Air France has built up a reputation as offering one of the more refined experiences in the friendly skies, particularly when travelling in the Business or First Class cabins. It has a long tradition of working with chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants for it’s onboard menus. With an emphasis on fresh seasonal and sometimes specific regional focus to showcase France’s culinary delights.
The airline has also generally offered a very competitive hard product in Business Class too and is undergoing efforts to solidify this. Some consider it to be the best European carrier for Business Class. But the experience on the whole can sometimes fall short as we will discover in this Air France A350 Business Class Atlanta to Paris review.
Route: Atlanta – Paris CDG
Flight No: AF689
Departure Time: 20:05
Flight Duration: Blocked 8 hours 15 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
My check-in at Houston airport was smooth, with my first leg on Delta Airlines First Class from Houston to Atlanta.
Delta Domestic First Class
I will most likely not have a chance to review this separately but in short, Delta First Class can be very sub-par.
Yes they have a comfortable recliner seats in a 2-2 config but on this 2 hour “First Class” flight the only catering was packets of chips!? Pathetic considering Air France, it’s partner serves a nice meal on the 1 hour hop between Paris and London.
To make matters worse, Delta does not even have a lounge in Houston. And Air France/KLM lounges are at a different terminals here. With a lot of construction work going on in IAH, I was not prepared to risk going to another terminal just for an hour.
Lounge In Atlanta
Atlanta is the worlds busiest airport and it is Delta Airlines biggest hub. Delta has Sky Club lounges in all concourses. I visited lounges in Concourse A & Concourse F here.
It was ok. Not quite up to Air France lounge standards but I was still grateful to be able to have a nice shower.
Boarding Air France Business Class
Boarding for this flight was timely and well organised. Unlike some recent experiences with other SkyTeam carriers.
We had some good views of our aircraft from our gate, which I still get excited by.
Boarding began just moments after I arrived at the gate, with clear separation of Sky Priority lanes and those for Zone 1 only.
Air France A350 Business Class Best Seats
Unfortunately quite a few Business Class passengers boarded ahead of me, so I could not get any good/clear shots of this Air France A350 Business class cabin..
There is an immediate sense of familiarity as soon as you enter the cabin.
Air France has two different A350 configurations now, until July 2023, when I took this flight it was just this configuration which is still relatively new. They have since received new A350 deliveries with a different and slightly better Business Suite, that I was meant to fly out on a retrofit 777 with.
My seat 4A was a true window seat on the left hand side in a single cabin of 34 Business Class seats. Here all even numbered window seats are the closest to the window with the most privacy, which would be your best choice if travelling solo.
See the difference between the two types of window seats?
For couples, the best seats would be also on the even numbered centre seats, as these seats are closer together..
The odd numbered even seats are at an angle where you would face outwards, thus would not be great if you wanted to talk with the person across from you.
If this particular seat looks familiar to you also, it is because it is based of the same hard shell as United Polaris product, which I flew just a couple month before this.
The Saffron Optima based seats are an elegant solution for airlines striving for the right balance for passenger comforts and able to provide configuration density. These particular seats were originally intended for now defunct French airline Joon, which Air France has taken over.
I immediately loved the cabin interior and ambiance with a cream and grey colour palate that is accented by the deep blues and the small touch of Air France red of the logo..
The 18″ IFE screen felt large for the seat and was crisp. On the side you have a warmly lit storage cupboard which houses your headphones, and any bits and pieces you want to store.
There is also a good sized mirror here as well as the IFE remote tucked away.
You have some basic seat controls on the side of the console
And then a more controls on a control pad just above at arm level, which has more granular level of control for seat recline as well as lighting and call bell.
It is one of the more elegant ways of integrating seat controls I have seen.
Similar to United Polaris, the footwell is reasonable but not the as wide as some good business products, or indeed even Air Frances older 777s.
Now, something to note which may not be entirely obvious from the pictures is while this aircraft was only 2 years old, it was already showing visible signs of wear and tear around the seat and the white shell.
I have been critical of many SkyTeam carriers insistence of having very white/bland seats and cabins in general, which unfortunately make wear and tear look even more pronounced. Yet somehow this cabin still looked great throughout the flight, perhaps mostly due to better mood lighting.
This was not the case with the new Delta A330 Neo Suites.
A rather classy feature here that I did love were they had fully electric window shades. I think it’s such a lovely touch, that many First Class products have, yet most Business class doesn’t.
This is the blind down in partial screen mode. You can make it completely blackout too when you need to.
Air France Business Class Amenity Kit
Pretty much identical to my outbound flight, was the amenity kit with usual Clarin’s products, flights socks, eye shades and dental kits.
They also provide slippers and further amenities in the bathroom.
Air France A350 Business Class Atlanta to Paris Dinner Service
Service began upon boarding with the friendly crew offering welcome drinks as everyone settled into their seats. The menus were also distributed out.
For my first drink I opted for the champagne…
Call me pedantic but I immediately noticed my champagne glass was not freshly picked up from the crockery trolleys. It had water marks all over, suggesting either the ground crew didn’t load enough washed glasses or maybe the crew used my glass to pour a different drink and realised this so decided to rinse the glass off instead of picking up a fresh one?
