This is a review of Air France La Première First Class Lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Air France La Première First Class Lounge product is the most exclusive first-class product on the market today, making it an elusive experience for most passengers. It is a typical demand outstripping supply situation with just 76 La Première seats across the Air France fleet. Return cash tickets are prohibitively expensive, but not much more than a comparative service from British Airways. Redemptions using Virgin Points or those of other partners are blocked by Air France, while Flying Blue awards are only possible for top-tier frequent flyers. This makes it exceptionally hard to book in a cost-effective manner.
For my business trip to the US, I was due to fly on Air France’s Business Class. I had specifically selected this flight to San Francisco as it had La Première on-board and there was a chance I would be able to upgrade. I selected the longest connection I could find with a 17-hour connection, arriving at 4pm before departing the next day at 10am and spending overnight at the Yotel airside hotel.
After following this Flyer Talk thread for months, I tried to keep track of how I could attain a cash upgrade close to my departure from Air France’s Business Class to La Première. The TLDR on this is:
- Upgrades are offered during online check-in if there are minimal loads on the aircraft – it’s best to check on Expert Flyer.
- Upgrade during physical check-in at the airport.
The first didn’t happen, unfortunately, as the cabin on my Air France flight already had three out of four seats occupied. I attempted the latter, and the check-in agent at the airport advised ‘you have a great seat already, do not worry’. She meant this sincerely and the Air France Business Class cabin was going to be a decent experience regardless, but I really wanted to try La Première.
With those two options out the window, I thought the upgrade was dead. However, upon stepping off my connecting flight, I stopped by the Transit Desk to see what they could do and found they were able to help. Not the most proactive staff, but they got the job done.
After 30 minutes of waiting at the transfer desk, I was joined by a delightful member of the La Première team who escorted me through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and towards the ‘le salon La Première’. I was more than ready to make the most of this experience.
Stepping foot out of the lift and you are greeted with an empty lobby featuring a spaceship-like light above. This provides more than adequate privacy for passengers frequenting the lounge and gives lounge personnel the chance to provide a personal welcome.
When I arrived, the staff met me with a red enveloped re-print of my boarding pass. While it is a small touch, this type of personal and friendly service made you feel a little bit special while flying on Air France. As I was returning in the morning, I was able to guarantee and select my advanced reservation for a spa treatment in advance – something I wish other airlines would allow people to do.
Behind the wall which separates the entrance lifts from the rest of the lounge is an excellent display of Air France memorabilia displaying the items from the airline’s history but, unfortunately, no Concorde model in sight.
The lounge is split between six distinct areas:
- Dining area
- Relaxed lounge seating
- Sleeping/nap zone
- Sisley Spa
Compared to some airlines that may opt for a garish ‘bling’ look in their First Class lounges, Air France goes for a comparatively chic, understated, and classy design for this salon. The French flag carrier opts for a liberal use of creams throughout and splashes of their iconic red colour as well as dark greys to make it a bit more colourful.
The lounge style seating comes in an abundance for the relative lack of passengers on the day I travelled. There are enough choices regardless of the type of style you prefer, from bench style to comfortable armchairs and sofas. It’s worth noting that you could tell Air France maintain their La Première lounge to a high standard with a lack of marks on leather or mess around the place when compared to regional competitor’s offerings.
The nap zone is a little lacklustre, thanks to the quirky design that isn’t very private, when compared to sleeping rooms outfitted with proper mattresses that other airlines have. I do suspect that these never get particularly busy so you could get a few hours rest in this space.
Air France La Première First Class Lounge Food and drink
I settled down in the place I knew I would be most at home, the dining area, where I sat opposite a clinically-white open refrigerator with small dishes and your choice of water. Something that crops up in every review is the selection of water available which I never knew could be so difficult to decide.
The design of the lounge means that the dining area is cleverly separated from the bench style seating, making the space feel private without ruining the ambience. Passengers can also eat in other areas of the lounge, but I prefer the more traditional seating in the dining area.
Despite initially declining, the waiter insisted I try Orezza from Corsica, which was actually pretty good for somebody who doesn’t enjoy sparkling water!
I was provided with a menu bound in red leather and embossed with the La Première logo promptly and began to browse. Both food on-board and in the lounge is designed by three-time Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. The options offered are truly first class, and there should be something for everybody here, despite only being spread across two pages.
The waiter was extremely attentive and proactively encouraged me to try some of the cold small plates from the open refrigerator. These included an asparagus couscous and cured fish dish, both of which tasted good but weren’t to my taste preference. He served these alongside some fresh bread which would be to the standard of any French citizen.
