Air France puts the fun back into international flying
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Flying on Air France Business Class from Los Angeles to Paris and back is a dream come true in this day and age when air travel is all too often more of a struggle than a leisure activity.
With one of the newest fleets of aircraft in the industry, including the Airbus A-380, Air France takes the hassle out of every step of the process from check-in at the airport, to their Business Class lounges in Los Angeles and Paris, to the adventure of the actual flight, to luggage pick up.
At a time when most air travel is largely an exasperating experience, the principal difference at Air France offers intensely personal customer service. The entire staff, at every level, always seems to take that extra step that ensures that everything is completely taken care of.
Choosing Air France
Having flown economy many times on Air France in the past is to marvel at the difference in attitude and atmosphere towards the passengers and the food from the principle American carriers, even on international flights.
Today it is a Business Class flight from LAX to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and from the first greeting at check in the smoothness and courtesy of service is seamlessly impeccable, with the high gloss luxury of Business Class service added.
Air France shares a sprawling Business Class lounge on the upper deck of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Visitors can watch the bustle with panoramic views of the massive atrium and shopping space below.
Inside are large spaces with comfortable seating, wifi, newspapers, television screens, and a food area. There are complementary sandwiches, snacks, and beer. A bar area has complementary mixed drinks and wine available.
A balcony area is especially popular for filling the time before flights. Leisure time can be spent watching the comings and goings below.
Boarding is seamless, in spite of the 777 being a large capacity jet, and the atmosphere in the cabin is buoyant as everyone settles in comfortably for the eleven-hour journey ahead of us to Paris.
The Business Class area is like an array of modernist pods, each individually crafted for its occupant, with fully reclining seats within a self-contained chamber, a transatlantic luxury cocoon in flight.
At the center is the large blue TV screen and entertainment center, to the side is ample table area, and below is extensive legroom for stretching out, lounging and laying back and sleeping.
The business class staff and service is personal and embracing, with extremely good meals served in your chamber, endless champagne, and attention to detail that is genuine and impressive.
Looking from either end the business class chamber looks like a modern day spaceship, with a genuine lounge atmosphere, an extension of the idea of making luxury and business travel exciting again.
The extremely spacious Premium Economy seating area is largely what used to be called business class before the modern era of individual seat pods emerged.
With spacious comfortable seating in the more familiar side by side configuration with plush seats and lots of legroom and armrest space, Premium Economy is as good as business class ever used to be, without the private pods.
But even in regular Economy Air France rises above the average airline, where the service from the exceptionally courteous staff embodies a strong pride in the national airline, and the culture it represents, creating a good experience.
Economy seats are very comfortable and surprisingly roomy, have full entertainment centers, great food and service, and numerous options exist to allow for seat selection upgrades to exit row and forward cabin seating.
The 11 hours to Paris passes like a special event. The journey is made even more comfortable by the fabulous selection of films and documentaries on the touch screen entertainment system.
A plethora of new and recent films are available. Classic films, foreign films, French films, culture and arts, documentaries and concerts at your disposal. Engagement with French culture throughout the flight is not only a hallmark of the airline but one of its attractions as well.
So if you don’t want to watch the Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week twice, which I did, because it’s that good, and I had 11 hours… there are a vast array of great French films to explore, like “Belle du Jour,” or the fabulous film “Cezanne et Moi,” or a history of Pathé films.
The rhythm of the transatlantic flight has a pattern. The overnight flights begin with an excellent evening meal over the Artic. Then a bleary-eyed breakfast over Ireland. Every element of the trip was attended to by an engaging crew.
Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is one of the great architectural airports in the world. The Air France terminal is the centerpiece of a sprawling complex of elongated gleaming blue glass encrusted structures.
From here Air France spreads out across the continent. They fly to every corner of France to Lyon and Nice and Bordeaux. But also to Milan, Venice, Florence, Barcelona, Geneva, and across Europe.
Indeed, whenever traveling to Italy I find Air France thru Paris is always more convenient. The carrier has better time frames and schedules. More often than not it is 3 to 5 hours less travel time than other routes.
If you can fly from LA to Venice, Italy in 14 hours instead of 18 or 19, or worse, it makes a difference. If you can do it on a great airline then so much the better.
Flying out of Bordeaux was simplicity itself. With a layover in Paris at CDG before flying home to LA, and a chance to check out the Air France lounge at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E Gates M.
Air France Business Class Lounge
The Business Class Lounge 2E Gates M at Charles de Gaulle is a design extravaganza. The area boasts spacious open seating pavilions with very stylish tree towers. A lone meticulously groomed living tree adorns the entranceway. A massive lounge spreads out along corridors separated by billowing wall constructs.
Gourmet food, and good wine and champagne is plentiful. As always, the Air France staff is incredible, seemingly juggling dozens of passengers, making sure each is taken care off, alerted to their flights, and made to feel at home while waiting.
It’s quite a spectacle, with beautiful design elements, very stylish and comfortable seating and tables, terrific food, and vintage Champagne.
Perched above the terminal exterior while relaxing against the glass wall the views of the Air France fleet are extraordinary. The blue tinted windows and design elements lending a surreal air to the visuals. The Air France Business class lounge in Paris is a cut above the average lounge experience. It is part of the continuing motif of what Air France is all about.
The ride home to Los Angeles is flawless. The airline staff and crew bringing that extra level of engagement and genuine feeling that we have grown used to.
It’s a curious mixture of relief and sadness after returning from a long trip.
The ride home sets the tone. Whether arriving in Business Class, Premium Economy, or Economy it is a very pleasant reentry back into reality.
In a time when most air travel is simply excruciating, a trip on Air France is something to look forward to. Again and again, is the first airline when planning a trip to Europe.
At every step along the way, Air France has done what I had started to believe was impossible. They made air travel fun again. Exciting again. An adventure again.
Air France flies from Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Atlanta and many American cities to Paris and destinations around the world.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal