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Air France 356
Paris (CDG) – Toronto (YYZ)
Thursday, February 18
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 3L (Business Class)
By the time I got to the plane, boarding was already well underway. I boarded through the forward door, where the first class agent handed me over to the chief purser, who pointed me to my seat.
This flight featured Air France’s new business class seat, which is in a reverse herringbone configuration. I’ve long said that business class is all about the hard product, and this is among my favorite business class hard product.
On their 777-200 aircraft, Air France has a total of 40 business class seats. They’re spread across 10 rows, in a 1-2-1 configuration. There are seven rows of seats in the forward cabin.
And then behind the second door there’s another cabin with three rows.
I had assigned myself seat 3L, the window seat in the third row on the right side of the cabin.
While reverse herringbone seats are pretty standardized nowadays, I thought this one had some pretty practical touches.
I was especially impressed by the amount of legroom. The area for your feet was massive, which was fantastic. In some other reverse herringbone configurations, the space is rather limited, but here you had plenty of room for your feet both vertically and horizontally.
On the right side of the seat were the two outlets, including a USB and Empower outlet.
Next to that was the literature pocket, which had a bunch of magazines, as well as a cup holder, where a bottle of Evian water was waiting for me.
Then on the back right of the seat was a storage compartment with a mirror.
The storage compartment had a hook on which you could hang the headphones. While they weren’t as good as the Bose headphones offered on American, they were better than average, I thought.
Even closer to the seat than the storage compartment were the entertainment controller and reading light, as well as the headphone jack.
Then there were also the basic seat controls, where you could adjust your seat into the fully upright or fully reclined position. My one complaint about the seat is the location of these controls, because my elbow would constantly hit these controls by mistake, either reclining my seat or putting it in the upright position. It’s located where you’d naturally put your arm, which is rather unfortunate.
The entertainment screen swings out of the seat in front of you, and also had a coat hanger next to it.
Already waiting at my seat was a pillow, blanket, coat hanger, and a shoe bag.
The pillow was fairly thick and blanket was plush.
I thought the shoe bag was a cool concept, much like I was recently offered on Finnair. Inside the shoe bag were some slippers and socks.
While I thought the hard product was spacious, I have to say that I didn’t find the cabin to be especially stylish. Air France prides itself in their style, and I sort of felt like the seats felt pretty industrial, and thought the combination of white and cream color finishes didn’t go too well together. That’s not a big deal to me, but for an airline so focused on style, it just sort of surprised me.
Once I was settled in, one of the friendly business class flight attendants came through the cabin to distribute amenity kits. There were four colors to choose from, though he assured me the contents were all the same. The bag itself was quite nice and practical, and I could picture myself reusing it.
The kit had all the essentials, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, comb, eyeshades, chapstick, etc.
Moments later I was offered a pre-departure beverage, with the choice between a red grape juice and a champagne. I selected the latter.
I was also offered a warm towel, which was nice and thick by business class standards.
Since I intended to sleep on the flight, I headed to the lavatory to change before takeoff. There was one lavatory located between business class cabins on the right, and then another lavatory in front of the cabin, in the center. That doesn’t seem like very many lavatories for 40 business class passengers.
The lavatory in the back of the cabin was small, while the one in the front was much larger.
The lavatory was stocked with Clarins toiletries.
As we waited for boarding to finish up I browsed the entertainment selection, which could already be viewed on the ground (a feature which I appreciate, especially at airports where really long taxis are the norm).
The selection was impressive, in terms of movies, TV shows, etc.
I also took a look at the airshow, which indicated that our flight time to Toronto was eight hours.
At 1:40PM boarding was complete, at which point Captain Roger came on the PA to add his welcome aboard. He informed us of our flight time of eight hours, and said he expected some light to moderate turbulence enroute, so to please keep seatbelts fastened when seated. He said we were just waiting for the last cargo door to close, at which point we’d be cleared for our departure.
At 1:43PM the chief purser made her welcome aboard announcement, and informed us that in addition to English and French, our crew also spoke Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
At 1:45PM, Air France’s very chic safety video played, which I find extremely amusing and uplifting. But I also love Air France’s new branding in general. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here it is:
Finally at 1:55PM we began our pushback and taxi to the runway. It was a rainy afternoon in Paris, so unfortunately I couldn’t really get good pictures due to the raindrops on the window.
At 2:10PM we made it to runway 27L, and were immediately cleared for takeoff. For Charles de Gaulle, that’s a pretty quick taxi, if you ask me.
We hit a bit of turbulence on the climb out due to some thick clouds, but the ride quickly smoothed out as we passed through about 20,000 feet.
15 minutes after takeoff, the business class purser, Gregory, made his announcement for the cabin, informing us that lunch would be served shortly, and that there would be another snack before landing. Moments later he passed through the cabin with the menu for the flight.
The menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
The service commenced pretty quickly after takeoff. Within 30 minutes the crew came through the cabin with carts, containing drinks, nuts, and an amuse bouche.
