Introduction: Italy, With A Refueling Stop In The Azores
Review: Air France Lounge Boston Airport
Review: Azores Airlines Business Class A310 Boston To Ponta Delgada
Review: Furnas Boutique Hotel, The Azores
Review: Azores Airlines Lounge Ponta Delgada Airport
Review: Azores Airlines Business Class A340 Ponta Delgada To Lisbon
Review: TAP Portugal Business Class A321 Lisbon To Milan
Review: Sheraton Lake Como
Why I Didn’t Love Lake Como
Review: Il Sereno Lake Como
Review: Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport
Review: Milan Malpensa Airport Lounge
Review: Air France Business Class A318 Milan To Paris
Review: Air France First Class Ground Experience Paris
Review: Air France First Class 777-300ER Paris To Houston
Air France 636
Paris (CDG) – Houston (IAH)
Friday, June 30
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1A (First Class)
As I boarded through the forward door I was greeted by name by the chief purser and the first class flight attendant. I guess they could guess my name since I was the only first class passenger. I was escorted into the intimate La Premiere cabin.
Air France’s 777 first class cabin consists of a single row with four seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration. There are airlines with more advanced suites, but this has to be one of the most gorgeous first class cabins in the world. It’s simply so elegant and clean.
If you’re traveling with someone then there are two seats in the center section together, which are ideal. They’re close enough so you can actually talk and enjoy the experience together. In case you end up seated in one of the center seats next to a stranger, there’s a partition that can be raised.
I had assigned myself seat 1A. Stunning, stunning, stunning!
As you can see, the seat might look exposed, though there’s a panel along the side of the seat that can be raised, and there are also curtains that fully enclose the seat, so you have utmost privacy. This is more private than any other first class product in the world, because for most first class suites, you can easily look over the doors and see inside.
There was also an ottoman, which can double as a buddy seat, in case you’re traveling with someone and want to dine face-to-face. The ottoman has a storage compartment, which is where I kept most of my belongings during the flight.
The difference between good and great first class service is how good the crew is at anticipating the needs of passengers. The attention to detail here was phenomenal. When I boarded, the ottoman had socks, a shoebag, and a shoehorn already on it, and slippers right under the ottoman. This is a simple gesture, but shows the sort of effortless attention to detail that was present throughout the whole experience.
There was a light blanket and pillow on the ottoman. The blanket added a nice splash of color to the cabin.
In terms of the seat’s other features, there was a huge tray table that folded out of the side armrest.
Then at the very front left of the seat was a storage compartment, which also had a power outlet.
Then at the back left of the seat was another compartment, which had the entertainment controller, headphone jack, and power outlets (both 110v and USB).
Inside the compartment were Bose headphones — it’s lovely that Air France offers these in first class, as so many of the world’s top airlines skimp on headphones.
At the top of this compartment were the seat controls, which were easy to use.
There were also window controls. There are four windows on each side of the first class cabin, and rather than having the typical shades you manually raise and lower, Air France installed automated shades.
Within a moment of settling in, Sandy came by to introduce herself and give me an explanation of the seat. She’d quite literally be “my” flight attendant on this flight, since I was the only passenger. Sandy was a delight, and perfectly summed up what I love about high end service in France — she was charming, professional, and confident.
She asked what I’d like to drink to start the flight. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was served on a beautiful silver tray with some packaged breadsticks.
Sandy then brought out the pajamas and amenity kit for me.
Air France’s first class pajamas are so stylish and comfortable. These are among my favorite pajamas of any airline. However, do note that they run a bit small, so maybe order one size bigger than you’d usually order (if for no other reason than the seven course meal you’ll be enjoying in the air). 😉
The amenity kit was in a stylish hard-case pouch, and consisted of eyeshades, earplugs, a wooden comb, a very heavy pen, and several toiletries from Carita, including lip balm, eye cream, hand cream, etc.
I decided to change into my pajamas immediately. The lavatory was at the front of the cabin, and there was a bench that folded down for changing, so you could sit on it, if desired.
Otherwise the lavatory was quite nice, and had more Carita toiletries.
Once back at my seat, Sandy presented me with the menu and wine list for the flight. She explained that everything was on demand, so I could have what I wanted when I wanted. A few minutes later she checked with me if I was ready to order, so I went ahead and told her.
