Happy hump day from Paris! I just landed on my first Air France A380 first class flight, and don’t even know where to begin. First of all, I’ll just be sharing my general thoughts in this post, and will have a much more detailed post once I start the trip report. After all, I took this flight solely for the purpose of reviewing the product, so you can expect a report as detailed as an NTSB investigation in the coming weeks (fortunately one of those wasn’t needed for my flight, though).

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Let me start by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience — Air France far exceeded my expectations. And I’m trying to figure out how much of this is just psychological, because throughout the entire experience I was kind of  giddy and almost felt out of place.

Since Air France doesn’t release any saver first class award space but instead requires you to book a “flex” award, I never though I’d try their A380 first class product. So there was something about the whole experience that made me feel like such a badass, kind of like when you have your first drink in the US after turning 21.

And beyond that, there was just something really exciting about trying a new product. I’ve flown Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Singapore first class all well over a dozen times and while they leave me impressed almost every time, it starts to become so familiar that it loses its luster. Today I kind of feel like I lost my international first class virginity all over again.

Anyway, on to the actual experience:

Air France A380 First Class Seat

Air France’s A380 first class product really is kind of embarrassing. Of any airline that operates the A380 it’s the most disappointing product, as the seats have virtually no privacy and really are industry average at best. For that matter there’s not even an external personal television, but rather a fairly small screen that pops out of the side of your console.

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During boarding I sent my mom some pictures of the cabin, and I think she summed it up best:

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I think she has been spoiled too much with miles. :D

In true German fashion, she speaks the truth. She knows what’s up. ;)

On the plus side the seat felt fairly spacious in bed mode, though the bedding wasn’t amazing. Don’t get me wrong, the bedding wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. Instead of having a proper mattress pad there’s just a very thin sheet of sorts. The bed comfort doesn’t even get close to comparing to Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, or Qantas, just to name a few.

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Air France A380 First Class Food

So the food was nothing short of spectacular. Not only did it taste good, but I thought the presentation was top notch as well.

Last time I flew Air France first class nearly a decade ago I thought the food was far too complex and poorly executed, while this time it was reasonably simple and extraordinarily well executed.

There were canapés to start, which consisted of crepes filled with salmon, truffle and asparagus, and tapenade blini with oven-dried tomato.

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That was followed by a salad and cauliflower soup.

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Which was followed by caviar.

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Which was followed by a beef tenderloin.

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Which was followed by a cheese plate.

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Which was followed by an opera cake.

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And then I finished off the meal with a cappuccino.

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Now I didn’t eat everything from every course (in case some of you were worried), but I wanted to make sure I was sampling as much as possible, as this may be the only time I fly Air France first class.

The one bizarre part of the service (which is easily forgiven since everything else was spectacular) was that they didn’t offer alcoholic beverages pre-departure. Airlines have to pay taxes on alcohol opened on the ground in the US, though most airlines aren’t cheap enough to just not serve alcohol as a result. Air France is, apparently, which I found shocking. Of all the airlines in the world you’d think you could get a glass of champagne pre-departure, wouldn’t Air France be at the top of your list?

Air France A380 First Class Service

Four of the nine first class seats were taken, and there was a single flight attendant working the cabin. While she never addressed me by name, she was extremely charming, attentive, friendly, and professional.

Despite being busy doing everything on her own, my plate never sat empty for more than a couple of minutes, and drinks were always full. Between meals she came by my seat periodically to see if I wanted anything, and even made suggestions. Before landing she even stopped by my seat for several minutes to explain how the ground transfer will work in Paris, and to tell me how great the first class lounge is, and all the things I can take advantage of there. So the service really impressed me.

Air France A380 First Class Amenities

I was really impressed by the pajamas, which were high quality and extremely soft and comfortable.

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The amenity kit was a bit lackluster compared to what some other airlines offer. Then again, Lufthansa doesn’t exactly offer an impressive amenity kit either.

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Other airlines have some “frills” on their A380s. Emirates has showers for first class passengers and a bar for first and business class passengers, Lufthansa has two huge lavatories, Thai has a huge lavatory and a lounge, etc.

The one unique thing that Air France has – which I love – is a changing room. I always hate changing into pajamas in the lavatory since we know how dirty the floor is, so instead they have a changing room with a vanity mirror and all kinds of toiletries. Brilliant idea.

