The trip I’d anticipated for nearly 8 months finally happened late last week. I flew in Air France’s exclusive First Class product, La Première. Though I’ll have a full review up soon, I wanted to share a few initial thoughts on the experience.
A Terrific Ground Experience To Start On Both Ends
La Première receives its biggest raves for the experience at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. I’ll discuss that in a moment, but I was impressed to find VIP service at both ends of the journey. My trip started in Los Angeles, where La Première passengers receive a variety of perks. Air France offers a personal escort to the front of the security line, then to the Qantas First Class Lounge. An a la carte meal in the dining room sets the table for your journey nicely.
From there, your escort walks you to your gate and to your seat at your preferred time. As many passengers as Air France serves in LA, the service didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me, though, was that I received the same service in the small outstation at Barcelona. And on a flight not even operated by Air France, but by Joon. That’s pretty impressive. But not even close to the most impressive part of the ground experience.
The Ground Experience at CDG Will Blow Your Mind
I’m no fan of connecting at Charles de Gaulle. The large, sprawling airport makes connections challenging, especially going from a non-Schengen to Schengen flight or vice versa. If you fly in La Première, though, Air France makes the process incredibly hassle free. First, a personal guide walks you onto the ramp and into a waiting Jaguar.
The luxury car then whisks you to the stylish La Première lounge.
While you get settled in, your guide takes your passport and boarding pass to the lounge’s private passport control. Then when it’s time for your onward flight, back in the car to get driven straight to your plane. No drama, no lines, no annoying transit security, even on US-bound flights. It really makes the transit experience feel like flying private. I’d say it certainly compares favorably to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.
The 777 Is FAR Superior to the A380
I had the opportunity to fly both the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380 on this trip. The La Première cabin on the 777 consists of just four seats. And boy, these seats sure are luxurious and spacious.
Although Air France doesn’t provide “doors” on these seats, the 777 does come with full-length curtains. When closed, it’s almost as good as having a door. You truly are completely cut off from your neighbors, especially in the window seats. There’s also a good amount of storage and workspace at the seat. And of course, the desk lamp is seriously chic.
The A380, meanwhile, features 9 seats, with two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, and one “throne” in Row 1. The seats themselves are pretty much the same as those found on the 777.
But you can already see several differences, and not for the better. First, the A380 does not come with curtains. The seat shells provide some privacy, but nothing close to what you get on the 777. Second, I found storage space quite constrained, and the seats annoyingly use TVs that swing out from the armrest. That means no IFE during taxi, take-off, and landing.
So the bottom line – go with the 777 for the true La Première experience.
Food Was Surprisingly Hit and Miss
As renowned as the French are for their cuisine, I expected an industry-leading culinary experience in La Première. While the food rated good overall, the inconsistency surprised me a little. Some dishes really did excel, like this “Landes corn-fed chicken” for lunch on the return.
On the other hand, dinner on the way over disappointed. In fairness, most of that stemmed from none of the main courses matching my tastes. But seriously, powdered cappuccino? How gauche.
Great Service, But A Decidedly Hands-Off Approach
If you fly premium cabins on Asian airlines, like JAL’s First Class, you may be used to over-the-top attentiveness. Air France, though, takes a much more hands-off approach, both in the air and on the ground. You won’t have staff hovering over you in the lounge. Nor are the FAs “ninjas” that show up at your seat 30 seconds after you wake up. But help was always there when you needed it just by asking, with a cheerful, can-do attitude. Personally, I prefer this approach to the “hovering” one. If you prefer something more hands-on, though, keep your expectations in check.
Overall, I have to say, I left this experience pretty darn impressed. I hope to have a full review up in a week or two. Thanks in advance for following along!