Newfoundland, with under 4hr30min remaining to Paris.


Map enroute to Paris

Before going to bed I checked out the lavatory — there’s one at the front of the cabin, and one at the back right of the cabin. They were nice enough, but not especially big.

Air France A350 lavatory


Air France A350 lavatory amenities

At that point I reclined my seat and fell asleep in almost no time. I found the bed to be comfortable, I loved how private it was, and I found the seat spacious enough to sleep on my side with my knees bent without feeling constrained.

Air France business class bed A350

I slept until just over an hour before landing, at which point the crew began the breakfast service.

Map enroute to Paris

The crew turned on some rather patriotic mood lighting to wake people up.

Very patriotic mood lighting on Air France!


Very patriotic mood lighting on Air France!

The breakfast menu read as follows:

I appreciated that breakfast was fairly light, given that dinner was served just a few hours prior. There was a fruit salad, yogurt with granola, and a selection of bread and pastries.

Air France business class breakfast

My only real feedback is that I don’t get why airlines use such shallow coffee cups. It just seems like a plane you’d be better off having deeper/bigger mugs, both in the event of turbulence, and also so service can be sped up, and refills don’t have to be offered as much.

At around 7:10PM Paris time the captain announced that we would be landing at 7:45AM, and would have a 15 minute taxi to the gate from there. He also apologized for the turbulence overnight, explaining that it was due to a 120 knot tailwind. I must have been really tired, because I didn’t feel any of it.

Soon we started our descent, and around the same time the sun began to rise, making for a great view on the tail camera.

Air France A350 tail camera

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 15 minutes before landing, and also around that time the flight attendant taking care of my aisle came around to every passenger to ask if they enjoyed the flight, which is always a nice touch.

Air France A350-900 wing view


Air France A350 tail camera

We ended up landing on runway 26L at around 7:45AM.

Landing in Paris

Taxiing at Paris CDG

From there we had a long taxi, before finally arriving at our gate at 8AM.


Arriving at gate Paris CDG

Hey there, pretty!

Air France A350-900

From there it was time to go to the arrivals lounge, take a bus, and then fly back to the US.

Air France Business Class A350 Bottom Line

I enjoyed my flight in Air France’s A350 business class. While these seats aren’t necessarily an improvement over the reverse herringbone seats they have on other planes, I think I like them just about equally, which is saying a lot.

The crew was friendly, the food was quite good, the entertainment selection was huge, and I love that Air France has “proper” wifi on their A350s. While this doesn’t rank in my top five business class products in the world, it’s still a very good product, and one I’d recommend without hesitation.

Lastly, I got such a good deal on this flight — redeeming just 32,000 Flying Blue miles is tough to beat (especially since I had transferred them over with a bonus from Amex).

What’s your take on Air France’s new A350? Do you prefer these seats, or their reverse herringbone seats?

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Comments
  1. Is should be ” that has since been discontinued.” instead of “that has since been continued.” and
    “which they plan to take deliveries through 2025.” instead of “which they plan to take delivery of through 2025.”

  2. Very funny that the breakfast menu refers to the yogurt as “dairy product”. I wonder why they use such a generic term.

  3. @Sam

    It is probably not a yogurt. It does not look like that on the picture.

    I believe it is a “fromage blanc” and this may be why it has been translated as dairy product.

    It is kind of a quark or cottage cheese.

  4. How disgusting that they serve fore gras ( no longer produced in the USA for animal cruelty reasons, including force feeding of ducks to enlarge their livers). It’s one of those dishes only served for snob appeal. Decent people don’t eat it. A ban in Europe will be forthcoming soon.

  5. Will it be the case that AF won’t even have consistency in J seats across its A350 fleet? You mention the first A350s don’t have reverse herringbone as these planes were meant for Joon. When the ones that AF was always meant to take arrive, will they have reverse herringbone?

  6. @Paolo Hudson Valley Foie Gras in NY is the largest US producer of foie gras. And foie gras is delicious, for decent people and alike. Not for peasants like you.

  7. Is it normal not to get a hot dish breakfast option in business? At a scheduled flight time of 7.5hrs, that seems odd. Or does Air France just not do weird airplane eggs? 😛

  8. @ GT Traveller – Lucky has been blogging this trip basically live so I am sure with the exhaustion and speed to publish that some things (minor mistakes) will naturally be overlooked. IMO it’s not a big deal and rarely happens, it is also a nice reminder that there isn’t a huge machine of editors and publishers toiling away in the background.

    Great post Lucky, look forward to the rest on your trans-atlantic hops.

  9. Or perhaps say simply that “the Joop concept has since been abandoned” and then perhaps offer the reasons why?

  10. @Alonzo
    The very place that is the subject of numerous animal cruelty reports; the ‘industry’ continues to be the subject of ongoing investigations by New York legislators. Its days are numbered.
    The product is banned in California, including sale.
    Aren’t there other things to eat that are not created by completely unnecessary cruelty to animals? It is a disgusting product and decent people, if they knew what is involved, would not eat it.

  11. Thanks for the review! I am taking the same route, same plane (same award booking…lol!) in March so I was looking forward to this one. 🙂
    Sounds like it’ll b a better bet for me to skip the lounge food this time.

  12. @Paolo.

    It’s pretty simple. When people stop eating it in France it will go away. But they won’t. Every country has its violations (food, whatever) that are built on years of culture. To quote Keith Olberman, “You can’t stop it…you can only hope to contain it.”

    I don’t eat it for the reasons you say. But I also don’t judge the French for it. As an American I have much more to be embarrassed about.

  13. @Paolo

    How is it not cruel to kill an animal to eat any other part of its body? Anyone who eats meat should kindly shut the front door regarding animal cruelty and anthropogenic climate change.

