This is my sixth A380 trip having flown A380s operated by Singapore,  Qantas, Emirates, Korean and Lufthansa.

Air France was  one of the launch customers for the A380 in 2001, ordering 12. They got their first A380 in October, 2009.

Booking:  10 out of 10

Upon searching for economy airfares from the USA to Europe and back, I found Air France was offering a sale on its Premium economy product (Premium Voyageur) so I treated myself to that. Booking, payment and ticketing was very straightforward.  Unfortunately the very small premium economy cabin had only two seats left. Both were in the middle section of the cabin. I like my window seat! I kept monitoring the website up to check in time but the seat situation did not change.

Check in: 10 out of 10

I was very very early for check in as my inbound flight into JFK got me there 12 hours before my flight was departing.  Because I had been Christmas shopping in the USA, taking advantage of the strong  Aussie dollar, I had two bags to check in.  One was my regular bag and one was full of presents, neither of which I wanted to walk around NYC with. Air France  allowed me a very early check in.

Premium Economy passengers can check in via a priority queue. The process was efficient and straight forward. This gave me a few hours to explore NYC without the bags. The very friendly agent issued the boarding pass for the flight. Alas no window seats had opened up.

I gave  Emirates (EK) 10/10, Korean (KE) 10/10, Qantas   (QF) 9/10, Singapore (SQ) 8/10 and Lufthansa (LH) 7/10 for their A380 Check in processes.

 

 Boarding: 6 out of 10

In contrast to the very smooth check in, Boarding was a disaster! The lounge area was chaotic. There were (I think) ostensibly two lines – one for Premium and one for economy but where these lines started and stopped was very unclear. Two security guards were attempting to funnel people into the right line. The trouble is that each of the two guys was contradicting the other so passengers were totally confused. It was an appalling welcome.

On previous occasions, Air France has had a whiteboard at the head of the line with pertinent and interesting information such as plane serial number, pilots’ name, meals options, flight time. This was missing on this occasion. I am not sure of AF no longer does this or it is not used on this sector or it had been hidden by a security guard!

At the gate, passengers separate for entry into the lower and upper cabin lines. I followed my way up to the upper cabin. Greetings at the door were in English and French and cabin crew greeting passengers through the plane.

Boarding in the Premium Economy and Economy cabins felt stressed. The economy cabin ran out of luggage space and passengers from that cabin were competing for the remaining luggage spots in the PE cabin.

EK: 10/10, KE 10/10, QF: 9/10,  SQ 7/10, LH 7/10

On Board: 5 out of 10

When Air France released its A380 and on board products, the critics and public were underwhelmed, I can see why. I thought the colour scheme dull and unexciting.

The airline has chosen to squeeze 538 people in four classes. Originally, the upper deck had a mix of Business seats and Economy seats. Some of the Economy seats have been replaced  with newer Premium Economy seats.  The result is  The Premium Economy cabin which is five rows in a 2/3/
3 arrangement followed by a small Economy section squeezed at the back of the plane. I found this arrangement illogical, uncomfortable and cramped. It would seem to be better to expand the Premium economy cabin and business class by a row each to fit the space. It would allow Air France to offer PE customer their own lavatory .



 

 

First and Economy cabins on the lower level with 9 First suites at the front of the plane (I didn’t see them) and Economy seats in a 3/4/3 arrangement.

Take off was followed by the distribution of an amenity kit which included some Clarins moisturising cream. I am not sure what the economy offering was.

Service through the flight was predominantly at meal times. At other times, I found crew aloof and absent.

EK: 10/10, KE 10/10, QF: 9/10,  SQ 8/10, LH 7/10

 

The Seat: 3 out of 10

Air France has installed a fixed-shell seat for the Premium Economy cabin. It is 19 inches by 38 inches. Compare that to Economy where the economy seats are 19″ wide with a 32″ pitch between the seats. Air France make a big deal about the extra 40% more leg room but I was underwhelmed. I could not get comfortable in this seat. I felt claustrophobic and the width is pathetic. The seat has a  10.4 in (26 cm) video screen. With the seat was  a noise-reducing headset, electronic PC outlet to recharge computers and a supposedly wider seat-back tray table. We also were given a pillow and a blanket.

 

Takeoff: 10 out of 10

The A380 performs takeoffs flawlessly. With a leap and a bound we were out of NY air space.

 

Meals: 10 out of 10

I always have confidence in Air Frances’ meal and frankly as the flag carrier of France, you could not afford ti have a bad meal. The food is always served with generous toppings of French wines and ample servings of a wide selection of  breads. The good thing about bread is that its cheap for an airline and filling!

EK: 10/10,  SQ 9/10. LH 8.5/10, QF: 7/10, KE 6/10

 

Entertainment: 8 out of 10

Air France has It offers Movies, Short films, Music (Approx. 500 albums), A Children’s World, games, and in-flight duty free shopping functioned well but  I felt the quantity of TV programming was a bit limited. While there were a lot of albums, there were not many that ended up grabbing my attention.

