Air France – Matron in the Air (and not in a good way)

I lucked out to get relatively inexpensive tickets to travel Business Class to Bali – I’m not stupid – and I completely recognize a bargain when I see one. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I read some pretty negative reviews of Air France in general – and Air France Business Class in particular.

For those who google – Seat, Seat, and Airline are 3 of the many sites that allow folks like you and me to comment publicly on how airlines are treating their paying guests these days. My personal favorite is probably Seat Guru – it seems to keep up to date pretty reqularly – and has enough reviews to lend believability to the total.

Any way – it generally appeared upon reading these sites that I was in trouble. Air France has gone from Queen of the airways to what can best be described as an older lady who hasn’t aged as well as she might. Reviewers describe an old fleet, an old entertainment system, food that is best avoided, and not very friendly service.

Well I’m here to report – at the half way point – that the reviewers are not completely wrong. There is lots to love, and lots to wonder about on just one flight experience – people who have put on more miles with Air France will likely have found even less to love.

But let’s hit the highlights and the low lights. You can decide for yourself.

Right now I’m sitting in the Air France Executive lounge in Paris. On the Air France website – this lounge is described as sophisticated, elegant, luxurious. Well – not quite. The lounge in Montreal – while much smaller – had a much more elegant feel to it. I haven’t seen a single person cleaning or straightening up. The food selection is limited to delicous cheeses – and pre-packaged cups of noodles. Really – cup of noodles?

There was a sign at the entrance that advertised free massages – but when I arrived at 3:30 and asked for an appointment – they were ‘gone for the day’. Would it be so hard to take down the sign? Guess so.

I will give the lounge credit for size – it’s huge. And broken into quite attractive sections thru the use of plants (fake) and glass panels. One section is walled off completely – and labeled for Japan Air only. Guess they can’t mix with the likes of us. There are toilets – not wonderfully located though – and there’s an upstairs section that apparently has computers and work stations. Not to complain – but there’s no elevator – so everyone going up stairs is lugging their carry on.

And here’s the worst part – I’m in a basement. The view out of the only windows is of a huge construction site – I’m assuming the airport is expanding.

But this is the ‘name’ carrier of France – shouldn’t they offer guests a bit of a higher standard.

Late breaking news – my flight boards at 6:50 PM – so at about 6:45 I made my way out of the lounge – to realize they were setting up the most amazing spread for dinner – lox, cold cuts, several salads, etc. But it was chained off – you have to wait to 7:00 to eat! I guess they figure that just because you are Travelling – you should abide by France’s standard eating times to get hungrey. At least it’s a way step up from Cup of Noodles.

On to the review of the flight over the pond as the Brits like to refer to the Atlantic Ocean. Yes – I turned left. Yes I had one of those cool looking seats that becomes a bed – and yes they provided slippers, hand creme, eye shades, and even low end ear phones permanently attached to your chair. But I couldn’t plug in my own ear phones and stereo sound, the tiny TV monitor was over an arms reach away – and the selections rather limited. I did get to watch MockingJay, Big Force 6, and a bit of the 100 Foot Journey – so that was ok – but in comparision to the options available on Air Canada in Economy class – this was pretty weak. No points for making me use your earphones, no points for selections, no points for size/clarity of the TV. Sorry Air France – losers.

The service was variable. I can’t actually lift my carry on – it has my regulator inside – so I need help. Points for the staff noticing, Points for the staff trying to help – no points for the male steward saying – aren’t you going to help me. Really – I’m 66 and 5’4″ – I can’t even OPEN the overhead bin – let alone lift the carry on. And this is fancy dancy business class.

Drinks – Points for lots of drink options, 10 points for AWESOME hot chocolate, no points for making me ask 3 times for a refill on water, and definitely no points for telling me that after 5 hours they had figured out that I liked fizzy water – and thus included a bottle on the breakfast cart – just for me. It’s not the guesture – it’s having to tell me about it that’s weird.

Silverware – I have no idea where they are storing these things – but seriously cold silverware is a real turn off. So of course is plastic – so points for real silverware, no points for it being cold. Very cold.

Food – ok – this too had temperature issues. Where are they storing stuff? Frozen shrimp? Really? But the bread was fresh baked and delicious – and the cheese – wonderful. The butter so hard that I couldn’t cut it with a knife. So again – mixed review – Points for the bread – lots of points for the bread. And the main course was pretty good too. But too cold to eat shrimp was a serious negative. And I would have loved some of those fresh baked cookies that Lou mentioned. None showed up. On the other hand – the Hot chocolate was outstanding. And I’d almost fly AF again to get it.

Breakfast – 4 tiny pieces of fruit, a COLD (nothing new there) yogurt and 2 more hot chocolates. Best part – freshly baked pasteries. So few people opted for breakfast that the gal offered me seconds if I wanted. That was nice. Points for Hot Cocolate, Points for asking if I wanted seconds – No points for the rest.

Bed – which was in fact the entire point – Ok – that was pretty good. In fact – I don’t understand the negative comments all over the net. Am I just less fussy? It was firm, there was a nice big pillow and a huge blanket that was quite comfy. I was in 3E – which was NOT a bulkhead seat. That meant I had a shelf to put my feet on – and of course the slanted flat bed. So Points and them some for these. I wouldn’t want a bulkhead seat – but otherwise – all was good. And they had reading lights that you could move around as needed. Another nice touch.

Bottom line – I’m curious to see if we’re going up or down on this next leg – 19 hours to Singapore…

Signing off to get some more of that yummy cheese here in the Executive Lounge – The Soup Lady

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