  14. Lucky, I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and now my favorite thing to do is guess what meal you will choose off of the menu before I scroll down to the photo of the food. As of late I’m almost always right!

  15. Very detailed report on Air France J here. It looks okay – nothing is blowing me away by the looks of it, but a decent transatlantic offering.

  16. @Cargocult
    On a personal level I agree; however, I accept that there are many people who want to eat meat that does not involve outrageous and unnecessary cruelty. Foie Gras is unspeakably cruel and if meat eaters knew about what’s involved, the vast majority ( decent people) would decline it, without a doubt.
    In respect of @Stuart’s point: yes, and consumption in France is declining. Young people shun this kind of monstrosity.

  17. @Paolo

    Do you also accept that many adults want to have sex with minors? It need not involve outrageous and unnecessary cruelty. Farming an animal only to kill it and consume it, force feeding it or not, is cruel and unnecessary. It is also harmful to the environment, far, far more than air travel or plastic bags, straws and single-use toiletry containers. If anything should be banned, it should be sanctimonious, meat-eating environmental activists.

  18. Wait. You crossed the Atlantic just to fly back without an overnight for the sake of rewieing a flight ? That is what I call love for flight review

  19. @Sam

    I wondered about the “dairy product” term for yogurt, also. Apparently French yogurt is made in a different way from other yogurts, and French passengers might be offended by being served something as unpleasant as Greek yogurt, without being warned. Either that, or some people who are lactose intolerant still don’t know that yogurt comes from cows force-fed champagne.

  20. Chicago city council banned foie gras in 2006. They were held to such ridicule by the major, residents and restaurants that the ban was repealed in 2008. Bourdain even weighed in by calling Chicago a cow town because of the ban.
    This current ban everything idea is becoming quite tiresome.

  21. That Flying Blue promo was awesome. I tried to resist but jumped on it too. Spent the same number of miles as you used, but Seattle to Istanbul via Paris. Heckuva deal.

    Honestly, the AF J product on this A350 looks pretty mediocre to me. I’m glad that my flight (which is longer) has a significantly better hard product.

    Now, pass me some of that foie gras…hey, are you not gonna eat that?

  22. I did this route as well. With a group of friends from PETA
    People who Eat Tasty Animals

    The Foie was wonderful.

  23. Wow, only one beer choice. I know most airlines don’t have the best beer choices but was surprised to see only one, and it was kind of hidden on the menu too.

  24. Yes…cappuccinos on any plane tends to be rubbish. I can’t figure out why, because it is really just a strong espresso shot and frothy hot milk.

  25. The seats look very similar to United’s business class. Are they? I found the UA foot wells really small so I wonder how similar they are.

    Foie gras is delish!

  26. Serving two meals on a 6 hour flight is absurd. 2 1/2 hours of the hours is for meals. Crazy. Eliminate one of the meals and instead serve something decent in the lounge. I would rather buy a row of three seats in economy and save money than pay $2,500-$5,000 for business on flights of 6 or less hours.

  27. I agree with the sauce being served in that silver takeaway container but perhaps they are catering for the Nth America market , don’t they love everyone “on the side” , good review Im not sure Id rush to fly it though it all looks a bit “hard”

  28. LMAO – Of course United has selected a high-density Business Class seat that was intended for low-cost airlines and tries to sell it as a ‘Premium’ seat.
    And Air France is doing the same mistake as with their A380s: Getting a mediocre business class on a brand new plane that will lag behind the competition in 2 years.

  29. @Max Well, Lucky says he’s pretty indifferent between this seat and the reverse herringbone seat (generally regarded as one of the best J seats out there), so if that’s true it doesn’t seem nearly as egregious as what they did with the A380. The food, on the other hand, is a big issue on AF. Living in Paris, I fly AF pretty routinely and the food is very mediocre (and sometimes borderline inedible), regardless of whether the flight originates in Paris. Given that France is regarded as one of the culinary centers of the world, that’s pretty disappointing.

  30. “I appreciated that breakfast was fairly light, given that dinner was served just a few hours prior.”

    I do prefer it when airlines offer a bit more (even Lufthansa serves a deli plate), especially if someone wants to skip dinner and sleep. Of course, a person doesn’t have to order or eat a larger breakfast, but it is nice to have the option.

  31. @Max Have you flown it? For all the deserved crap that United takes, the Polaris seats have been widely praised. Plenty of space and the window seats are exceedingly private. Yet to find a negative review on them, save for snobs that think anything United or a US carrier does is destined to be trash.

  32. @JWags
    The opinions I have heard from my colleagues are definitely not as rosy as yours. The seat is simply not long enough for standard-tall Europeans. Maybe it is exactly sufficient for small people, but a regular 1.85m European will definitely not fit in well.
    I’d say QSuite and the new ANA seat are the benchmark nowadays. The upcoming Lufthansa seat will also be good as it offers 2.20m bed length and a big enough housing for the feet.

  33. @Max Thats ridiculous. I’m 1.85 and had plenty of space. The length is 1.95ish if not a bit more. Q Suites are great, but implying that not having an extremely large business class seat like that is low budget is silly. It has as much space as any reverse herringbone variety. An American carrier is going to have US sized passengers in mind, just as large as any “standard” European, not the smaller statures of different regions

  34. Your reviews are always so much fun; especially comparing this Air France A350 review to La Compagnie A321neo (back to USA) and the previous Air France First experience (en route to South Africa); the contrast between Air France Business and First is significant while both seem pleasant, everything is so French:) I love the way Air France showcases French cuisine in their service – for example, Chartreuse Verte and exclusive French wines are pleasant offerings in Air France Business.
    La Compagnie looks like fun too – and, as you have noticed, a notable change (in a good way) from your previous La Compagnie review

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