This is a review of the stunning Air France La Première First Class on a Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft. If you missed it yesterday, you can find my review of the La Première first class lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle here.
After spending an extensive amount of time in Air France’s La Première lounge, it was time to head aboard my flight to San Francisco in style. As is customary when flying in this class, you will be escorted by one of the lounge’s team in a luxury vehicle which is likely to be an Audi or BMW saloon. As an avgeek, this is an extremely unique vantage point when travelling around the airport but also an effective way of getting the convoluted layout of CDG. I had opted for an early boarding, instead of late, to get clear cabin shots.
At the time, the US still imposed their Covid testing requirements. On the way to the vehicle, I did encounter a passenger who was rather rude to the staff because they hadn’t read up on the need to test…they certainly gave the ‘do you know who I am’ impression.
Boarding and initial impressions
After the ten minute ride across the airport, we entered the boarding area by heading up secure stairs to the jet bridge. The member of staff who escorted me across the airport handed me over to the flight attendants, alerting them to the fact this was my first time on La Première and to ‘give me the best experience’.
The Air France La Première First Class cabin is intimate with four seats across in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each seat consists of an extremely comfortable armchair measuring almost 90cm wide and an ottoman opposite. An adjustable headrest is also featured while the seat does also recline into a multitude of positions including bed mode.
If you are lucky enough to be travelling with a companion, the Air France La Première First Class ottoman features a seat belt which can be used by your guest to have a true dining in the sky experience.
Storage in the Air France La Première First Class seat is extensive, with a large pull-out drawer underneath the ottoman and a side console which can store smaller items such as laptops, tablets, and personal goods. The latter is quite deep in sections and can be a little difficult to retrieve items. Here you can also find pre-wired noise cancelling Denon headphones along with a remote control. Additional overhead lockers can be found above the window seats as well as coat and clothes storage towards the galley.
Above the side console, a dimmable light can be found with a very gentle pattern of the classic insignia of Air France dubbed the winged seahorse. When the Air France La Première First Class cabin lights are off, this dimmable light creates a relaxing mood at your seat which I’ve found unmatched by few other seats.
Unlike suite doors on British Airways First Class, Air France’s cabin still features floor-to-ceiling curtains making for an extremely effective divider without being claustrophobic. Between seat 1E, where I sat, and 1F there is a divider which can be raised or lowered improving privacy between the two passengers.
Soon after boarding, the excellent flight attendant introduced themself and provided a glass of Pommery 2004 Couvée Louise champagne which retails for around £170 per bottle. It had a crisp taste and was cooled to the perfect temperature to make it exceptionally refreshing.
Food and drink
After exceptional food in the Air France La Première First Class, I was expecting more high quality gastronomy up in the air. Air France did not disappoint. On this flight to San Francisco, blocked at 11h 30m, the airline serves two extensive meals.
You will first notice the size of this table. It is huge. Along with the comfortable ottoman, you can see how one might easily be able to sit two at this table.
The first meal, lunch, was served soon after takeoff and consisted of five courses. Here’s a look at the menu, which was beautifully presented. This is the lunch menu.
The starter selection was not particularly to my taste on this flight, with a choice between two rich options. I opted for the duck foie gras. This is the first time I’ve had it before, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat, but I will say it was exceptionally produced and the lime alongside the tomato offsetting the luxuriant foie gras.
Meanwhile, the appetizer and soup were surprisingly good. The Caviar Sturia with vodka and lime whipped cream were flavoursome, while the fresh bellini were well cooked.
I was unsure of the soup offered, not only was it chilled, but the primary ingredient cucumber is not usually a winner in the flavour department. It provided an effective way to split the meal up by acting as a palate cleanser between otherwise rich ingredients. Not something I would go out of my way for, but equally, it was a decent option. As an aside, I hope that Air France do as British Airways did in 2020 and sell some of their La Premiere cutlery and plates off – they have a beautiful design.
For the main dish, I opted for the coffee-smoked centre-cut beef tenderloin with celeriac, purée, and jus. The flight attendant did ask how I wanted the beef, to which I said rare. To my surprise, it was cooked exactly to my preference. The accompanying vegetables and jus provided the perfect offset to the rich beef. It was not as good as the beef in the lounge, but I doubt there is a beef dish in the sky that can beat this.
A selection of cheeses followed the main, alongside an excellent medium-sized baguette which one would expect from a French airline.
I decided to opt out of the dessert options having overindulged both in the lounge and with the earlier courses. Instead, I opted to have the ice cream and sorbet selection alongside fresh fruits. Nothing exceptional, but it was all I really wanted after the raft of food offered. If I wanted, I could have opted for both the dessert and ice cream with fruit which would have been completely over-the-top.
