I recently enjoyed a phenomenal holiday in Zambia & Madagascar, which included a stay at Time + Tide Miavana, possibly the world’s most exclusive beach resort. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Kenya Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Amsterdam to Nairobi
- Review: Kenya Airways B737 Business Class from Nairobi to Lusaka
- Review: Time + Tide Chongwe Suites, Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Time + Tide Kakuli Bushcamp, South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Time + Tide Chinzombo Lodge, South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Helicopter flight to Time + Tide Miavana, Madagascar
- Review: Time + Tide Miavana, the world’s most exclusive resort
- Review: Air France B777 Business Class from Antananarivo (Madagascar) to Paris (today)
Today (December 25, 2019): Review of Air France’s B777 Business Class from Madagascar to Paris.
After my holiday in Madagascar, I flew back to Europe in Business Class onboard an Air France Boeing 777-300ER from Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Unfortunately, the overnight flight was operated by one of Air France’s Boeing 777s with the old Business Class cabin. These birds feature angled flat seats in a poor 2-3-2 layout, contrary to the carrier’s new 1-2-1 configuration with real lie-flat seats which you find on most of its other Boeing 777s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners (and which I reviewed here). Despite Air France’s great soft product, there’s no denying that the cabin feels completely outdated and is way behind the competition (hence why Air France is phasing out this product next year).
Have you ever flown with Air France? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Antananarivo (TNR) to Paris (CDG)
- Airline: Air France
- Aircraft type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Aircraft registration number: F-GZNF (delivered to Air France in 2009)
- Flight number: AF-935
- Date: September 7, 2019
- On time departure: yes (1.45 am)
- On time arrival: yes (10.45 am)
- Miles: 5430 miles
- Flight time: 11 hours
- Seat: 2L
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip):
- Cost of my ticket
- Air France Business Class lounge at Antananarivo Airport
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (crew, lavatory & views)
- Air France arrivals lounge at CDG Airport
- My verdict (score)
1. COST OF MY TICKET
I paid 1800 euros for my Business Class ticket, which included a multi-destination itinerary:
- Outbound flight: Amsterdam (The Netherlands) to Lusaka (Zambia) via Nairobi (Kenya) with Kenya Airways
- Inbound flight: Antananarivo (Madagascar) to Paris (France) with Air France
I booked the ticket via the website of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which codeshares with its SkyTeam partners Kenya Airways and Air France.
2. AIR FRANCE BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE AT ANTANARIVO AIRPORT
Ivato International Airport has two terminals: one is for domestic travel and the other one is for international travel. Air France operates its own lounge within the small international terminal. The lounge is basically one decently sized room with several white dividers that create more intimate seating areas. The lounge features a lovely and modern decor which matches Air France’s chic brand identity. A small buffet station is set up within the lounge, offering a nicely presented selection of salads, sweets, cheeses, and some hot dishes (e.g. fish skewers, noodles, rice, and ratatouille). Premium drinks are offered as well, including French quality wines.
Overall, the lounge – which doesn’t feature outside windows – is a comfortable place to shelter at the airport, which is a good thing since the Paris-bound Air France flight departs at an odd time (1.55 am).
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Air France’s Boeing 777s are equipped with two different types of Business Class seats & configurations:
- The newest (and most common) version features reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 layout, and these planes are primarily used for longhaul flights to destinations in the USA, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
- The other, older version still features a poor 2-3-2 configuration, which is primarily used for longhaul flights to leisure destinations in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. Starting next year, Air France will phase out this outdated product and retrofit its leisure B777s with the excellent new seats that you can find on the carrier’s newly delivered A350 planes.
The Madagascar-Paris route is flown by a Boeing 777-300ER with the old Air France Business Class seats and layout. The Business Class cabin is located in the front of the plane, and feels rather claustrophobic due to its small size and the voluminous seat shells. There are 14 forward-facing Business Class seats in a 2-3-2 layout, which means that not all passengers have direct aisle access: those in seats A, E and K have to scramble over their neighbor’s legs. While this configuration might be acceptable when you are traveling with a family, it’s one to avoid if you are traveling solo since you don’t want to end up in the middle seat.
Note that Air France is not the only airline still operating this poor Business Class configuration: Emirates’ B777s have a similar 2-3-2 layout in Business Class (read my review here). At least, Air France is getting rid of this product while Emirates isn’t planning any retrofitting of its B777s.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
The old Air France Business Class seat has a pitch of 61 inches (155 cm) and is 21.5 inches (55 cm) wide. The seat layout is quite simple. One side of the seats features a reading light on eye level as well as a wired remote controller for the inflight entertainment underneath the center armrest. The center armrest also holds a panel with the seat controls and a decently sized tray table. The latter needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are blocked in your seat). In front of the seat is a disappointingly small entertainment screen, with a footwell below. The seat has USB ports and electrical outlets.
