Review: The World’s Best First Class Ground Experience

Introduction
Review: American Business Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: British Airways Lounge New York JFK
Review: Iberia Business Class A340 New York To Madrid
Review: Iberia Arrivals Lounge Madrid Airport
Review: Hilton Madrid Airport
Review: LAN Business Class 787 Madrid To Frankfurt
Review: Oman Air Business Class 787 Frankfurt To Muscat
Review: Oman Air Lounge Muscat Airport
Review: Oman Air Business Class A330 Muscat To Bangkok
Review: Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi Resort & Spa
Review: Oman Air Lounge Bangkok Airport
Review: Oman Air Business Class A330 Bangkok To Muscat
Review: Oman Air New Business Class A330 Muscat To Frankfurt
Review: Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Club Suite
Review: Air France Lounge Frankfurt Airport
Review: Air France HOP Business Class Frankfurt To Paris
Review: Air France First Class Ground Experience Paris
Review: Air France Business Class 777 Paris To Toronto


Spoiler alert: the Air France first class ground experience in Paris is divine.

As long time readers will know, I had the chance to use the Air France First Class Lounge Paris in December 2013, after getting off an Air France A380 first class flight from Los Angeles to Paris.

Air France first class is extremely exclusive, in the sense that you can’t redeem miles for their first class product unless you’re an elite member in their own frequent flyer program. That being said, they do let business class passengers buy access to the first class lounge.

There are a few conditions you have to meet, the most significant of which are that you have to be traveling longhaul business class on a flight which doesn’t have a first class cabin, and that your ticket has to be issued by Air France. As luck would have it, my flight from Paris to Toronto had Air France’s new business class product and didn’t have a first class cabin, so I was eligible to purchase access.

So I purchased the Air France first class ground experience in Paris at a cost of 300EUR. Of course that’s not an insignificant amount to spend, but when you look at the overall experience, I think it represents an excellent value. I’d much rather pay 300EUR to access the world’s best lounge, than pay $50 to access a US airline lounge and be served packaged snacks and cubed cheese.

My flight from Frankfurt was scheduled to arrive at 8:55AM, while my connecting flight was at 1:45PM, so I had a connection time of almost five hours.

The experience began the second I stepped off the plane in Paris, or even a second before that. Someone from the first class team greeted me on the plane upon arrival, and said “Mr. Schlappig, I am here to drive you to the first class lounge.”

Given that we arrived at a remote stand quite far from the terminal, that was such a cool perk.

 

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Air France tarmac transfer service

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Air France tarmac transfer service

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Air France HOP plane upon arrival

Usually I’d hate arriving at a remote stand far from the terminal, but in this instance I was thrilled about it. The drive to the lounge took over 10 minutes, and I talked to the lovely lounge agent the whole time. She was incredibly charming.

As we pulled into the first class lounge she pointed to the nearby BMW 7-Series and told me not to worry, because I’d be driven to my connecting flight in that car. You know it’s a good day when your biggest worry is what kind of car you’ll be privately driven to your plane in. 😉

AF-F-Lounge

We entered through the small door along the red wall, where there’s a security checkpoint. However, since I was connecting from another EU airport, there was no need for me to go through it.

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Arriving at the Air France First Class Lounge

We took the elevator up a level to the first class lounge, and she asked if I needed to be familiarized with the lounge. Since I had already visited I declined, and she just asked if she could arrange a spa treatment for me, which I of course agreed to.

As you enter the lounge there’s a large room with lots of seating, and then a leather wall which separates it from the dining area.

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

The lounge feels extremely inviting, with plenty of different seating areas — there are couches along the windows, and more traditional seats for lounging as well.

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

Next to the main room was a secondary room, which was even more private thanks to the sculpture in the middle of the room.

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

Next to that area is the blood-red bar. I’ve never actually seen anyone use it, though it does look pretty cool.

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Air France First Class Lounge bar

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Air France First Class Lounge bar

it also has a very nice selection of champagne on ice.