One thing you will notice is the attention to detail Air France places on its branding throughout the experience. Whether that is the use of the red colour or its classic stylised Air France logo that features subtly on the plates and elsewhere, the airline gets their branding exactly right in La Première.
Onwards to the dishes from the menu. I began with a selection of French charcuterie, which was too much for one person but did provide something ‘to munch on’ as the menu described it. For starter, I opted for the chicken Caesar salad. While light on Caesar dressing, the chicken memorably tasted excellent, fresh, and still juicy, which was a far cry from the dry chicken and packet Caesar sauce found in U.S. lounges upon my arrival in San Francisco.
For the main course, I opted for the peppered beef tenderloin and potato puree. While it may appear a small portion on the plate, the rich flavour of the tenderloin and excellent cooking made this an excellent option to savour. Even the mash tasted great and smooth, though I tend to steer clear of it any other time. I really enjoyed this, so much so that I ended up having more the next day during the remainder of my long layover…
The following morning, the lounge offers both a breakfast menu, below, as well as the regular menu. Breakfast can be hard to crack and really differentiate. While the quality was good, the options on offer were not world-leading in the same way the regular menu is.
As such, I tried out the elbow pasta and a chicken, Comté cheese and black truffle toasted sandwich, with lots of lettuce. Both had been recommended by the previous evening’s waiter, and they were great options, if not a little rich.
I opted for a cappuccino with the breakfast, but this is certainly an area that Air France could improve on. The drinks are from an automated machine which are not usually the best quality and instead, the airline should consider having some staff trained to use an espresso machine for better quality.
To my shame, I didn’t take any pictures of the alcoholic drinks menu, but I did manage to sample three champagnes after arrival. These included Bruno Paillard Rose Champagne and Veuve Cliquot Le Grande Dame 2006. Both were excellent, particularly as I’ve had a taste for Rose Champagne recently, but the Veuve Cliquot was certainly the winner out of the two.
A dedicated bar can also be found in the lounge with a very psychedelic mirrored design which seems to differ from the main lounge design. An extensive selection of alcohols can be found, including several Johnnie Walker aged whiskies. (Author note: If you couldn’t tell already, yes, I’m not a whisky fan!). An out-of-place Nespresso machine and kettle can also be found here.
Bathrooms, showers, and spa of Air France La Première First Class Lounge
The lounge offers a considerable number of bathrooms and shower suites. The toilets are found in a unique cylindrical design with more than enough space in them – British Airways hospital toilets these certainly are not! Each toilet features an interesting chandelier in the centre, while the padded walls covered in a suede material place this lounge a cut above the rest.
The shower suites are a bit more conventional but are still excellent. After a long day of travel, the showers provided a great way to refresh with them having excellent pressure and a steady level of heat. The Parisian brand Sisley provides in-shower amenities and also operate the spa.
On the morning of my departure, I went into the Sisley Spa for a complimentary massage. This consisted of a head and upper body massage which was blissfully, providing the perfect tone to begin my journey to the US. It lasted thirty minutes, which is considerable, but passengers could also select from a menu of other treatments for more money if desired.
Conclusion for Air France La Première First Class Lounge
I was initially a little underwhelmed with the Air France La Première First Class Lounge. I had read many reviews extolling the virtues of this place and in-person it felt a lot smaller than I had expected with low ceilings but with an abundance of natural light. Underwhelmed doesn’t mean disappointed, I loved the experience because they have focussed on making the service excellent and exuding luxury throughout the whole visit. All staff within the lounge are trained to exacting standards, which ensures that guests get the most from La Première with all your needs catered to.
As the staff knew it was my first time in Air France La Première First Class Lounge, they even provided me with several Alain Ducasse chocolate bars for my journey, in addition to the famed red leather luggage tag. Food is a high point with quality that is unheard of in many restaurants, let alone competitor lounges. With a long layover, the La Première lounge gets you set for the experience on-board and, in many ways, is a large part of why people like me choose to pay for the upgrade.
Tomorrow, this mini review series on Air France La Première will continue with a review of the 12-hour flight to San Francisco aboard the Boeing 777-300 ER, as well as the ground transportation.
Like our Air France La Première First Class Lounge review? You can read more Airline Lounge reviews here.
Thanks for this – really interesting review. I am not sure I’ll get to (be able to afford) La Premiere, but it looks classy.
There is some sweet spots if you have a pool of AmEx Points. The best way appears to keep an eye on availability with Flying Blue (the programme of Air France KLM, and the only way to redeem on La Premiere). Availability comes up close to departure and there seems to be regular availability at a decent price to Dubai.
Do they still collect you off the plane and transport you by car to the lounge and then by car to your connecting flight?