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Unfortunately it comes at a cost – the first class lavatory is quite possibly the smallest lavatory I’ve ever seen in first class, and there’s only one.

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Bottom line

Air France definitely exceeded my expectations. I knew exactly what to expect when it came to their hard product, as I’ve toured the Air France A380 before, but just haven’t flown on it. So there were no surprises there, and while I think the hard product is the most lackluster of any airline operating the A380, it’s still a comfortable seat.

But aside from that, there was something incredibly refined about the Air France product. The cabin looked very elegant/sleek, and the service was impeccable. The food was among the best I’ve had on a plane, not just in terms of taste, but also in terms of presentation.

There were so many “little touches” that impressed me, like a small box of chocolates being served with a cappuccino, the way water with turndown service was served with a glass on a tray, etc.

But what really sets Air France apart is the ground experience… stay tuned.

PS: THE GROUND SERVICES IN PARIS ARE AMAZING. AIR FRANCE’S FIRST CLASS LOUNGE IS LITERALLY THE BEST IN THE WORLD. END OF STORY. OTHER AIRLINES CAN GO HOME NOW. YES, IT’S SO GOOD IT’S WORTHY OF CAPS AND BOLDING. MORE ON THAT SHORTLY… ASSUMING I CAN’T CONVINCE ONE OF THE AMAZING PEOPLE WORKING HERE TO LET ME JUST STAY PERMANENTLY.

  1. December 11th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Calvin said,

    YOU SURE IT’S BETTER THAN LH FCT?!?!

  2. December 11th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    wwk5d said,

    Wow…given how bad of a reputation AF has, this was definitely eye opening. Then again, maybe they have a good First product overall, because most people tend to slam their Business and Economy products…

  3. December 11th, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Paul W said,

    So what kind of Champagne did they eventually pour?

  4. December 11th, 2013 at 10:28 am

    raksiam said,

    I dunno. UA has a pretty tiny F class lav on their 777.

  5. December 11th, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Starwood Guide said,

    Can’t wait to hear about the lounge. I’ll be visiting the LH FCT again this weekend and it never dissapoints.

  6. December 11th, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Sean M. said,

    Glad to hear that ground services have improved. They used to be the singular reason to avoid flying Air France.

    I remember flying them in First Class out of Terminal 2-C a few years ago and having no lounge access whatsoever. Yes, there was no lounge available for First Class passengers. Also my seat was broken and didn’t recline (got something like 30k miles compensation for that). Shameful product overall.

  7. December 11th, 2013 at 10:44 am

    JetAway said,

    Food is always more important to the French than sleeping.

  8. December 11th, 2013 at 10:48 am

    TravelinWilly said,

    You and I seem to have flown different Air Frances. Perhaps they’ve stepped up their game on the A380, but on the 744s (awhile ago) and their 773s (more recently), first class on AF has left me pretty unimpressed, and I still can’t understand why they’re one of the most expensive carriers (in terms of both cash as well as point redemptions, both of which I’ve used when flying them, which usually depends on the reason for the trip).

    It’s too bad that they’ve discontinues their Christian Lacroix PJs – those were pretty swanky.

    Their first class lounge at CDG is really terrific, and definitely differentiates them from a lot of the competition. I won’t say that it’s “better” than, say, the LH first terminal, but it’s certainly *different*, and the people who work the lounge are really quite wonderful.

  9. December 11th, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Steven S said,

    About ten years ago, well before I had any idea of what I was doing in the points/miles game, I managed to fly on AF First. We had amassed about 500,000 AMEX points and never seemed to be able to use them. We live in NJ and domestic flights were cheap then so there was no reason to use miles for trips to Florida. And we never seemed to be able to use them for long trips (obviously, we’ve learned a lot since those days!). So in a true “what the hell” moment, I bit the bullet and used 400,000 of those AMEX points for AF First for me and my wife. And tho you didn’t mention this, I remember that they also took my suitcase and wrapped the entire thing in clear film for additional protection. I do remember well being escorted through security and being driven to the plane.

    Since then, we’ve been lucky to do First on BA, Swiss, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Thai and United. But nothing compared to the magic of that flight on AF. On our return, we were the only ones in the four First Class seats. The flight attendant was a movie star good-looking guy. My wife was a former French teacher and he sat by her talking to her for an hour. I watched her melt and there is no question it was her favorite flight of all time! And BTW, back then that seat was considered as good as it gets in international First.