I finished off with a black coffee freshly made with the onboard espresso machine. While only a minor point, the sachet of milk does feel a bit cheap. It does the job, but equally you are paying for a premium experience where a small saucer probably wouldn’t hit the Air France bottom line by much. Later in the flight I requested for an iced latte which technically isn’t offered, but the cabin crew did a great job of making one anyway.
Around ninety minutes prior to landing, a ‘meal service’, which was neither called lunch nor dinner, was produced. A far more limited selection than the lunch, but enough to get you prepared for the rest of the day in San Francisco
The delivery of this meal was odd, with the cheese and dessert courses delivered alongside the starter which I assume is to save time ahead of arrival. That aside, this was another corker of a service – and in some ways, I preferred it over the lunch meal.
For starter, I seemed to receive both the ewe’s cheese salad alongside the tarts. The ewe’s cheese had a similar flavour and texture to Greek feta and worked well alongside the Leek tarts on the plate. A small dish but one that was full of flavours.
As I wasn’t enamoured with the foie gras flavour, I instead chose the artichoke ravioli, which was possibly my favourite course alongside the earlier beef. The creamy flavour of the sauce with a slightly firm ravioli filled with tasty artichoke was the perfect alternative to the other dish offered.
The meal finished with a Cantal cheese alongside a sweet tart and then ‘apple compôte, date chutney with lime, pear and speculaas biscuit’. The latter was like an apple crumble but, again, tasted excellent and along with the main gave the impression of home cooking – in a positive way.
Outside of the extensive food, I didn’t stray far from the champagne on-board this flight.
In-flight entertainment, WiFi and amenities
On this Transatlantic route, there is an exceptional amount of competition in the form of in-flight entertainment. While on-board service may be lacking, American carriers usually have fantastic offerings which overshadow that offered by Air France. The touch-enabled screen itself is excellent and is about the right size considering its distance, while the remote features a small touch screen to more easily search or view the moving map.
The content offering itself isn’t awful. For one, you will find many recent releases as well as a lot of French-language films, but the selection just isn’t quite as extensive as American or British airlines – the same point could be directed at their sister airline KLM too.
Fortunately, I bought along my tablet with downloaded Netflix programming, but in La Première, you also have free WiFi for the entire journey. The usual caveats apply as with all long-haul WiFi experiences, but on this trip to the US it was reliable, with usable speeds to browse the internet, use Slack and even play YouTube videos.
I travelled on Air France just after their announcement of new amenity kits. I received the striking red faux-leather bound box option with magnetic opening and closing which represent a unique offering compared to other airlines. The contents feature Sisley amenities, which are a continuation of the lounge spa offering, alongside a large eye mask and comb featuring the winged seahorse logo.
The bathroom featured a further range of amenities for La Première passengers to use. There was not an extensive range of options, but the full-size bottles were welcome while the bathrooms were always kept clean.
One last point, pyjamas are provided in La Première and are of excellent quality. While the first set provided came up short, the second set were far better, and I am still wearing them on the odd occasion at home. It is a good thing when airlines decide to invest a bit more in aspects such as this, so they don’t just go straight to landfill.
While putting on the pyjamas, the cabin crew prepared the seat into bed mode with the softest and most comfortable bedding I’ve had in the sky (until Singapore Airlines Suites recently). With a large, marshmallow-like pillow and fluffy duvet, the bed on-board La Première is like no other.
I didn’t sleep on this flight owing to it taking place during the day, but it did provide for an extremely cosy way to cross the pond and relax back into some programmes. This was further aided by a cabin that was kept at a consistent temperature which can only be described as pleasant. I have no doubt that if you are on a long-haul, overnight flight that you will get a good rest.
You can tell from this review that my time in Air France’s La Première cabin was exceptional. The cabin crew were attentive and approachable, but not aloof or too pretentious as other airlines might be. Equally, they showed an actively showed an interest in my photo taking on-board by asking what I do and how I got into blogging in my spare time.
Even on my arrival, the ground crew were also fantastic escorting me off the plane to customs and then collecting my bags from the conveyer belt. After a long conversation, they provided me a number of recommendations on paper for San Francisco while they waited for me to pass through the border and even escorted me across the airport to Alaska Airlines terminal (despite being on separate tickets). It’s small aspects like this that made the experience on La Première fantastic.
Another aspect Air France get down to a tee is branding. While the branding is extremely subtle, the use of the stylised winged seahorse everywhere from the plates to light, curtain buttons and glasses is elegant. Other airlines should certainly take note of how to brand their premium cabins in such an understated but classy manner.
Air France’s first class cabin provides a true glimpse into French gastronomic and service culture in the sky. Compared to other European first class offerings, Air France stands head and shoulders above both on the ground and on-board. La Première may only have a tiny fleet of seats, but their offering is exceptional and is one for all avgeek or premium travel fan’s bucket lists.
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