Review: Air France First Class Ground Experience Paris

Filed Under: Air France

Before I get into the actual review of my ground experience, I want to cover a couple of things:

The Air France first class ground experience is the best in the world

Before even getting into the review, let me say that the Air France first class ground experience is the best in the world. I’ve reviewed it twice before:

This is simply an incredible experience. Air France picks you up at your arriving flight, drives you to your connecting flight, you get a complimentary spa treatment in their lounge, and they have the best food of any airline lounge in the world.

This layover was non-ideal

As someone who loves maximizing mileage redemptions, there was one major issue I had with my itinerary — my layover in Paris was only 65 minutes, which most definitely isn’t enough time to enjoy the first class lounge. However, the Milan to Paris flight I was taking was the first one of the day, so I had two choices:

  • I could book myself a Paris to Houston flight with no one else in first class, and be able to review Air France’s new La Premiere 777-300ER product in “peace”
  • I could have booked a later flight to another US city that had space, but where the cabin would have been full, which would have made this intimate cabin tougher to review

I’ve thoroughly reviewed the ground experience twice before, and the priority was having the best inflight experience. If anything, a 65 minute layover would show me how Air France handles short layovers for first class passengers.

With that out of the way…

My Air France first class ground experience

As soon as I got off my A318 from Milan I was greeted by a La Premiere agent, who introduced herself and said she’d be escorting me to the lounge and then to my connecting flight. It’s a little bit awkward when everyone is getting on a bus, while there’s a Jaguar right behind the bus that’s just for you.

Air France A318 upon arrival in Paris

Speaking of the car, until recently Air France had BMW and Peugeot cars for their first class ground experience, but they recently switched to an all-Jaguar fleet.

Air France first class Jaguar

These cars are absolutely gorgeous.

Air France first class Jaguar transfer

I was a bit confused that I had both a driver and a La Premiere agent in the car — usually it’s just the La Premiere agent, as they drive you to the lounge, and it’s easy for them to park there. So I asked about that, and she explained that unfortunately they didn’t have an immigration officer on duty today, and as a result we wouldn’t be able to go straight to the lounge.

Charles de Gaulle Airport seems to have serious immigration staffing issues lately, so I guess for this particular day they took the immigration officer out of the La Premiere lounge. Usually that means you can skip the terminal, but that wasn’t an option here.

Air France first class Jaguar transfer

I enjoyed the views as we drove to the terminal, and after about five minutes our ride was over.

Driving across the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle Airport

We were dropped off at Terminal 2E, where there was an insane line for immigration. INSANE. Yet the La Premiere agent walked me to the very front of the line. As we got there she said “technically we aren’t supposed to cut the line, but usually they allow it. Stand here, and I will signal to you when you should come over. People are always very aggressive.”

So I stood to the side of the immigration line, she cut in, she went up to an immigration officer, spoke to him for a minute, and then signaled for me to come over.

Walking towards the Air France first class lounge

Once past immigration it was just a short walk to the La Premiere lounge, which was located up a level from the main concourse.

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

The associate explained that my flight to Houston was a little bit delayed, and that she’d keep me updated. It was 9:30AM by the time I got to the lounge, so I was initially expecting I’d have to leave within minutes. When I first arrived the lounge was full, and my gosh, the people in the lounge were interesting.

In most lounges you just have a lot of frequent flyers, while this lounge is a bit different. For example, the Lufthansa First Class Terminal has a lot of HON Circle members, and many of those are just super frequent business class flyers.

The crowd in the La Premiere Lounge feels decidedly, um, rich. There was a family of eight in the lounge(!!!!). Can you imagine how much they spent on their first class tickets? There was a dude wearing a gold dog chain around his neck. Like, my gosh, wow…

Anyway, I won’t do a full review of the lounge, but it did empty out at around 10AM, so I’ll just share a few pictures, though I’ve written much more extensive reviews in the past.

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

Air France First Class Lounge Paris

I intentionally didn’t eat anything in the lounge. That’s partly because I wanted to save my appetite for onboard, and partly because my flight had a rolling delay, and I always expected we’d board within a few minutes. So instead I indulged in the lounge’s incredible water selection.

Air France First Class Lounge Paris water selection

Hopefully I didn’t overdo it. 😉

All I had in the Air France First Class Lounge

There was also a very small breakfast buffet, though of course the highlight is being able to order off the menu.