SQ 10/10, QF 9/10, EK: 8/10  LH 7/10

 

Landing: 10 out of 10

We landed early into Paris Charles de Gaulle  with a perfect touchdown

 

My rating overall: 78%

Out of all of my A380 flights, this was the most disappointing. particularly galling was that I had paid for a premium economy product  that I think is eclipsed by the Economy product of Emirates, Qantas and Singapore. I gave Air France an overall rating of 3.8 out fo 5 which to my mind makes it an average airline.

Ratings for my A380 flights are EK: 92%, QF: 87%, KE 86%, SQ: 83%, LH 80%,

Positives:  Booking,  check in, meals

Negatives: Boarding, layout of A380, On board service

Would I fly them again? Frankly, maybe. It would depend on price and competitor.

If I was choosing between Air France and an American competitor, I would lean toward Air France. By contrast, I would choose some European carriers eg British Airways, Lufthansa, Swissair, Malev, over Air France. The prospect of that nice bread doesn’t win over.

 

Related Posts:

Emirates A380: Auckland to Sydney 

Korean A380: (Seoul to Los Angeles

Lufthansa A380: JFK to Frankfurt

 

  • Dave said,

    I ceased flying Air France when they ceased operating their Concordes. I only flew with them in those days because supersonic flight equated to less time having to deal with their attitudes.

  • the deal mommy said,

    Thanks for the review. I’m on AF on the A380 this summer and was considering buying up to prem eco. Sounds like I’ll just suck it up in economy!

  • Mike Smith said,

    Disappointing that the PE seat was the same width as Y, did PE at least offer better meals? or did you get the same meals as Y? Thanks for the report.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Meal service is the same as in Economy (aperitifs, Champagne, a choice of two hot dishes, liqueurs, wines, and ice-cream)

  • Darren said,

    Nice review and I especially like that you add a scoring system. Terrible the pitch for PE is 32″… basically no better than regular economy.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Thank you. The scoring system forces me to be disciplined about my opinions. Have you checked out my other reviews? NB re the PE seat. It does give you 6″ more legroom over economy but width is the same.

  • Jan said,

    I recently flew the big bird IAD-CDG; the one area that really disappointed me in Business was the seat. How can such a bad seat be installed in such a superior bird. Other than that, no issues with boarding, food or arrival time into CDG. Only other complaint, CDG. No need to elaborate, I guess …

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    what is it with Air France and their seats?

  • Chris said,

    I flew IAD-CDG last year on the A380 in business and was very pleased. Boarding at IAD was very organized. I had no trouble with the lay-flat seats. The service, meals and wines were top-notch. My only problem was that the flight is too short to enjoy the multi-course meal and still get a full night’s sleep. I am doing the same flight this summer, and hope it goes as well as last time.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    I have not sampled the Air France business cabin. Glad it was great. I was disappointed with their Premium Economy Product, as you can see. Let us know how you go with your next flight.

  • Cedric said,

    Pitch is 49.8 in PE.
    I flew PE many times and is really a good product. I really do not understand this review.

    http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Air_France/Air_France_Airbus_A380_V2.php

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Thank you for noting the Premium Economy seat pitch. Seatguru says 49.8″ and seat plans say 38″ http://www.seatplans.com/airlines/Air-France/seatplans/A380-(4-class)/classes. It didn’t feel like 49.8″ to me. I will see if I can resolve this.
    Am glad you have had good experiences with Air France’s Premium Economy. I rated them 78 per cent which is the weakest out of all of the A380 experiences I have had but isn’t terrible. . Interestingly seatplans give the Air France Premium Economy product 6.2 out of ten: http://www.seatplans.com/airlines/Air-France/seatplan-classes/A380-(4-class)-Premium-economy
    This is the lowest of all their Premium Economy products reviewed. http://www.seatplans.com/advice/guides/seatplans.com-guides-premium-economy

  • Love to fly said,

    Thanks for the review of AF PE product. I was going to fly them to JNB but am now having second thoughts. BTW, BA’s PE product sucked!

  • Love to fly said,

    …as you will note, the BA PE was not on an A380!

  • Michelle Lowrie said,

    Hello Martin,

    I was considering flying AF from Singapore to Paris on Prem Econ, but after your review I am now not so sure! You gave a 3/10 of the seating, would you mind advising your ratings for the other A380 airlines you have flown with?

    Thanks
    Michelle
    Margaret River, Western Australia

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Hi
    The best A380 products (in my opinion) are Emirates, Singapore and Qantas. Unfortunately EQ and SQ do not have Premium Economy but to be frank, in my experience, the difference between the EQ and SQ Economy product and AF’s Premium is not worth the difference AF charges. I will only do AF380 again in Business class. Sadly, QF do not fly into Paris.

  • Elena Anne said,

    Air France is responsible for 3 items missing from my “inspected” and delayed luggage worth over $2000. It’s been a week and I still don’t have an answer from staff. I know luggage gets delayed and or missing, but theft is something Air France should take full responsibility for instead of throwing me around from one person to another. I have filed 3 claims online and spoke with at least 6 representatives in a span of 4 days while on my birthday vacation in Rome. Never ever again will I fly air france and if there is any other hold up I will make sure that I have an attorney involved.

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