Maybe it’s not the biggest deal, but to me the optics just didn’t seem right to pour champagne in a wet glass !
Whilst we were prepping for take-off I peaked through the menu for this flight which was as follows:
Departing flights from USA have no dedicated French chef designed menu’s, unlike my outbound menu by 3 Michelin star chef Régis Marcon. Yet the menu still looked very impressive and not all too far off from Regis Marcon’s curation on the way out of Paris.
The 5 course dinner for tonight’s flight would also offer amuse bouche/appetizer, starter, 4 choices of main, cheese plate and desserts. I noted this return flight also had a Sautéed Shrimp main course also, which I had on my flight to New York.
Before the meal service began, post-take off drinks were served. I opted for another glass of champagne, the Pommery Brut Royal. It was light yet aromatic just as described.
And yes, this time, the glass was fresh and crisp!
Not long after the starter arrived..
I liked the pear and foie grass pairing, think it worked really well! Even though this is a very rich starter, the portions are fairly small, so you won’t spoil your appetite for the mains and follow on courses 🙂
Talking of the main, I chose to keep with theme with the Duck confit gratin with foie gras sauce with potato puree, roasted rutabaga, spring onions and roasted tomatoes
I imagined the dish slightly different in my head to how it appeared but this was actually more on the healthier and lighter side. I enjoyed the duck and puree but wasn’t the biggest fan of rutabaga, it’s not a vegetable I eat often.
Since I did not eat the whole main, I had plenty of room for cheese course and dessert. Which is not something I can usually manage, and I would usually skip the cheese!
While the cheese plate was served, I decided on an impromptu wine tasting session, a request which the crew seemed very happy to oblige with..
With the dinner, I tried the Château Fombrauge Merlot, which was ok, but really liked the CHATEAU VILLEMAJOU GRAND VIN 2021 and I ordered some when I got back home !
Finally it was time for dessert. I requested some tea and fresh fruits with the trio. I simply love the green macaroons and can never get enough!
I was thinking to myself, this was perhaps one of few times were I felt entirely satisfied with an airline meal where I got to try everything and still not felt overly full. Perhaps in no small part to the lousy food offering in the Delta SkyClub where I did not eat much.
Air France A350 Business Class Restroom
In this Business Class cabin of 34, there was just 1, yes ONE restroom just for business class up front. This meant both the time’s I needed to use the restroom, there was quite a bit of wait.
There is another toilet in the galley behind before the 24 seat Premium Economy cabin, intended also for Business Class. I understand Air France may not have originally designed the outfit of this aircraft but that is a pretty terrible ratio that could well negatively affect your flight experience.
Despite this the lavatories were well kept with some toiletries
Air France A350 Business Class Bed
With the dinner service stretching out almost 2 hours into the flight, the cabin was already dimmed by the time I finished desserts and most passengers were already sleeping…
I was ready to try and get some rest too, so made the bed.
Already placed on each seat was a duvet and a single pillow for each passenger. And it seemed this was it..
When the bed is made, just like the United Polaris, it looks rather narrow. But in terms of bed comfort, unfortunately this is where Air France falls short, very noticeably.
With 5 hours left to the flight, I wanted to get at least 4 hours of sleep. I was tired enough and fell asleep within half hour, but I woke up twice in between this 4 hours.
The seat just wasn’t too comfortable and thus that’s when you begin to toss around and notice how tight the seat is around you. I didn’t have any issues with the feet area at all. It was more on the shoulder level width
Air France Business Class Atlanta to Paris Breakfast
The breakfast main choice seemed to be between a cheese omelette and cold meat cuts option.
This arrived all in one, which is understandable given we were served just 1 hour prior to landing..
The omelette wasn’t great. They rarely are on an aeroplane, so cannot fault Air France here specifically. I did enjoy the fruits and yogurt topped with granola. Sadly the croissant/pastry was even worse than the omelette and my coffee was cold!
Being Air France, I don’t know why I might have expected some nice fresh and warm croissant’s ! I guess its better on morning flights out of Paris?
After the cold coffee, I decided to order some tea instead..
Air France Business Class Conclusion
Just prior to landing, the crew passed by with a departing gift..
I thought it was a lovely touch! I always need little notebooks!
Overall, I’m finding it difficult to say where I land with Air France after this flight. I specifically booked this trip to fly out on the brand new 777 Suites and this specific A350 on the return. I do think this is a lovely product in general and has a very classy, but also muted feel it. The cabin looks beautiful, the seat is well designed with good amount of storage even if in narrow side.
I feel to be considered one of the top airlines, better bedding could be provided with a mattress pad and an extra pillow. Even British Airways for all it’s faults does well in this regard!
I loved the dinner service, the champagne/wine selection and the choice of dishes were all up there. It is where Air France rightly shines. Perhaps presentation isn’t always the gram worthy sometimes. On the service level, the crew were fantastic. They all had a very warm and friendly attitude and I could not fault them in any significant way. The breakfast was rather disappointing overall though.
If I came across another decent fare, I would happily book Air France again but is this Europe’s best long haul Business Class product? The verdict is still out for me.