Air France First Class Lounge Paris breakfast selection

Air France First Class Lounge Paris breakfast selection

Air France First Class Lounge Paris breakfast selection

My flight was originally scheduled to depart at 10:10AM, though there was a delay due to “security.” The associate explained to me that due to new rules, there’s an independent company that comes in and searches all US-bound planes before boarding, and they were running late because of the number of planes they had to take care of. So that was the cause of the delay.

Finally at 10:45AM I was told that it was time to go. We took the elevator down a floor to the parking lot, where I was brought to a Jaguar.

Transfer back to the plane

I was driven to the plane, which was this time parked at a gate rather than a remote stand.

Jaguar transfer to my 777

Jaguar that drove me to my plane

What a beauty!

Air France 777 taking me to Houston

I was brought up a set of stairs, and then we found ourselves in the jet bridge. The door L2 jet bridge was backed up with probably over 100 people in it. Meanwhile the jet bridge to the forward door was closed completely. Like the door was shut and there was a barrier in front of it.

Walking to the jet bridge

My lovely La Premiere agent opened the door, removed the barrier, let me through, and then closed the door and put the barrier back up again. Not only did I have the cabin to myself, but I also had this jet bridge all to myself. Amazing!

Private first class jet bridge

And this is where the real fun started…

Air France first class ground experience bottom line

Air France knocks the first class ground experience out of the park, and that’s true even when in-lounge immigration isn’t fully functional. Air France gets that it’s not about how glitzy the lounge is, but rather about the experience being good from start to finish. Even though this was my shortest layover in the La Premiere lounge, and I didn’t get to enjoy the incredible restaurant or spa, this was still a top notch experience. It truly is one of the best airport lounges in the world.

  1. Why did you have to go through immigration arriving from Milan? Isn’t that an intra-Schengen flight?

  2. @Ben:

    You’ve reviewed the AF First Class experience itself several times and always note that you think it’s the best. Can you do an article that side-by-side compares, say, the total AF/LH/TG/SQ/CX/etc. First Class experiences on the ground?

    I ask because there are multiple airlines that offer chauffer service to the plane or dine-on-demand or spa services or private rooms/cabanas, etc. None of them seems to hit *all* the wickets, though. So what truly sets AF apart? Chauffeur service and the spa? Is the food better?

    AF F isn’t necessarily aspirational for me because it’s hard to get and, ultimately, I don’t find their onboard product to be that great so why waste my time, but I’m still curious to see the overall ranking, by category, that leads you to prefer one carrier’s ground-handling over another’s.

  3. Any idea what the ground experience is like when arriving in Paris and not connecting? Do you still clear immigration in the lounge? Do you still get driven to the terminal?

  4. @Jeff R He went to the US, so he needed to go through immigration(leaving the schengen area) for this

  5. @ Jess — They still drive you separately to immigration and escort you through, though you don’t use the lounge.

  6. @ Jeff R — As noted by Ric, it was departure immigration based on going to the US, and not arrival immigration, because as you note, that was a flight within the Schengen zone.

  7. @ Evan — Just because I think BA is terrible doesn’t mean I hate British things! You’re insulting the UK by suggesting that BA=British.

  8. @ AdamR — It’s a great question, and once I publish my La Premiere review I plan on doing a post ranking my the world’s top first class ground experiences, and also the world’s top first class onboard experiences. Stay tuned. 🙂

  9. Forget British, they are owned by an Indian company. They have improved significantly since then.

  10. When you reviewed garuda first class didn’t you say they had the best first class ground experience?

    I may have it wrong and maybe you said best overall first class….

  11. How many rolling delays could you possibly have during a scheduled 1010a departure that was ultimately changed to. 1045a? Am I missing something?

  12. @ Justin — Sorry, maybe “rolling” wasn’t the right term, but rather there was never an actual estimated departure time. Rather it was just that “hopefully they’ll be done shortly,” and that continued for about 75 minutes.

  13. @ Drav — The way in which they escorted people may have been the best, but the lounge itself wasn’t amazing, so I think this is an overall better ground experience.

  14. I enjoyed the review, but I’m curious about choosing not to review a full cabin. I’m guessing most of us wind up flying in cabins that are closer to full than not full, so wouldn’t a review of a full cabin be more helpful? And if we got an empty cabin that would be a nicer surprise!

  15. @ Brian — I don’t think there’s any expectation of that. I’ve never done that on Air France and Lufthansa, and people usually accuse me of over-tipping.

