In September 2020 I first wrote about how it looked like Air France would install first class on some upcoming A350s (which is exciting because Air France has one of the best first class products in the world). While that still hasn’t been officially confirmed, we now have more details about the theoretical timeline for this happening, thanks to some new information.
Air France’s shrinking first class footprint
Air France first class (known as “La Premiere”) is one of the most exclusive first class products in the world. Historically first class has been available on the following planes:
- All Airbus A380s (there were 10 planes with nine first class seats each, for a total of 90 first class seats in the fleet)
- Select Boeing 777-300ERs (there are 19 planes with four first class seats each, for a total of 76 first class seats in the fleet)
Air France has just retired its entire A380 fleet
Air France retired its entire A380 fleet in 2020, and with that, over half of La Premiere seats have been eliminated. Now, in fairness, Air France’s first class was much better on the 777 than the A380, so I don’t view it as that much of a loss without cabins being reconfigured.
At the same time, with A380 first class having been eliminated, I was concerned that the airline might just eventually cut first class altogether, since it may have been difficult to justify with a small footprint.
Some Air France A350s likely to get first class
It’s believed that Air France will be installing La Premiere first class on some of its Airbus A350-900 fleet. Air France has a total of 38 A350s on order, with 11 having already joined the French flag carrier’s fleet.
There have been questions about when Air France’s first A350 with first class would be delivered. There’s a fantastic Wikipedia page for Air France’s fleet that has historically been very accurate. According to this, Air France’s 20th Airbus A350-900 will be the first to feature a La Premiere first class cabin.
Air France A350
This plane would have the registration code F-HTYT, and it’s already in production. Based on the current timeline of deliveries, I’d estimate Air France will take delivery of this plane in 12-18 months.
Let me once again emphasize that this is all speculation, and that there has been zero confirmation from Air France one way or another.
Even if it is true, it remains to be seen:
- Whether all 19 remaining A350-900 deliveries would feature first class, or only a subset of them
- Whether Air France will adjust its A350 business class, which is different than what’s found on 777s and 787s; this product was initially designed for Joon, Air France’s (now discontinued) low cost carrier
For anyone wondering about the original source of this rumor (going back to last year), this was initially revealed on a blog for Air France’s flight attendant union. There had allegedly been a meeting concerning changes to the A350 configuration.
Air France’s flight attendant union wasn’t particularly happy about first class being added to the A350s, claiming that:
- There will be a big galley in the very front of the plane
- There will be a much smaller galley by the second set of doors
- Between the first and second set of doors will be the first class cabin, plus a business class mini-cabin
- As a result, flight attendants aren’t happy about the prospect of some business class service having to be performed out of the first class galley
While I can appreciate the frustration in general, this is a common challenge on several planes, and I’m not sure any airline has figured out a great solution to that.
Air France’s A350 business class
What could Air France’s A350 first class be like?
At this point we’re getting way ahead of ourselves given how few details there are, but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of speculation? 😉
First of all, I would assume that the first class cabin on the A350 will be extremely intimate, much like on the 777. I’d guess that we’ll see just one row of seats, probably with four total seats in the cabin.
Air France’s 777 first class
Air France’s 777 first class product is kind of genius. The design is rather simple, with each seat having curtains to give passengers full privacy (rather than just a door that’s not very high). This is a product that could easily be installed on the A350.
Air France’s 777 first class
Could we see Air France come up with a new product altogether? I suppose so, though we haven’t otherwise seen much innovation when it comes to A350 first class. Malaysia Airlines was the only airline to install first class on A350s, and that product has since been rebranded as “Business Suites.”
While Malaysia Airlines has doors in the cabin, the seats do feel quite tight, so personally I far prefer Air France’s concept.
Malaysia Airlines’ A350 Business Suites
Malaysia Airlines’ A350 Business Suites
I don’t know of any existing first class products that could otherwise make sense for Air France’s A350, but who knows, they’re probably working on something très chic behind the scenes.
Starlux Airlines also plans on installing first class on its A350s, which it will start to take delivery of in early 2022. Furthermore, Lufthansa plans to install first class on some of its upcoming A350s.
While we’ll have to wait for the full details, it appears increasingly likely that Air France intends to install its La Premiere first class product on some A350s. The current theory seems to be that the airline will start installing first class on the 20th Airbus A350 delivery, which I’d expect to be flying in a bit over a year.
Here’s to hoping that this information is correct, and that Air France’s first class will live on in the long run.
It’s interesting to see both Air France and Lufthansa allegedly planning first class cabins on A350s, when previously it’s a plane on which airlines avoided first class. I guess that reflects airlines retiring larger aircraft, but still seeing first class demand.
What do you make of Air France installing first class on the A350?
(Tip of the hat to Clem)
This would be my dream product in the air to try!
I would love to see a radical move with an un-paralleled product consisting of just 2 seats in the La Premiere Cabin on the AF A350s. Now that would be truly tres chic.
@Frederik, KLM is all about cost efficiency, they managed it quite well before covid. A first class cabin only works for very few airlines, it takes up more space than business class and if the seats go unsold it can become a costly operation.
Galley gossip rarely proves to be right so probably best to wait and see an official statement from the company and as far as from the Union - the same would apply I think
I've been impressed with the 777 first class design. It's simple, clean, and elegant. And it has the look of lower berths on passengers trains from a century ago especially with the curtains:-)
Nice enough if true although this all becomes pretty academic if there's no way to fly at a reasonable rate in miles most people can gather without great difficulty. How do we do that? If we can't, isn't this just a big tease?
Actually, as a former FA, the problem is easily solved, by moving La Premiere to door 2.
I think first class will make a come back, simply because those who can afford to pay whatever for a plane ticket will not want to sit and be masked up for hours, when taking a flight. And when flying first class, that is for sure something you can ignore.
This is very good news. Does anybody know why partner airlines KLM does not have First class?
They are one of the major airlines of Europe, so I wonder why they don’t have a first class cabin even on their Flagship 777-300s.
Do we think this would mean that any additional markets would start to see La Premiere service and/or make it a permanent addition to certain markets that see La Premiere inconsistently (like ATL) and/or markets that lost it because of COVID?
I hope they stick with the current first class design. I did Paris-Singapore roundtrip and it was absolutely fantastic. I went in skeptical of the idea of curtains, but it ended up feeling really private and cozy.
Whoops! Need to be FB Gold now to book La Premiere awards.
@Dick Bupkiss- correct, the ability to book La Premiere for points is only available to Flying Blue Silver and above members. And the minimum US-Europe is 200k one-way.
Well it's always good to hear about new premium cabins that are (or might be) coming. Still, temper your expectations, since Air France is extremely stingy about access to the first class seats. Good luck with that for points collectors.