Many years ago, I was connecting from Johannesburg to Edinburgh in La Premiere. On arrival at Paris, I was met off the plane by a chauffeur, transported to the la Premiere transit lounge where all formalities were taken care of. Had a shower, meal and a short nap and then driven to my connecting flight to Edinburgh (for those who know CDG this was parked way out at the extreme).
The limo arrived and parked at the front steps. The chauffeur insisted on carrying my bag up the stairs onto the waiting plane. I thought “This is my Mr Bean moment” :), All these waiting passengers wondering who this VIP is!! I entered the plane and….EMPTY :(.
I waited 1 hour for the other passengers to arrive and board.
Anyway, the overall experience was fantastic
Oh wow that sounds like quite the experience!
Yes they do still provide the private car transfer – which I cover in the Flight review tomorrow. It’s quite unnecessary but very satisfying to have that up close and unique view on the way to board. In my opinion, Air France get the La Premiere first experience almost perfect – a league above other European competitors.
Was the upgraded free ?
Unfortunately not! Even for Flying Blue Elites.
This upgrade was around 1600 EUR if I remember right. DXB is cheapest for LP upgrades clocking in around EUR 900.
Great article with which I agree almost entirely ,but…….exactly what did you say at the Transit Desk to negotiate the upgrade?
Did this cost you? How much?
Or might you have played the “social media influencer” card?
Sorry should’ve been clearer.
Paid upgrade – i think it was around EUR1600 if I remember right. Didn’t include the price because, as the flyer talk forum shows, there is a huge differential in prices for upgrades from flight to flight on the Same destination.
DXB is cheapest for LP upgrades.
Yep it’s a lot…but I had managed to get quite a cheap ex-EU fare and coincided with Bonus season.
I actually took this flight pre-TLFL, so i certainly couldn’t play the influencer card with my personal blog! Even with TLFL, I think the LP experience is is exclusive it would be impossible to get on as a so-called influencer.
Thanks for the post. I look forward to the next instalment.
It is interesting that they took you to the First Class Lounge when you weren’t flying until the next morning! That’s a great perk and makes the overnight connection really worth it. I can’t see BA allowing passengers into the Concorde Room knowing they’d not be flying that day?
Similar to other posts, I’d be keen to know the upgrade price you paid, just to see if I can continue dreaming that one day I might be able to fly it or if it is completely out of my league!
Hi Donald, thank you. It’ll be out soon!
As for price, there is a huge variation from day to day on the Same route and of course from route to route. My upgrade for SFO was around EUR 1600.
The cheapest is DXB for upgrades at around EUR 900 when offered. Mexico City also has some great upgrade prices that have a longer flight than Dubai and longer to enjoy the experience. The flyertalk article link is a treasure trove of information.
It’s also worth noting that the connection was overnight but sub 24 hours. If I wanted to leave with luggage, I’d need to pay a fee to AF. I was very impressed with the service AF gave.
Hi, so with the long lay over you had a hotel in the airport? i am unclear on how you managed to use the lounge for 3 meals etc. Can you just use it and leave as long as you are in the airport, thanks Kathy I have avios but no flying blue miles so unlikely ever to get this amazing experience. Was hoping to fly with air france using some avios to Singapore or Vietnam but will have to wait and see!
Hi Kathy. I had a 17h layover and stayed at the Yotel Transit Hotel (within the airport transit zone). The Air France staff took me to the hotel (which was in a different part of the airport) by the transfer car and collected me the following morning to take me back to the lounge. They pre-arranged the collection time with me and made it an exceptionally smooth process to get me back for my spa treatment and breakfast the morning of departure.
As for Singapore/Vietnam, if you collect Virgin Points you can fly in Business Class on Air France-KLM (availability dependent). This is quite accessible if you have a non-BA Amex card and also the Virgin Mastercard.
If you are looking for the First Class experience on Air France, Flying Blue miles is the only way to book using points – unfortunately.
@Kathy.You can’t use Avios on AirFrance/KLM or any SkyTeam member. Only way is as Callum suggests but you won’t find it easy to use Virgin points to Singapore or Vietnam, as FB sort their own members out first, and these are popular routes with all airlines…you need to be looking a year out for definite award availability and dates….difficult.
@Callum. As a very,very long time top tier customer of FB, I was looking for two La Premiere award seats to the US prior to lockdown. I received a phone call that they could accommodate one person not two So my wife and I went down the back…Business, which was totally fine !
Haha! I can’t blame you for that! Were you both able to visit the LP lounge?
great review.. this is on my bucket list!
Certainly, worth adding – hope you can get to it soon!
Great review of this most exclusive of airport lounges. Very much on my list of travel experiences to do.
Comments are closed.