    So thanks, Lucky, for bringing back great memories.

  10. December 11th, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Bgriff said,

    I have flown AF business several times and have always been very underwhelmed, especially by the food … glad to hear that they get it right in First at least.

    And, frankly, the starting point of what a circus CDG can be should add another 20 points or so to your impression of the First Class ground handling experience.

  11. December 11th, 2013 at 11:19 am

    James K. said,

    I’m so glad to hear they impressed you. I have a bit of a soft spot for Air France since the first airline I redeemed my own miles for was DL–>AF and so I defend them a bit even when they’re less than great

  12. December 11th, 2013 at 11:31 am

    concorde02 said,

    So excited to see this!
    I heard so much good things about their F Lounge in Paris and that’s why I kept telling you to try this product :)
    Note on the food:
    -I wish the wine glass would be more conventional
    -any top carrier also put olive oil and butter on small plates instead of paper package.
    -on canapés picture, the cracker is in the paper box package?
    Can’t wait to see the Lounge!

  13. December 11th, 2013 at 11:49 am

    nycflyer75 said,

    I have flown AF several times in business class (only) out of New York, Washington DC, Paris and Tokyo and I was always offered water and champagne for pre-departure. Though the last time I flew AF was in February out of DC. They also serve champagne in the air France lounge in New York. It seems very odd they wouldn’t serve champagne in first class out of LAX!

  14. December 11th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    John said,

    “Last time I flew Air France first class nearly a decade ago I thought the food was far too complex and poorly executed, while this time it was reasonably simple and extraordinarily well executed.”

    You thought this when you were, what, 13? Wow.

  15. December 11th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    ATC said,

    how did you like the new LAX TBIT? I hope you post pics of the new terminal in your trip report. :)

  16. December 11th, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Miguel said,

    Yet another American with prejudice against the French that realizes that it’s mostly propaganda. What a surprise!

  17. December 11th, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    snic said,

    Umm, Miguel, I think you’re confusing “prejudice against Air France” with “prejudice against the French.” The former is a consumer attitude shaped by the market. The latter is racism, jingoism, or something similar.

  18. December 11th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Erik said,

    Do AF still have the L’Occitane toiletries in the lounge shower? I find the scents help me wake up and feel refreshed after a long flight. Did you visit the small “art gallery”? It’s on the upper deck next to the stairs, if I remember correctly. Very French thing to do.

  19. December 11th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Euro said,

    I thought Air France updated their A380 first class with different-colored seats, dividers, and higher shells. Did only some of them get this update?

  20. December 11th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    991tt said,

    I 100% agree, way better than Lufthansa, the ground service on AF more than makes up (and then some) for the onboard deficiencies of its hard product. LH cannot measure to the 1 on 1 service AF provides in La Premiere

  21. December 11th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Mark said,

    The seat itself looks reasonable enough, but for the love of god, why no partitions? The wide-open cabin is just odd.

  22. December 11th, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    naif said,

    There seat looks more like a Business class seat

  23. December 11th, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Tom said,

    It all seems so very…French.

  24. December 11th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Jim said,

    Of course Air France needs a vanity room in First Class.. the pax need to look uh-mazing when they step out of the plane in their.

  25. December 11th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    tripmark said,

    The way the article started it seemed like you didn’t like it based on how it looked. I have been on Singapore First Class and loved it, amenities, menu, service — it was great! From your post I am very impressed by the food that they served.

  26. December 11th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Lantean said,

    @Lucky

    Ben, since you don’t like the amenity kit, can you please give it to me? I think it looks pretty cool.
    Thank you.
    Your loyal reader.

  27. December 11th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Jeff R said,

    I guess I am an outlier here, but I love the more open look of the cabin. I really dislike all the “privacy” hardware in most J and F cabins. I don’t want to work in a cubicle farm, and I don’t want to fly in one either!

  28. December 11th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    CalAggie21 said,

    I don’t know, Lucky. I think you’re just still giddy from the overall experience. Perhaps, after a few weeks, when you write up the trip report, you’ll be able to review it objectively!

  29. December 11th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    John* said,

    How can any lounge realistically compete with the Qantas First lounge in Sydney? The meal service alone is in a class of its own. The spa puts all other spas to shame. There really is no contest.