  16. @Lucky

    I’ll level with you. As a Brit in the UK and a regular reader I find your tone generally anti-British (not just anti-BA) hence my comment. But I’ll cut you some slack on this occasion. If you say I’m wrong I’m prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt…

  17. @ RSB31 — Fair enough, but to expand on that further, the other issue was that the other flights were all shorter east coast flights, to JFK, IAD, etc., so this was also the longest flight. The bigger issue is that the cabin is just one row, and if I arrived and the other people were already seated, there’s no way I’d be able to get any cabin pictures. This isn’t an issue on other airlines with bigger cabins or where I have more discretion of when I board, but when I’m driven to the plane I’m at their mercy.

  18. As a UK reader I have to disagree with Evan.
    Britidh Airways is an embarassing institution and Lucky is right to highlight its shocking shortcomings

    It only continues to exist because of its control over heathrow and sheer jingoism from other brits

  19. @Lucky

    Considering flying RT in La Premiere SFO-GVA for $6,425 later this year. In your opinion is the price tag worth it to experience the product considering I don’t have any Flying Blue Status?

  20. @volarry

    The 77W is the plane you’d want to fly. F on the A380 is outdated and not very private.

  21. Am thinking of flying, paid ticket, AF La Premiere in December from SFO to CDG on the 777-300ER and connecting to Cairo on AF 787 which only offers Business Class. Would I be met at the aircraft and allowed to use La Premiere Lounge, then escorted to my connecting flight? Am positioning to fly EY Residence via AUH to JFK, then AA back to SFO
    Thanks, Mark

  22. I am sorry to say but why would anyone want to travel with AF.

    They are are one of only a few Airlines who transport Primates to Laboratories around the World for Animal Testing.

    Stop it AF, this is not Good !!

  23. I am sorry to say but why would anyone want to travel with AF.

    They are are one of only a Major Airlines who transport Primates to Laboratories around the World for Animal Testing.

    Stop it AF, this is not Good !!

  24. ” La Premiere agent walked me to the very front of the line. As we got there she said “technically we aren’t supposed to cut the line, but usually they allow it. ”

    And that is why I won’t go to Europe and pay more to go as far as I can from it. Periodically I get the same first class treatment as @lucky received. I try not to be an “ahole” getting in front of handicaps, parents with small children, pregnant women etc. Once a while I’m forced to do it and my face burns hot red as I find it shameful. There is one thing to have a line for first class, pre-tsA, etc that is clearly visible and people expect and can see an order of priority among people. Most (I said most E.g Italian, Hungarian Etc not all) European countries have absolutely no order, logic and pushing shoving is fine to get to be first in line ( or on the roads). “We not suppose to do this but I do it anyway because I can”
    So while some of us feel funny to be in a jaguar next to a bus, I’m more ashamed to pushed in front of the line. Just my two cents.

  25. Hello Ben,
    Regarding the french immigration officers (or French Border Police officers to be exact), i’ve met some checking passports (and immigration/entry status) mid-way between the jet bridge AND the french border police booth, which makes 2 immigration checks, on a return flight from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines in CDG Terminal 1. The first ones do not stamp entry but seem to just check immigration/entry status, and thus return the people on the plane if necessary.

    That may explain the “reaffection” of French Border Police Officers.

  26. Typical France:
    “……technically we aren’t supposed to cut the line, but usually they allow it. Stand here, and I will signal to you when you should come over. ”
    Technically we aren’t supposed ISIS in the country, but usually we (turn our heads and) allow”

  27. Hi Ben,

    I’m at the La Premiere lounge as I’m writing this. The experience is exactly how you described it…so far. I’m dining right now and will have a spa appt in about 1.5 hrs. I’ve been using your reviews to guide me with this place so thanks.

    Long time reader,

  28. Just passed thru CDG Security and it was uber-stressful and unorganized. Security line was held up for 30+ mins so that airline crew (in groups of 20+) and military could jump ahead. Pax were upset as they had reason to be concerned about missing their flights. Many crew had bag content issues (items that needed examination) which paralyzed the line further. (Good case for making a separate crew queue). Throw in the Air France (& Lufthansa) STRIKES, set for random days in April & May: (as wells as FR rail strike: and you have a recipe for bad travel. // I missed the AF strike days by 1 in both directions, thank goodness.

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