Sandy then brought by magazines and newspapers.
During boarding the captain came out to say hi to me and to apologize for the delay. He explained the reason for the delay, and said he’d do what he can to make up time.
Sandy kept my glass of champagne nicely topped up during the boarding process, and by 11:15AM the door was closed. At this point Captain Frederic made his welcome aboard announcement over the PA, explaining our flight time would be 10 hours. He also shared some other cool data about our flight, like our takeoff weight of 320 gross tons, initial cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, etc.
At 11:20AM we began our pushback.
At that point the safety video was screened. Air France has my favorite safety video in the world — it couldn’t be more French & chic.
After we pushed back it took about five minutes for us to start our taxi. The good news is that we had a very quick taxi to our departure runway.
By 11:40AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 26R.
The inflight entertainment has a cool nose camera, so I watched that during takeoff.
We had a long takeoff roll.
The weather wasn’t great around Paris, so we hit a bit of chop on our initial climb. The seatbelt sign stayed on for quite a while — it was only turned off 40 minutes after takeoff. However, that didn’t stop me from getting comfortable right away. The seat has a shield along the side, so I raised that shortly after takeoff, and also pulled the curtains around my seat. Then again, it’s not like I really needed the privacy, given that I had the cabin to myself. I also found that the seat had exceptionally good padding — even in the fully upright position it was extremely comfortable.
Sandy had already taken my meal order before takeoff, so the meal service started 20 minutes after takeoff. The menu read as follows:
The wine list read as follows:
I decided to continue with champagne after takeoff, which was served with caviar.
What stunning presentation — the blinis were warm, and I also appreciated the mother of pearl spoon.
And of course the Krug champagne didn’t hurt either…
About 10 minutes later my tray was set with great precision. I had the cream of asparagus soup to start, which was probably the best soup I’ve had on a plane. It was the perfect temperature, had an amazing flavor, and even had a kick to it.
I also appreciated the attention to detail in the way everything was served, from the variety of vinaigrette, to the individual bread basket, to the La Premiere branding on everything.
This horse “drawing” is the La Premiere symbol, and can be found in everything from the bedding to the plating to the pajamas.
I decided to order a glass of the bordeaux with the soup. By the way, I love Air France’s glassware — notice how all the glasses are curved at the rim. At first I thought I was just really drunk and seeing things, but then I realized it was actually the case (which doesn’t in any way negate how buzzed I was during this meal).
Next up was lobster with coriander juice, which was divine.
Per Sandy’s recommendation, I had a glass of the chablis with this.
Next up was the main course… what presentation!
When I first saw the steak I wasn’t blown away. But then I tasted it. This was hands down the best steak I’ve ever had on a plane. Not only was it perfectly cooked, but it was served with a side of tomato jus, and with eggplant and avocado, which complemented it nicely.
I’ve never had such a flavorful fillet on a plane. I didn’t even need a knife to cut it.
Next up was the salad course (this wasn’t a mistake — in France it’s common for this to be served after the main course). No, this wasn’t your basic airplane salad. It had flaked cod, smoked salmon, asparagus, etc., etc. At this point I was so full, but I tried to still have a few bites to try it.
Next up was the cheese course. What beautiful presentation, and Sandy did a great job describing each cheese, and also telling me the order in which to eat them.
She also insisted that I have a glass of the other red wine on the menu to go along with the cheese.
I finished off the meal with dessert, which consisted of lychee and strawberry ice cream, as well as strawberries.
I’ve taken a lot of flights, but I can with confidence say that this was the best meal I’ve had on a plane. Simply amazing. I’m not actually sure how my stomach didn’t explode, given that this was a seven course meal. Every single dish was executed perfectly, from the flavor, to the temperature, to the presentation.
Sandy was incredible as well. Not only was she friendly and charming, but the way in which she provided service was made to feel effortless. You don’t want to be served by someone who looks stressed or like they’re trying too hard. This was second nature for Sandy, and she was top notch.
Towards the end of the meal I asked to have my bed made. Sandy suggested she turn the seat across from me into a bed, which she promptly took care of. This is what the bed looks like without any of the privacy partitions up.
And here’s what it looks like with the privacy shield up and the curtains somewhat drawn.
