Hello from Paris, as I’ve kicked off my latest review trip. I just flew Air France’s new Airbus A350-900 business class on the very short six hour overnight flight from New York to Paris.
While I’ll have a full trip report soon, in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions. I was excited about this flight, since Air France recently introduced new A350 cabins, which will be installed on all future delivery A350s.
So, how was the flight? Incredible, honestly. I think this might just be the nicest jet operated by any European airline. When you combine the general attributes of the A350 (including a quiet and modern cabin, tail camera, etc.) with Air France’s exceptional new business class seats (offering doors, amazing tech, and more), this is pretty unbeatable.
Air France’s soft product is great as well, and was especially well tailored to this short overnight flight, where it can be tough to balance great service with allowing passengers to maximize sleep.
In this post:
Air France’s A350 business class seats are incredible
Air France’s new A350-900s are in a premium configuration, with 48 business class seats. The cabin is simply gorgeous — I love the dark blue, the carpet with the pattern, and Air France’s iconic winged seahorse logo in so many places.
Air France selected the STELIA Opera seat for its A350s. What’s interesting is that this product is primarily intended for narrow body jets, but Air France partnered on a customized version of the seat for its wide body aircraft, which you won’t find on any other airlines.
Now, the cabin might initially look familiar, as Air France recently started reconfiguring Boeing 777-300ERs with a new business class product, and the business class seats look very similar. However, believe it or not, that’s a totally different product, as 777s have the Safran Versa seats. It’s kind of amazing how similar seats from different manufacturers can be, eh?
This is in many ways an upgrade over the 777 product. For example, you’ll see that there’s a large monitor next to the seat, which you can use to control all seat functions, or to watch the map feature while otherwise enjoying the entertainment system.
The seat has exceptional tech, including USB-A, USB-C, and AC chargers, bluetooth audio, and a crisp entertainment system. The entertainment selection is extensive, though of course my favorite feature is the tail camera.
This is one of the “new style” A350s, which means that it has a slightly wider cabin than previous versions of the A350, and it also has dimmable windows (which I’ll talk more about in a separate post).
Air France’s A350 bulkhead seats are the best in the sky
While Air France’s “standard” A350 business class seats are great, the eight bulkhead business class seats on the plane take personal space to a different level, just as you’ll find on the reconfigured 777-300ERs.
While the seat may look the same in one direction…
…it’s a totally different story in the other direction, as your footwell is replaced with a massive ottoman. The bulkhead seats even have a storage compartment underneath the ottoman.
This is the world’s best business class seat, period. Honestly, does this look like business class or first class?
For what it’s worth, these seats can be assigned by Flying Blue elite members at the time of booking. Within 4 hours of departure, they can be assigned just like any other business class seat, so I was able to snag one then.
Air France’s food is delicious, with great service flow
On a six hour overnight flight, it can be hard for airlines to strike the right balance between providing premium service while also minimizing disruption in the cabin and allowing people to rest. Along those lines, I was pleased with the efficient yet polite service on this flight.
Service after takeoff was lightning fast. For example, 20 minutes after takeoff, the crew proactively came through the cabin with glasses of champagne for passengers, along with snacks. It’s always nice to have your first drink quickly after takeoff, and it’s rare to get a drink so fast in business class.
The meal tray was served just 35 minutes after takeoff, with an appetizer, salad, dessert, and cheese.
Then as soon as the appetizer was finished, my main course was brought out. I selected the sauteed shrimp with lobster sauce, which was quite tasty.
What impressed me most was that the entire meal was cleared around an hour after takeoff, which must be some sort of record time.
Then about 80 minutes before landing, there was a full breakfast service, with fruit, yogurt, pastries, and more. There was even the option for an egg dish, though I declined that.
This is exactly how meal service should be performed on an overnight flight, in my opinion.
Air France’s amenities are pretty good
For the most part, Air France’s product really shines across the Atlantic. I’d say the only area where Air France doesn’t impress as much is with amenities. That’s not to say they’re not good, they just aren’t remarkable.
Each business class passenger was offered an amenity kit with a couple of products from Clarins. This is perhaps a slightly above average amenity kit across the Atlantic, though not as good as you’ll find on some Asian carriers. It’s not a huge deal, but with France being such an iconic country when it comes to luxury goods, the kit feels kind of forgettable.
Air France’s bedding in business class is comfortable, with a substantial pillow and blanket. However, it’s not as good as what you’ll find on carriers like United. For that matter, I think it would be cool if the bedding had some sort of a different pattern to add a bit of color to the cabin, since it otherwise basically blends into the seats.
Air France’s new A350 business class is the overall best business class experience offered by any European airline, in my opinion. When you combine Air France’s excellent seats with the general benefits of the A350, this product is tough to beat. If you manage to snag one of the bulkhead seats, you’ll even basically get a first class seat at a business class price.
I’m thrilled to see Air France continue to invest in its passenger experience. Meanwhile we’re still waiting on Lufthansa’s new Allegris business class, first announced in 2017…
What’s your take on Air France’s A350 business class?