Air France’s A350: Business Class Seats, Routes, And More

Filed Under: Air France

Update: See here for a review of Air France’s new A350 business class.

Air France has a total of 28 Airbus A350-900 aircraft on order (the order was later increased to 38), and they’ll be taking delivery of their first such plane this year.

Initially the first A350s were supposed to go to Air France’s low cost carrier, Joon, though that concept is being discontinued this summer. That means that Air France should have several “mainline” A350s this year.

There are a couple of interesting updates regarding the A350, both in terms of the onboard product, and in terms of the first route to get the plane.

Air France opens A350 reservations

As noted by @airlineroute, Air France will start flying the A350 daily to Africa as of September 23, 2019. Specifically, the plane will be operating Air France’s route to Bamako, Mali, and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, with the following schedule:

AF520 Paris to Bamako departing 10:10AM arriving 1:50PM
AF520 Bamako to Abidjan departing 3:00PM arriving 4:35PM

AF521 Abidjan to Bamako departing 6:50PM arriving 8:35PM
AF521 Bamako to Paris departing 10:50PM arriving 6:10AM (+1 day)

I guess this is a logical route in terms of a single plane being able to operate the route daily, though a 2,600 mile flight connecting to a 600 mile flight hardly takes advantage of this plane’s range.

That’s the first route to have the A350 scheduled, though of course it’s possible that another route will get the plane first, especially as it’s likely that the airline will operate some familiarization flights with the new aircraft.

Air France’s A350 business class

This is something that was actually revealed two years ago, though somehow I missed it up until now.

Here’s Air France’s A350 business class seatmap:

Wait a second, that looks nothing like any of their current business class products!

Air France is working on installing new business class seats throughout much of their fleet. Their 777s and 787s feature reverse herringbone seats in business class.

Meanwhile their A330s feature forward facing fully flat business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration.

My assumption all along has been that Air France will install reverse herringbone seats on their A350s. To me that makes sense, since it means they’d have a fairly consistent product, and it’s also a good seat.

That’s not the case, though. Instead Air France will be installing Zodiac Optima seats in A350 business class.

If these seats look familiar, it’s because those are the new United Polaris seats.

United hyped how they had the “exclusive” on this seat, though as it turns out that only applies to US carriers, which is how Air France is able to get this seat.

Why would Air France introduce another new business class seat?

On the surface I find this to be a curious decision on Air France’s part. Personally I find reverse herringbone and the Zodiac Optima seat to be roughly comparable.

However, there’s also a lot of value in having fleet consistency, so to see an airline introducing three new business class seats appears odd.

So what could Air France’s motive be? My guess is that it’s about density. Air France is able to install 34 business class seats between doors one and two on the A350 with these seats.

When you look at airlines offering reverse herringbone seats on the A350, they can typically offer no more than 30 seats in that same area. So my guess is that they were willing to sacrifice consistency for seat density.

What do you make of Air France’s decision to install Zodiac Optima seats on the A350?

  1. I assume they will use the aircraft on a short haul for training after delivery
    They flew the a380 and 787 from Heathrow for a while before it was placed on intercontinental routes

  2. Routes online also referred to a one off service from Seoul on 29 March 2020. How is it going to get from Paris to Seoul since it would operated CDG ICN CDG ?

  3. Why those routes at all? Why not fly it to Dubai which I presume is more high-yield, high-demand? Or Montreal? Or Toronto?

  4. Anne Rigail has announced that the ABJ flights will serve as training and that they’re not going to do short haul training to LHR and LYS this time

  5. I just don’t understand why AF is now introducing another business class product. So we have this on the A350, the angled flats on the A380, the reverse herringbone on the 787 and the 777 and the fully forward 2-2-2 on the A330.

    Consistency is nice. People complain about BA but you always get the same product (until Club Suites of course).