  30. December 11th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Jeff R said,

    @John – Actually, I think the Qantas First lounge in Melbourne competes very well with the one in Sydney. (The view is not as good, but they make it up in personalized service.)

  31. December 11th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    THEsocalledfan said,

    Kudos for doing a Sky Team report; it is a refreshing change of pace. Keep it up; I liked the Delta one you did recently, too.

  32. December 11th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Randy Petersen said,

    Lucky:
    They have been flying these machines for four years now. Could you tell is this one of the “older” ones or a newer delivery. I thought they changed a few things on the 2012 delivery from what you have reported. Good for you with this experience. I highly suggest you try flying every airline with A380s in service. Cheers.

  33. December 11th, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    TravelinWilly said,

    @John*

    I’ve never been to the Qantas first lounge in SYD, however I can attest to the dining service at the AF first lounge at CDG, and it is stellar. I know that Ben was (to me) a bit over the top in his effusive praise, but I think that there is a class of lounges out there (AF La Première at CDG, LH first terminal at FRA, TG first lounge in BKK, QF first lounges in MEL and SYD) where “better than” comparisons might not be a logical approach.

    They’re all fantastic in their own ways, some might have a nicer shower or a nicer spa or a better spread of food, but to net it out they’re all world-class leaders. AF’s La Première lounge is definitely up there. I just don’t think we hear a lot about it because not that many of us (or bloggers, it seems) fly Air France first class, or at least not with any regularity. Personally, I avoid AF whenever I can, but I’ll definitely give the lounge props. But a great lounge/ground service at one airport isn’t enough to sway me to spend on an overall inferior product (the inferiority of which spans, in my experiences, from hardware to service levels).

  34. December 11th, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Paul W — Eventually they served Deutz Cuvee 2000.

  35. December 11th, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Bgriff — Yep, most amazing part of the ground experience was that I never had to enter the terminal. Which, at CDG, is a dream come true!

  36. December 11th, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    lucky said,

    @ ATC — Will have an installment dedicated solely to the new terminal at LAX. It’s stunning!

  37. December 11th, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Erik — Toiletries were “Biologique Recherche” branded. Didn’t see an art gallery in the first class lounge. For that matter didn’t see a second floor.

  38. December 11th, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Euro — Nope, this is the first class product available on all their A380s.

  39. December 11th, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Lantean — I’ll be giving it away with the trip report. Stay tuned!

  40. December 11th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    lucky said,

    @ CalAggie21 — Not totally ruining that out, but wait till you read about the ground experience. THAT I’m definitely not overhyping.

  41. December 11th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Randy — Interesting. The one I flew was delivered April 2010, so is one of the original ones. Maybe there are some new features on some of the newer ones?

  42. December 11th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Miguel said,

    @snic, I know my comment is not “fair”, but it is certainly not the first time that I hear an American (or a German for that matter) that says that “X thing” (AF, customer service, whatever) is awful in France, because they’ve heard somewhere, and then when they actually experience it they are amazed that it wasn’t anything like that. The same happens when Europeans travel to the US and realize not everyone is as dumb, close minded and reactionary as expected.
    The power of propaganda is amazing.

  43. December 11th, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Jorge said,

    I agree with Jeff R. I love the look and spaciousness of this cabin . I hate the cubicle format of the new F cabins, though am eager to fly Emirates A380 with all the bling bling.
    The new F cabins reminds me so much of my company and everything I am leaving behind !

    Lucky, what happened to the BA A380? Thought you were flying that one, and boom, I read you are flying AF LOL !

  44. December 11th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Jorge — Worry not, I’m flying BA on the return!

  45. December 12th, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Lantean said,

    @TravelinWilly

    clearly you’ve never been to Emirates A380 F lounge-floor.

  46. December 12th, 2013 at 8:13 am

    panda said,

    If there are no French macarons in the lounge I won’t believe you :)

  47. December 12th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Peter said,

    If the French can’t serve excellent food, something is wrong.

    Great summary! I feel like I was on board (yet have no jet lag) ;-)

  48. December 12th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    FFlyerCDG said,

    As I wrote it two days ago, catering out of CDG is MUCH better…
    A few exemples of what you may get departing from CDG.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/111342355@N07/

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