The seat doesn’t feature a lot of storage space: there’s open storage compartment for shoes or other large objects located under the footrest, and there’s an open box for some smaller items (glasses, wallet, phone, etc …) next to the footrest. And while the seat offers enough comfort in its upright position, it’s a somewhat different story when you want to sleep: the seat does not go fully flat but is angled at 170°. IMHO, the recline is acceptable for a decent sleep, although there’s no denying that Air France’s new Business Class seats are so much better.
What are the best Business Class seats on Air France’s Boeing 777-300ER? Click here for a seat map.
- The paired seats (A&B or J&K) are quiet good for couples.
- If you are traveling solo, choose one of the aisle seats (B, E, G, K) so you don’t have to climb over your seatmate’s legs to reach the aisle.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER? Click here for a seat map.
- Middle seats (designated by the letter ‘E’ on the seat map) are flanked by other seats on both sides, so avoid them if flying alone, and if traveling with a partner aim for the window pairs (A&B or J&K) instead.
Air France provides the following amenities to Business Class passengers on longhaul flights:
- An sleek and sophisticated amenity kit, which features an elegant wallet format. The kit contains the usual longhaul travel items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, ear plugs, pen, comb, eye mask, and Clarins spa products.
- A hanger
- A shoebag, holding a pair of slippers and navy blue socks
- Sleeping amenities, comprising a silky duvet and a large feather pillow (unfortunately, no quilted mattress is provided, which you sometimes get on other airlines).
- Air France branded noise-cancelling headphones, which are hard wired and of decent quality.
The hanger, blanket, pillow and shoebag are put on the seat before boarding starts, while the amenity kit is distributed by the crew after boarding is complete.
During this overnight flight, two meals were offered: a light supper and full breakfast.
Service started shortly after takeoff with an aperitif. I choose a glass of Champagne, which was served with mini-pancakes stuffed with cheese. Next, all courses of the supper were served at once on the same tray, which I liked because of the very late hour of meal service (2:30 am):
- Starter: foie gras on gingerbread
- Main course is duck breast à l’orange, served with rice and vegetables
- Dessert: chocolate and banana tartlet
Supper was ok, although portions were small, and it did not feature the refined taste nor presentation which I associate Air France’s meal service with after my previous excellent experience with them. On a side note, I am surprised that so many airlines – including Air France – still serve foie gras, given the controversies surrounding this product.
Midflight snacks were offered on this flight, with a choice between mini vegetable quiches or fruits.
Ninety minutes prior to landing, a more substantial meal – breakfast – was served, comprising fruit juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fresh fruit salad, yoghurt, granola, cheese, bread roll, butter and jam. There was also a choice of one hot dish and I had the mixed grill (zebu skewer & sausage with potatoes & vegetables).
The inflight entertainment system on Air France’s B777s planes with the old layout is in dire need of an update. The entertainment screen is too small and the selection on offer is limited. The TV doesn’t feature a touchscreen function, and the inflight entertainment selection is controlled by a wired handheld device. Unfortunately, scrolling with the handset through the selection of movies and TV shows is a bit slow. Remarkably, Air France’s Premium Economy Class seats on the same plane feature larger touchscreen TVs.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Air France’s B777s are equipped with WiFi. On this flight, there were 4 individual tariffs for using the internet service:
- Messaging (via Whatsapp, Messenger, WeChat, etc …) is complimentary (great feature!)
- One hour of internet: 8 EUR or 2700 miles
- Internet during the entire flight: 18 EUR or 6000 miles
- Internet during the entire flight (with streaming): 30 EUR or 10.000 miles
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: Service during this flight was efficient, friendly and personalized with a French twist. Once I arrived on board, the head of the cabin crew introduced herself to me (as she did to all Business Class passengers). Whatever I needed during the flight, the crew was always ready at hand.
# TOILET: The Boeing 777-300ER features one lavatory for Business Class passengers, located in the galley behind the cockpit.
# VIEWS: The last hour of the flight offered some terrific views of the Croatian coastline, the Venetian Lagoon, the Italian Lakes, and the Swiss Alps.
10. AIR FRANCE ARRIVALS LOUNGE AT CDG AIRPORT
Air France has an arrivals lounge at CDG airport, which is open to Business (and First) Class passengers arriving on a long-haul flight. Open from 5:30 am to 2:00 pm, the lounge is located inside Terminal 2C (near check-in counter 10). There are more than a dozen shower rooms, which allows passengers to refresh before heading to a meeting or their hotel. There’s also a breakfast buffet on display, with cold cuts, cheese, fruit, yogurt, fresh pastries and croissants.
11. MY VERDICT
- Air France lounge at Antananarivo: 7/10
- Cabin design: 5/10
- Seat comfort (upright position): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 4/10
- Food (quality): 6/10
- Food (quantity): 6/10
- Inflight entertainment : 4/10
- WiFi: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Overall experience: mediocre: 6/10