Hello from Frankfurt, as I’m well underway on my latest review trip. After an amazing flight in Air France’s Airbus A350 business class, I connected onto a short 50-minute flight to Frankfurt, operated by an Air France HOP Embraer E190. For those of you not familiar with HOP, this is Air France’s regional subsidiary, operating a fleet of Embraer aircraft.
While I’ll have a full trip report soon, in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions. Usually I don’t write these kinds of preview posts about short haul flights, but this flight had both highs and lows.
In this post:
Air France HOP’s disappointing “business class” cabin
Business class on intra-Europe flights is pretty underwhelming by global standards, as it typically consists of economy seats with a blocked adjacent seat, plus better service. Well, while Air France blocks adjacent seats in business class throughout its mainline fleet, that’s not the case on HOP.
Instead, the business class cabin consists of the first several rows, but no seats are blocked. Yes, that’s right, it means you’ll potentially be sitting next to someone, as I was on this flight, as every seat on the aircraft was taken.
On the plus side, the legroom in the first several rows is quite good, so at least that’s not too limiting. But still, not having any extra shoulder space is pretty disappointing.
How does this compare to the policies of other European airlines? While all major European airlines block adjacent seats on mainline aircraft, the policies differ on regional aircraft. To look at the “big three” airline groups:
- Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian, block adjacent seats in business class on regional jets, so you have a pair of seats to yourself
- Air France and KLM don’t block adjacent seats in business class on regional jets, so you could have a seat mate
- British Airways doesn’t block adjacent seats in business class on regional jets, so you could have a seat mate; however, British Airways doesn’t fly these aircraft to its Heathrow hub
So while Air France isn’t alone in having this policy, this is actually the first intra-Europe business class flight I’ve had in years where I was seated next to someone. I guess that’s an area where Lufthansa Group excels (hey, they’ve gotta be good at something!)
While this policy is disappointing and makes for a not-very-premium experience, I guess I also can’t blame Air France, because the company seems to get away with it? Air France charges more for business class between Paris and Frankfurt than Lufthansa, all while not blocking seats.
On the plus side, I had a shockingly pleasant conversation with my seat mate during the flight. I say “shockingly,” because the conversation started with him asking me if I had cats while I was using headphones.
Air France HOP’s delicious business class catering
While Air France HOP falls short of Lufthansa Group when it comes to personal space, the catering is a completely different story. I usually fly Lufthansa within Europe, and the catering is… not great. It’s almost like Lufthansa tries too hard to serve something that’s overly creative but not actually well executed. I really don’t need my mystery meat with a side of herring and elderflower, but thanks, Lufthansa.
Air France’s catering, on the other hand, is legitimately excellent. On this short 50-minute afternoon flight, the snack consisted of smoked salmon with truffle conchigliette, served with cauliflower cream and truffonade. There was also a selection of cheese, plus a pear tartlet. This was the best meal I ever recall having on a short haul flight within Europe.
I hadn’t flown Air France’s HOP subsidiary in over a decade, so I was happy to give it another shot for the short 50-minute flight from Paris to Frankfurt. Not surprisingly for a French airline, the food was very good. However, there are no blocked seats in business class on HOP, so there’s less personal space than on other aircraft. It’s interesting to see how the policies of different airlines vary.
What’s your take on Air France HOP’s business class?