Air France is one of the few long-haul economy products I have flown in the last few years. This was due to a mistake fare three years ago (though it would be considered more a ‘low fare’ now). I liked my experience on the Air France Economy A380 to Paris but wasn’t happy with the old 777 I got to Bangkok.
This time, I had booked the San Francisco to Berlin via Paris trip on Air France using Flying Blue. It’s just 25,000 miles plus $100 one-way. I originally tried to book it with SkyMiles but Delta were not helpful when calling (although it all showed available online, it wasn’t bookable). The Mexico-based Flying Blue agents came through, though, and were able to book it for all of us.
I wanted a solid dinner and headed to the American Express Centurion Lounge at San Francisco Airport, which never disappoints in food or drinks (but has gotten really crowded lately).
Since this side of the airport is not connected to the International Terminal A gates, you have to exit security and do it all over to get to the lounge. Plus Air France does not participate in TSA Pre✓. Miraculously, lines were non-existent at security, despite Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, China Airlines and Air France all having scheduled departures that evening.
The Air France-KLM Lounge has recently gone through a remodel. It is open to Priority Pass members and even during prime time with the Air France and Qantas departures we were able to get in without any issues.
The dinner spread there was excellent, with artisan cheese, pasta and salad items, as well as several craft beer IPAs.
My kids liked it more than the AMEX Centurion Lounge! Soon it was time to leave and boarding was already moving swiftly as we arrived at the gate.
The flight was completely full. We were seated at row 48 and we had dark expectations of an old 777 with aisles crowded for bathroom access. That was more than wrong, however; this 777 has gone through a full cabin refurbishment. The new business class with lie-flat seats has been installed upfront and a very solid premium economy cabin and a shiny new economy cabin were also waiting for passengers.
Row 48 is all the way at the galley but since the bathrooms are far back and the galley itself is very wide, they’re pretty good seats. It is just 8 across at the end and the aisles are much wider. To our surprise the fourth seat in the middle row stayed empty, which was good for us.
This night flight featured a 60-person strong group of deaf travelers. This meant the cabin had barely any noise from talking passengers (a major issue on my last Air France Economy trip was passengers partying all the way through the flight).
The slimline seats allow for 31 inches in legroom and since we had an empty seat it felt more spacious than I’d expected.
The Air France IFE that’s featured in every seat isn’t very responsive but has a touchscreen that’s easy to use. The IFE was loaded almost at Emirates level, with a seemingly endless amount of entertainment on a crisp, large display.
We kept ourselves awake at both dinner and breakfast service to at least look at the food but it was a complete disappointment on both occasions. I was surprised, since this was a strong suit when I flew Air France last time.
The flight attendants were jolly and friendly in two languages and accommodated the deaf passengers very well. There were a lot of (seemingly genuine) smiles and not a single rude encounter (as it is sadly the norm on most US flights now).
We’d had to wait 20 minutes for take-off but still made it on time into Charles de Gaulle Airport with under 10 hours’ flight time. There is a free ‘airport lounge’ at CDG, themed on Versailles, which looks really comfy.
Drinks and food are available for purchase but it was quite an oasis on this afternoon.