I had a glass of the Drappier champagne. It’s not my favorite champagne in the world, though is perfectly nice.
The amuse bouche consisted of shrimp with cheese, lemon, and cumin, and was lovely. The packaged nuts were tasty as well.
Shortly after the drink service was done, the crew came through the cabin to collect the nut packages and amuse bouche cups.
25 minutes after the initial drink service, they came through the cabin with a second cart, containing the salad and starter. So I extended my tray table, which slid out of the console to my right.
The starter and salad were served on a single tray.
While the salad was simple in terms of lack of accompaniments, the mixed greens were at least good, and the dressing served with it was delicious.
As far as the starters go, there was both foie gras and smoked salmon timbale.
I don’t eat foie gras, so can’t chime in on how that was.
However, the salmon was phenomenal.
The bread was warm and crispy, and kudos to Air France for offering “premium” butter.
For the main course I made the mistake of ordering scallops. Don’t get me wrong, the scallops were perfectly fine. But I made the mistake of ordering this after I had a scallop dish in the first class lounge, which was the best thing I’ve eaten in my life.
These scallops certainly couldn’t compare, as they were chewier and didn’t have the flavor of the others (and the presentation wasn’t great either). So in absolute terms it was a nice business class main course, but there’s something to be said for the right meal at the wrong time.
30 minutes after the main course was served, the crew came around with a cheese course, consisting of camembert and comte.
Then 10 minutes later they came through with dessert, which consisted of a delicious trio, including almond-lemon cake, apricot-nougat parfait, and mini chocolate shortbread. I also had a coffee to go along with it. The desert satisfied my sweet tooth.
All-in-all the meal service took a bit over two hours, and I thought service throughout the meal was professional and personable. Air France’s business class service isn’t designed to be the most personalized in the world, in the sense that everything was served off a cart, so it felt a bit like an assembly line.
That being said, the crew was charming and attentive. They’d always proactively offer a refill of drinks whenever they saw a glass get empty.
And they also exuded French charm. French culture has grown on me a lot over the past few years, and good French service is among my favorite in the world. This crew was great.
During the meal I watched two episodes of The Mentalist I hadn’t seen before, which is an accomplishment, since I figured I had seen every episode.
After lunch I decided it was time for a nap, so I reclined my seat. The bed was comfortable, among the best reverse herringbone seats out there.
I especially loved how much room there was for my legs.
My one complaint about sleeping was the lack of air vents. The cabin was quite warm during the flight, and without being able to control my own air vent, I did sweat a bit.
Nonetheless I got about three hours of sleep, which is pretty good for a daytime flight. I woke up a bit over two hours outside of Toronto.
I headed to the lavatory upon waking up, and noticed they had set up a small bar between the two business class cabins, which had some drinks and packaged snacks.
I picked up some tasty wafers.
With a bit over two hours to go to Toronto, I browsed the entertainment selection to try and choose something else to watch.
I decided to watch Amy Schumer’s “Live at the Apollo” HBO special, which was hilarious. I apologize to the passengers seated near me for my loud laughter.
About 90 minutes before landing the pre-arrival meal was served. The menu read as follows:
First tablecloths were placed on each table.
And then a cart was rolled through the aisle with the snacks. To drink I had a glass of water and a coffee.
The snack was tasty and adorable. In terms of savory items, there was a goat cheese clafouti, chicken tortilla, and a pickled red onion, mozzarella cheese, and tomato and black olive brochette.
Then for dessert they had strawberry coulis, apricot shortbread, and vanilla cream puff.
There was also a fruit salad to go along with it.
I thought it was the perfect pre-landing snack for a flight of this length.
Once the Amy Schumer show was done I switched back to the airshow, and just gazed out the window, where there were stunning views.
While I don’t like cold weather, I love looking at cold weather.
At 3:50PM we began our descent, at which point the captain came back on the PA to inform us we’d be landing at 4:15PM.
Our descent was smooth, and as we approached the chief purser came through the cabin to bid farewell to passengers, which is an especially nice touch for business class.
We had a smooth touchdown in Toronto at 4:15PM, and from there a rather lengthy 15 minute taxi to the gate.
I don’t make it to Toronto very often, so quite enjoyed the variety of traffic.
We finally pulled into our gate at 4:30PM, about 25 minutes behind schedule.
I hadn’t considered just how much of a pain it is to clear both Canadian immigration and then US immigration, but fortunately it was all done within an hour or so. From there I took the nonstop American flight from Toronto to Los Angeles.
Air France’s new business class bottom line
Reverse herringbone seats are fantastic, and Air France has among the most comfortable configurations out there. While the cabin could have been a bit more stylish, it delighted in every other way. The seats were spacious and the entertainment system was great.
The crew on this flight were very friendly, so I have nothing but good things to say about them.
I just wish Air France had wifi on their planes. If they offered wifi on the planes with their new business class, it might just be my favorite transatlantic business class product.
Regardless, overall I was very pleasantly surprised by Air France business class, and they’re a fantastic way to cross the Atlantic. I can’t wait to fly them again soon.