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Air France First Class Lounge champagne selection

Past that is the main reception area. I believe that if you were to originate your travels in Paris you’d enter through the elevator in this part of the lounge. I’ve only used the lounge when connecting, so never entered that way.

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Air France First Class Lounge entryway

But there’s a circular partitioned off area with plenty of magazines and newspapers, and then some more seating along the side of the room.

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Air France First Class Lounge entryway

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Air France First Class Lounge

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Air France First Class Lounge seating

Then there’s a long hallway which leads to the relaxation area, spa, bathrooms, and shower rooms.

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Air France First Class Lounge hallway

My favorite area to hang out is the relaxation area, which has a bunch of reclined lounge chairs. Each area has faux plant partitions, and there’s a cool wall display with constantly changing colors.

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Air France First Class Lounge relaxation area

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Air France First Class Lounge relaxation area

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Air France First Class Lounge relaxation area

Behind that are two daybeds for relaxation. There wasn’t any bedding, but perhaps there’s some on demand, as I can’t imagine it would be very comfortable otherwise.

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Air France First Class Lounge relaxation area

The shower rooms are near the relaxation area, and are spacious and well designed.

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Air France First Class Lounge shower rooms

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Air France First Class Lounge shower rooms

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Air France First Class Lounge toiletries

Even the basic bathrooms are gorgeous, perhaps the nicest of any lounge I’ve visited. There’s a center area with sinks.

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Air France First Class Lounge restroom

Then there are some powder rooms.

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Air France First Class Lounge powder room

And then there are individual bathrooms. Seriously, have you seen a more gorgeous airport bathroom anywhere?

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Air France First Class Lounge restroom

After quickly touring the lounge I settled down in the relaxation area and ordered a cappuccino.

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Air France First Class Lounge cappuccino

Following up on our earlier conversation about getting a spa treatment, the lounge agent returned with the spa menu, and she asked if I was okay with getting my treatment at 11:45AM. That worked for me!

The spa menu read as follows:

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I settled on a 30 minute back massage.

I worked on my laptop for a bit over an hour, thanks to the fast wifi in the lounge.

At around 10:30AM I was a bit hungry, so headed to the dining area.

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Air France First Class Lounge dining area

There was a small breakfast buffet setup, which looked beautiful.

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Air France First Class Lounge breakfast buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge breakfast buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge breakfast buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge breakfast buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge breakfast buffet

I had a seat in the dining area, and the professional server presented me with the wine list, breakfast menu, and lunch menu.

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Air France First Class Lounge dining area

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Air France First Class Lounge menus

The lounge’s menu is created by Alain Ducasse.

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While I felt like having lunch, here’s the breakfast menu, just for reference:

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The lunch menu read as follows:

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Then there was a special lemon-themed menu:

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The wine list read as follows:

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There’s no lounge in the world which even comes close to the dining experience at this lounge. The server taking care of me was as confident and competent as at any top restaurant, though on top of that there was a Maître D’ of sorts, who came by to offer me suggestions of what to order, and what wines to pair my courses with.

Upon settling in my table was set, including with a hot towel and a bottle of sparkling water of my choice (they have quite a water menu!).

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Air France First Class Lounge table setting

To start I had a glass of the 2004 Bollinger, which was delightfully nutty.

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Air France First Class Lounge champagne — Bollinger 2004 La Grande Annee

I was also offered a selection of bread from the breadbasket, all of which was warm and crispy.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch — baguette

To start I was offered a smoked salmon and carrot amuse bouche, which was sprinkled with caviar. I was promptly offered a refill of the champagne as well.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch — amuse bouche

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch — amuse bouche

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch — amuse bouche

For the starter I ordered a shrimp caesar salad. The server recommended I switch to a different wine to pair with the course, which I of course agreed to.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch starter — shrimp caesar salad

The salad was fantastic, plain and simple. I know there were more exciting appetizers I could have ordered, but I loved it.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch starter — shrimp caesar salad

For the main course I ordered the seared sea scallops. This was possibly the best dish I’ve ever had, anywhere.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch main course — seared sea scallops

I appreciate food, but I’m not a real foodie. In other words, put a good steak in front of me and I’ll enjoy it, but I probably won’t savor every last bite. I savored every bite of this dish. It. Was. Incredible.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch main course — seared sea scallops

This course was paired with yet another glass of wine, this time a chardonnay.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch wine swap

I’m not going to lie, I was feeling rather, ahem, refreshed at this point, given that the wine pairing pours were anything but stingy.