  6. I disagree that reverse herringbone seats are the same. I prefer the Polaris seats because I like the true window seats, which feel more separated from the aisle and have 3 windows. I also like being flush with the side of the plane. The Polaris seats are also nicer for couples because you can choose the center seats that are directly next to each other! It’s near impossible to have interaction with a traveling partner in a reverse herringbone seat.

  7. @jds a380 to be refurbished and Ben smith mentioned continuity in product

    @ray why Dubai ? Africa is extremely important for the AF network with a huge amount of oil revenue

  8. I like the Zodiac Optima much better as reverse herringbone seats. They should install that on all longhaul planes 🙂

  9. I’m fine with the seats as long as they have the same amount of room as the reverse herringbone seats. I personally haven’t flown them, but the seats themselves look cool and sleek.

  10. AF must be looking at 350s to replace 77W, which have 60 business class seats. Judging by CX, this would result in a virtually nearly all J configuration, a la SQ. As AF does see a lot of demand in Y, Optima is a good compromise.

  11. @Ray because there is little competition. European carriers would easily fill their front-cabin with business and government travelers flying to/from their former colonies, with the back packed with aid workers and travelers from/to Europe and North America.

  12. Ben: We’re on Business AF/Joon CDG to FCO on 9/24. Any idea what they’ll put us in? My guess is whatever the Joon plane would have been, maybe with a new paint job?

    First comment here. Loyal reader. Love your blog


  13. Of course it’s about density! AF has quite a lot of flights on routes with relatively little premium cabin demand (like Bamako) and as nice as reverse herringbone seats are, AF really doesn’t need them to win the business.

    I suppose the only surprise is they didn’t go with something even more dense but it would perhaps have been too much of a downgrade, it’s not like people are going to say they’d rather connect in Germany instead and fly LH for their superb J product.

  14. @ AL from the end of June, joon ceases to exist though it will take time to reconfigure and repaint the aircraft The flight crew were always AF and cabin crew are being moved to AF contracts / uniform etc

  15. I am flying tomorrow ICN-CDG in J on the ancient 777-300ER with their horrible 2-3-2 angled config (which I also had on the outbound from CDG.) I don’t understand why this route which previously featured the 1-2-1 set up has been downgraded to such a worn and dated aircraft. Spending 12 hours on a flight with a seatmate closeby is not something I’d expect in 2019.

  16. JOON is an ad hoc charter service on the Cape Town – CdeG route. We travel with then once or twice a year as it is a direct (?) non stop flight. If you are lucky. Everyone of the Air France JOON flights we have taken has been problematic. Dates are changed after booking, flights are arbitarily cancelled and at present am in Paris on days different from the initial booking and wondering whether the CT leg will fly as planned on 28th to get home. Last year we had to go via Maritius a day later. The only reason for using this airline was it was supposed to be a non stop direct flight.
    This is the very last time we will be travelling JOON – it is totally unreliable and will go BA as we do every September changing at Heathrow. Never a hiccup with this and have been doing this in September for many, many years to get to Paris.

  17. This actually makes 4 business products now, if you count the old product that’s still in service on all A380’s and many 777’s… While I love AF, there’s no brand consistency at all when you fly, and it’s hit or miss what you’re going to get on a new route you’ve never done before.

  18. Our flight on AF from YYZ to CDG changed today as well. Flying in December, 2019. Would this be a new aircraft or a repurposed JOON?

  19. Maybe this is somewhat the “echo” of Joon. After all, Joon probably would have introduced a new cabin on this type (as their old cabin was quite bad). Then the high(er) density cabin makes sense. Maybe this product was already in development for Joon and then just ported over AF when Joon was discontinued. Or maybe this aircraft will get a higher density layout to replace older aircraft on the caribbean flights. Either way, the decision is pretty poor. I just wish Air France would take their cabin product a little bit more seriously and choose one seat as standard across the fleet (preferably the reverse herringbone) and just hurry up with the retrofitting already. Their wide array of different cabin products and the fact that after 10 years they still haven’t repainted all airplanes in the new livery yet doesn’t make them look consistent as a brand.

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