Review: Air France Business Class A321 Madrid To Paris

Filed Under: Air France

Air France 1301
Madrid (MAD) – Paris (CDG)
Sunday, April 12
Depart: 12:45PM
Arrive: 2:50PM
Duration: 1hr55min

Aircraft: A321
Seat: 2A (Business Class)

So, you guys, if there’s one lesson I can impart to you in this trip report series, it is this:

Never fly with a hangover.

Madrid is a late night city.  I figured that a 12:45pm departure would still allow me to go out on a Saturday night and wake up in plenty of time to make my flight.  Of course, one bottle of wine becomes two, and you add some beers to the mix, and suddenly it’s 5:00am when you’re tucking yourself in and you’ve got to get up and pack by 9:30.

Luckily, I woke up feeling tired, but otherwise fine, and made my way to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Madrid is a funny place — it’s such a late night city that at 10:30am on a Sunday the entire city is in deep slumber even though the sun is out and birds are chirping.  My drive to the airport felt post-apocalyptic in that I could count the number of pedestrians I saw on one hand, but the upside is I made it to Barajas in under 15 minutes.

Madrid is a ghost town at 10:30am on a Sunday
Madrid is a ghost town at 10:30am on a Sunday!

Terminal 2 at Barajas Airport was equally a ghost town, and my boarding pass entitled me to “Fast Track” security clearance, which was in a totally different part of the airport from general security.  The “Fast Track” area was actually quite spacious, uncluttered, and serene, with wood floors and soft lighting (when was the last time anyone ever complimented a security check?) and I was the only one around, so I walked through instantly.

I headed to the “VIP Lounge,” which didn’t belong to any specific airline but was rather run by the airport authority.  It was spare and not air-conditioned, but it was spacious and had plenty of seating, as well as terrific views of the runway.  The food selection was limited to muffins and pre-wrapped foods, but I was impressed by the variety given how lowered my expectations were by the lounge.

Madrid Barajas Airport VIP Lounge menu
Madrid Barajas Airport VIP Lounge menu
Madrid Barajas Airport VIP Lounge menu
Madrid Barajas Airport VIP Lounge menu

I had an espresso and a muffin, and then noticed that a hangover was quickly coming on strong.  That the lounge was uncomfortably warm, not just for me but for everyone, didn’t help.  Sometimes when you’re lucky, you wake up with a hangover and can sleep it off, but there’s no horror quite like getting only a few hours sleep, starting your day and then having a hangover hit while you’re about to board a plane.  When you know: it’s only going to get worse.

Around 12:15, I headed over to the gate, which was a bit of a walk from the VIP Lounge (and where I discovered a second, nicer VIP lounge directly next door to my boarding area).  Boarding commenced and I picked up a newspaper from the jetway on the way to the plane, which is a nice perk that seems to have disappeared from North America decades ago.

The Air France flight attendants welcomed me onto the plane and I took my seat, 2A, which was a window in business class.  There was no one else in my row, which was good, because I was so pale and so trembling that I probably would have been unsettling to anyone.  Oh god – I gotta sit next to the guy who looks like he’s going to boot any moment now?

Seat 2A
Seat 2A

Prior to takeoff, the flight attendants passed along sealed packages of refreshing moistened towels, which I used to try and make my clammy face feel a bit better, to little avail.

Refreshing towel service
Refreshing towel service

Once we took off, I realized that a hangover + air travel is possibly the worst combination of any two things since Britney Spears and Kevin Federline toast and Vegemite.  If you’ve ever seen photos of Britney and Kevin in matching denim outfits If you’ve ever had Vegemite on toast, you’ll at least have shared that feeling of intense nausea.

The lovely and gracious flight attendants seemed concerned as I trembled, shook and held my head like a psychiatric ward patient, but were proactive about bringing me water and refilling it every few minutes.

Eventually, they brought around the lunch trays, and I took one to document for you guys, even though the thought of any food at all was the furthest thing from my mind.

Lunch on Air France intra-Europe
Lunch on Air France intra-Europe

I have to say, were I not ill, I would have been quite perked up by the lunch service.  The drinks cart included a bottle of actual champagne (on a 2 hour intra-Europe flight!) and the lunch appeared to consist of bay scallops in a tomato sauce, ratatouille, a carrot cake and two precious little macarons.

The other passengers seemed to enjoy their lunch quite a bit!  I tried to avert my eyes after a while, because if there’s anything you could have put in front of me that could have been more nausea-inducing than lightly seared bay scallops, I can’t think of it.  Coupled with some turbulence, I was feeling awful. In fact, a few minutes later I politely returned the tray to the galley and excused myself to use the lavatory.  I won’t go into graphic detail, but I’m quite sure the other passengers are pleased that I did.  I’d never used an airsick bag before in public [note: not that I’ve used one in private!], and I wasn’t about to start now.

Throughout the experience, the flight attendants were extremely sympathetic, even when I explained to them in French that it was my fault because I’d imbibed too much the night before.

After I returned to my seat, we began our initial descent into Paris, and I looked forward to returning to solid ground where I hoped my air sickness would subside.

Air France Business Class Madrid to Paris Bottom Line

Since I was in horrible shape, I can’t really say I am in a very good position to review Air France’s intra-Europe business class service between Madrid and Paris.  I didn’t try the food or champagne and stuck mostly to water and silent prayers that I could teleport myself to my bed in Los Angeles immediately.