The meal had been so good up until that point, so I asked the excellent server what his favorite dessert was. As luck would have it, he recommended the dessert which include alcohol.

To start he asked me to choose from two rums. I wouldn’t know the difference between the two, so asked him to choose.

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Air France First Class Lounge rum choice

Then he brought out the baba, which was a masterpiece.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — baba with rum

He sliced it open in front of me.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — baba with rum

And doused it in rum.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — baba with rum

And then he put the cream on top.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — baba with rum

It was… well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — mmmmm

To finish off the meal I ordered a cappuccino, which was served with some sweets on the side.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch dessert — cappuccino

I kept working from the restaurant area for a while, so ordered a coffee with milk.

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Air France First Class Lounge coffee with milk

For what it’s worth, at this point they had also set up the lunch buffet, so below are some pictures of it. With their incredible menu, I could only ever imagine using this to supplement what can be ordered.

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

Based on the quality of the rest of the food, I sure was tempted to have these all get lost in my carry-on. 😉

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Air France First Class Lounge lunch buffet

At 11:45AM I headed to the spa, located at the very back of the lounge. There the spa attendant was waiting for me, and immediately took me into a nearby room.

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Air France First Class Lounge spa

There I received an incredible 30 minute massage. This isn’t some watered down chair massage, but rather it’s a quality massage where you lay flat and take your shirt off. I was feeling fantastic.

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Air France First Class Lounge spa

At 1:10PM the same lounge agent who picked me up from my Frankfurt flight came by to tell me the Toronto flight was ready for boarding, and that she’d accompany me down to the plane.

We headed to the lower level, where we hopped into the parked 7-Series.

This time around the drive to the plane took only about five minutes.

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Air France first class ground transfer

We took an elevator up a level to the jet bridge, and then the associate brought me all the way onto the plane, where she introduced me to the purser, and I bid her farewell.

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777 taking me to Toronto

Bottom line

I’ve written in the past about what I consider to be the world’s seven best first class lounges, and the Air France lounge was at the top of the list. After my second visit, I can absolutely confirm that the overall ground experience is the most impressive in the world.

Sure, there are certain elements of other lounges which are fantastic. Thai Airways offers an hour-long massage in their lounge. Other lounges may have more impressive decor.

But Air France has you covered plane door to plane door. The food in the lounge is incredible, by far the best you’ll have at any lounge anywhere in the world. Other lounges have restaurant quality food. This lounge has Michelin star restaurant quality food.

Beyond that, there’s just something so refined and confident about the entire experience.

300EUR isn’t an insignificant amount of money to spend on a better lounge. Not at all, especially when you’d have access to a lounge already. But I still think this represents a fantastic value if you have a long layover and are into experiencing the world’s best lounges.

Simply put — if you haven’t been to the Air France First Class Lounge Paris, you haven’t been to the world’s best first class lounge.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. looks fantastic!! I’ve been looking forward to this review almost more than I looked forward to the Oman Air reports

  2. I have flown first class with a few airlines, I would agree AF’s experience is the best. However Lufthansa’s is also pretty high up there, I would argue it is even slightly better than AF’s. LH even have an immigration officer inside the first class lounge taking care of your passport check if you are flying in to EU, which cut down miles of walking since you don’t need to go to thru the immigration. Last time I flew with LH First LAX to VIE via MUC, They used Mercedes S-Class and BMW X5 to shuttle me to the connecting flight.