This curtain concept is brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, when you walk through the first class cabin it looks like a hospital, but when you’re actually behind the curtain, it gives you a sense of privacy that no other airline offers in first class. Airlines with fully enclosed suites typically have doors that are at most five (or so) feet tall, so you still don’t have privacy. Meanwhile on Air France you could easily change clothes behind the curtain.
It’s also smart that the curtains are “magnetic,” so in the area where the curtains meet, they automatically link to one another.
Sandy put a tray next to my bed, with a bottle of Evian water and a box of chocolates.
Air France’s first class bedding is excellent. They have a real mattress pad, and the pillow and duvet are plush.
At this point there were about eight hours left in the flight till our arrival in Houston, so I decided to briefly browse the entertainment selection. Unfortunately Air France doesn’t have wifi on their 777s, which I see as the biggest weakness of the product. However, that should change over the coming years, as they plan on installing wifi on their 777s in 2018 and 2019.
In terms of entertainment, the selection of movies and TV shows was good. It wasn’t to the level of Emirates’ ICE system, but was solid nonetheless. There were dozens of movies and TV shows.
I also checked out the airshow.
As you can see, at this point we were just over eight hours from Houston.
I was tired at this point, so decided to get some sleep. I fell asleep in almost no time and got great quality sleep. I woke up just under three hours later. I could have probably slept another five hours, but I forced myself to get up and enjoy the flight.
I headed back over to seat 1A, where within a few moments I was greeted by another flight attendant, as Sandy was on rest (he was young and very attractive — I thought I was still asleep and dreaming). I ordered a cappuccino and some still water, which was served a few minutes later on the same tray. The cappuccino wasn’t great, at least compared to those offered by some other airlines. I think it may have even been powdered — I hope not.
The basket of snacks was a cute touch, but the last thing I needed after how much I overate earlier.
At this point I decided to watch the movie “Sing.” I’ve really started to like animated movies quite a bit. At least all the animated movies I’ve seen lately have been great. I loved this one as well, and found it to be cute and funny.
A couple of hours later Sandy returned, and I decided to order some tea. She brought out the extensive selection of Fauchon tea they have.
As with just about everything else, it was served on the tray with a teapot.
About two hours before landing I told Sandy that I was ready for the pre-landing snack whenever. That menu read as follows:
Once again my table was beautifully set, and I was offered a breadbasket as well.
The starter consisted of a tabbouleh salad with green asparagus, and it was tasty.
I was a bit surprised there wasn’t a choice of mains, but that worked for me, since I would have chosen this anyway. For the main course I ordered the salmon lasagne, which had gorgeous presentation.
On top of that, it tasted incredible.
Lastly, for dessert was fruit millefeuille with raspberries.
I ordered some coffee after the meal, which had the same beautiful presentation as the tea.
I was also offered a cold towel (the only one during the flight, surprisingly), and then a box of chocolates. I didn’t have the earlier chocolates either, so took them both “to go.”
After that I decided to watch a couple of episodes of “Big Bang Theory,” and then started an episode of “The Mentalist.”
Before I knew it we were descending to Houston.
At 2:25PM the seatbelt sign was turned on, at which point we hit some turbulence due to the weather around Houston. The chief purser came by my seat to see how everything was. Moments later Sandy came by to thank me for flying with Air France. She informed me that they’d be deplaning through door L2, so she’d walk me to the door when it was time.
We landed in Houston at 2:40PM.
From there it was a short 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we pulled in at 2:50PM.
As soon as the seatbelt sign was off, I was awkwardly escorted to the second door, where I was let off ahead of everyone. At the door I was greeted by a La Premiere agent, who would be escorting me to immigration. He was super nice, but then again when you have Global Entry they don’t add that much value.
Air France first class bottom line
What an incredible flight. Air France’s new first class product is phenomenal. The service was flawless, the food was the best I’ve had on any flight, the cabin was incredibly elegant, and I love Air France’s creative use of curtains.
There are only two areas where Air France first class could really improve. One is that I wish they’d have wifi on their 777s. The other is that I feel like they could improve the quality of their cappuccino somewhat. But the latter is a very minor thing.
Air France’s first class is absolutely one of the world’s three best first class products, and maybe even the world’s best? Stay tuned, I’ll finally do my ranking of the world’s best first class products and first class lounges soon.