However, I will say that the presentation of the food was quite impressive for a short-haul flight between Spain and France, and certainly blew away whatever ham scraps and bread Air Europa offered on a similar short-haul.  The service was prompt and professional and the flight attendants seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being.  There was a clear difference in professionalism and quality of catering between Air France and Air Europa, and while I enjoyed the service on Air Europa, everything about this Air France flight felt choreographed and polished.

  1. Sounds like a episode of Man Men. Nice to see a real world post but sorry it was at your expense. Spain is a dangerous place. Why oh why can’t they just eat dinner earlier.

  2. Ay-yay-yay. Someone got lost in the Air New Zealand airsickness bag diversity.

  3. I know it’s a little different but I have marmite and toast every day and it is amazing. It’s an acquired taste but so good once you like it.

  4. I feel your pain. Flying hungover is really the worst, and I’ve done it more times that I would like to admit. I honestly try to plan my drinking schedules to avoid a flight the next day. Signs of getting too old.

  5. I’m a bit confused. Are you comparing flying while hungover to vegemite on toast, which to be honest is the best thing in the world? If so, i’m going to have to try flying while hungover on my upcoming ~33,000 mile trip. Thanks for the tip!

  6. I am 100% picking up what you are putting down here. Sorry about the hangover, I’m working on one myself right now. 🙁

  7. Nothing beat an all-nighter in new orleans, showing up at the airport realizing my ID was gone (yes you can fly with no photo ID).
    I was lucky to get the upgrade, and I felt pretty bad to the lady (I think) who was next to me. I smelled like a mix of cigarettes, beer, garbage, and food. and casinos.

    I was able to sleep it off the entire flight though, which was nice.

  8. Well, looks like I’ve managed to offend the Australians now with my disparaging remarks about Vegemite 😉

  9. To call your economy seat and pitiful lunch business class is a joke. I’m not claiming to be an expert but the only intra Europe flights I’ve been on with real business class is Aeroflot. I’ve flown their 737-800s and A 319s and 320s intra Europe recently, and they have first-class seats like on DL 737-900s with personal video and meals comparable to international business-class. A pleasant surprise although to get from one EU city to another, I connected through SVO. But with the hard product and service it was a pleasure.

  10. @Patrick – Once you like it? How much suffering must you endure before your body gives up and learns to like it.

    @Nick – So on my first Biz class LAX-FRA in LH J I had too much to drink. And our 4 hour train ride to Amsterdam was an awful nightmare. At least in the plane you can feel the plane moving. On the train everything is zipping by outside at 150+mph and you feel nothing in the train. A major brain/eyes disconnect. Tried to eat a sandwich, but all I could buy was some plywood “bread” with some scraps of cheese and meat on it. Never going to make that mistake again.

  11. Nick, I experienced the same but I was in Barcelona 😉 Spain is a VERY dangerous place when it come to partying! For me it was the business school graduation party and a flight to Italy scheduled the next day at 1 pm. Never ever again.

  12. As Scotty G posted, lightly buttered toast with a thin smear of vegemite is an excellent cure for an upset stomach. I suspect the mistake non-Australians make is to spread it on bread or toast as you would peanut butter, nutella etc.

  13. Hello Nick!

    I’ve only commented twice on this website (both times regarding Ben’s Air France articles as I’m French and therefore I allow myself to comment because I know more on this topic than with other airlines).
    As much as I enjoy Ben’s articles/website (a lot), I’m glad someone who’s Skyteam sensitive can now publish ^^
    Anyway… 🙂 The reason for my comment is to point out that Air France has recently launched its new Europe A319/320 seats and menu (the latter you actually experienced I think). You got (very) old seats unfortunately but the new leather ones are looking good! So yeah…


  14. @Lucky — Here’s some science for which you’ll thank me for the rest of your life: a hangover is nothing more, nothing less than dehydration. The cure — the ONLY cure — is to drink water until you can’t take it anymore, then drink some more. Just overload yourself with water and your hangover will pass in a matter of minutes. And if you do so BEFORE going to bed you’ll never get one to begin with.

    As for marmite, it’s basically shit. If you like marmite, then you’ll literally have no problem eating feces. Worst. Food. Ever.

  15. Look at the bright side: you have a great story to tell. Like most great stories, something went sadly wrong.

  16. @A.S.: Water before bed absolutely can prevent a hangover (though sadly in most cases when one is really blotto that’s a step easily forgotten), especially when paired with an Advil PM. But once you’ve reached morning stage I find all the water in the world can’t make the nausea and headache subside. Only thing I’ve ever found useful — besides just sleeping it off until it goes away — is Gatorade. That all said, though, the motion of the plane really amped an otherwise ordinary hangover into super-nausea territory, so I couldn’t even keep down water. No bueno!

  17. Am I really the first one to point out that the photo is not of Britney and Kevin, but of Britney and Justin? Ben, I would expect your pop sensibilities to extend a few years back from Taylor Swift!!!

  18. @ Stratos — Hah! This post was written by contributor Nick, though truth be told I don’t know the first thing about Britney. I was all boy bands back in the day!

  19. @Stratos: Oh. My. God. This is mortifying and embarrassing. I do know the difference between my early 2000’s pop icons, sort of! Forgive my lapse in journalistic integrity, please…

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