  3. 1. Can you please try out the new Air France F. Would be good to know what it’s like on board as well now that they have a new product.

    2. KLM has a new business product (yet again) on their 787s. Think it’s flying between SFO and AMS this summer. Would be interesting if you tried that too.

    Great review.

  4. Looks really really nice. But I would not spend 300 euro on it unless I had absolutely no other use for them.

    Frankly I think how much you pay affects your judgement of how great the experience was. You would be over the moon if you had to pay 600 euros even if the experience was the same.

    I am assuming there is no conflict of interest here. You are not being paid to hype up the lounge. Yes?

  5. One important aspect of a lounge/ground experience is what (if anything) it allows you to avoid. So, for example, the lounges at LAX TBIT are very nice, but the terminal itself is so nice that if you didn’t have lounge access and/or an escort it wouldn’t be the end of the world. In this case the contrast is enormous – people who have this AF ground experience bypass every other aspect of CDG – an airport worth bypassing if there ever was one.

  6. Having paid 3k for a ticket PRG-SIN,I believe that 300 dollars is an insignificant amount compared with the differential between La Premiere fares and Business fares on AF. If the ground service was more along the lines of a slightly better lounge, I would think twice before paying for it, but in this case, it was definitely worth it.

  7. @credit, If this were a review of lunch at an exclusive Michelin star restaurant and spa treatment would you still think it wasn’t worth it? Together alone those would easily cost more than 300 euro.

    Frankly, 300 euro seems awfully inexpensive considering what he received. I’d drop 300 euro right now for a “best meal I’ve ever had” experience.That being said, if you only had a 1 hr layover, it’d be an expensive car service.

  8. This has to be the best airport lounge in the world. OMG those black truffles on your scallops dish, and you didn’t even mention it!! Did you know what you were eating???

    Little disappointed in their selection of champagnes, but that is forgiven how nice everything else seems to be in this lounge. I even love the decor and furniture. I would definitely not be bummed about having a long layover there.

  9. For Lucky, it was definitely worth 300 euros, as (1) he enjoyed the experience and (2) got the opportunity to write an epic post about it. As for me, I’d opt for whatever lounge my status/class of service provides me and spend the 300 euros on a very, very pleasant dinner elsewhere.

  10. The experience looks worth it just from the scallop dish – there’s got to be 150 euros worth of truffles on it.

  11. If you are traveling with a companion on the same ticket, is it 300 euro for both of you, or 600 for the pair if you wanted to access the lounge?

    Thanks, Lucky! Great review!

  12. Lucky,

    I asked this in your other post about the AF F lounge experience, but are you sure F lounge access can be purchased only for AF-stock tickets?
    I haven’t tried it myself, but I heard it doesn’t matter which airline issued the ticket as long as you are on an AF operated flight.
    However I’m not 100% sure if this is correct, so wanted to ask you about it.
    Thanks!

  13. 300 is expensive considering that you previously got this AND the 1st class airplane experience for 125,000 Air France FlyingBlue miles plus 370.94EUR in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.

  14. Well they’ve certainly come a long way since the storming of the Bastille in 1789!

  15. That wasn’t a chardonnay. I mean, that was a grape, but the wine is properly described as a white Burgundy. Specifically, a premier cru Chassagne Montrachet. It’s like saying “I had liver for lunch” after eating foie gras on brioche toast.

    I was going to scoff at your decision to spend 300 euros to spend some time in a lounge, but after this experience now I know why you thought it was worth it. I don’t know if I’d spend 300 euros, but if I had a first class flight on AF, I’d definitely arrive several hours early to take advantage of the fantastic meal!

  16. What are the lounge hours? Can you stay there all day if you arrive early morning and depart late night?

    Does it include in and out privileges?

    I agree 300euros is expensive but its worth it if you can get a couple meals out of it.

  17. @ Ever — I think it’s open from the first to last flight, and I don’t think there’s a limit to how long you can spend there, as long as it’s same day. I think you can probably leave the lounge and go into the terminal if you want to.

  18. I have had two bentley continentals escort me to my LH flight from frankfurt to los angelas in first.
    One car for mwah and one for luggage. I wasnt happy as i insisted on an individual bentley for each piece of luggage which they couldnt do.

  19. Fun read, thanks!

    You are an expert on lounges; have you had other 200 euro plus meals?

    Next time you are in Paris, have lunch at Arpege. If you think the lounge is in the same league; I’ll pay for the AF lounge!

    If you are at the airport for that long, it could be a good choice. If you are skipping a leisurely lunch in Paris, then that’s what the experience should be compared against. I’d bet that it’s not up to Arpege, Le Cinq, Astrance etc.

  20. When I first saw that the cost was 300 Euro, my reaction was: “No Way!” I’d rather spend it on a high end dinner. However I changed my mind when I did the following calculation:

    1. The value of being picked up and delivered by a private chauffeur and luxury car = 100 Euro.
    This service is not available at any price to anyone else.
    2. 200 Euros to stay at a truly 5 star star facility for 4 hours and enjoy unlimited Michelin quality food and beverages? Absolutely worth it.

    The cost is for a high end luxury experience, not a routine lay over or meal. So it would be worth it for a once in a lifetime trip, but of course not for a routine trip. The more I think about it, the better of a deal it seems to me if you wanted to splurge on an exclusive high end luxury experience. It’s too bad that I will probably never be in a position to take advantage of it. 🙁

  21. Jason, why do you say “It’s too bad that I will probably never be in a position to take advantage of it”?

  22. Some of those spa prices are insane. At least they don’t charge for the meal experience. How many calories was that–a couple thousand? Who would have room for eating after that?

  23. OMG you guys are the most over privileged bunch of jack*%#* I’ve ever seen…It is a Chardonnay, just like a Ferrari is an automobile.

    I thank Lucky for the inspiration/aspiration, well written ‘escape’ and for doing a lot of pleasant legwork for all of us so we can have good information when choosing flights, routings and perks.

    Thanks to you Lucky I will be flying BKK-HKG-BOS in Cathay First Class next week with my lovely wife pre AA devaluation.

    As far as most of the comments (not all of course) on this blog. You are a better man than I to have to read these chumps’ comments.

    Cheerful thanks and safe travels.

    A might thanks and job well done

  24. A chardonnay? Dude that was a Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru!

    That meal alone was probably worth close to 300 euro.

  25. Wow, great review! It looks totally worth the 300 bucks!

    I’m flying from Europe to India on AF/KLM biz class connecting through CDG later this month. My flight into CDG is on KLM and all tickets were issued by KLM. Any idea if I’ll still be eligible to pay for this service?

  26. @Modesassion – LOL I consider myself to be a wine snob and even I thought that comment was super douchey.

    It really is amazing how much criticism Lucky takes on his own blog.

  27. if I was using that lounge, I think I would arrive there about 5 days before my flight was due to take off

  28. I agree that AF gives the best 1st class lounge experience, but the overall best 1st class experience both on the ground as well as in the air is definitely with GA. Both GA and AF rank quite a bit higher than any of other airlines I have flewn 1st, including EK, SQ, LH and CX, in terms of ‘leaving an impression’.

  29. @Lucky the RUM you choose was Diplomatico-Reserva, the best rum from Venezuela.

    I can only find it in Hakasan-St Regis here in Doha.

    It is really good!

  30. Now that’s a real lounge–unlike the joke us lounges with packaged salty junk and some corn syrup carbonation, and skuzzy beer. americans–please learn what real quality is–it’s not about hustling and the love of more.

  31. Cappuccino at the end of a meal? My dear, it has to be an espresso. The French and Italians will scratch their head in amazement everytime you do this. Try it, you’ll like it I bet.

  32. I’m curious to know how you would compare the Qatar Airways lounge in LHR and the Qatar Airways AlSafwa lounge in Doha HIA with your AF CDG lounge experience.

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