John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) – Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
STD: 9:30 PM ATD: 9:40 PM (-5 GMT)
STA: 10:45 AM ATA: 10:22 AM (+1 GMT)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200(ER), F-GSPI
Flight Date: November 24, 2016
Class of Service: Business
Seat Type: Reverse Herringbone
Seat Pitch: 61 inches
Seat Width: 21.5 inches
Meals: Warm dinner at lounge before flight or in air after takeoff and continental breakfast before landing in Business Class. Alcohol is complimentary.
In-Seat Outlets: Yes
IFE: Yes, personal TVs at every seat
Not too long ago, there were some pretty great deals for SkyTeam carriers to Europe in the fall in business class. The only real requirement was a minimum 6 night stay. Prague had long been on my radar, though 6 nights seems a bit much for such a small city. When I found that it didn’t cost more for an open jaw itenerary, I jumped at the chance to throw in a second city. I decided on Berlin, and booked tickets out of JFK to TXL (via CDG), then home from PRG to EWR (via AMS), with the intention of taking a train in between the two cities. This review covers the JFK-CDG leg of the trip.Looking for a Snapshot of the trip? Jump to the Takeaway
Check-In – JFK Terminal 1
A couple weeks before leaving, Brian and I decided to bring Marshall with us on this trip, since Europe is so dog friendly compared to anywhere in America. Since our night of departure was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport and get through security. When traveling with a dog it ALWAYS means you’ll need more time, so I like to account for that accordingly.
Thanks to pre-Thanksgiving traffic, we got to the airport around 2.5 hours before takeoff, and made our way to the Sky Priorty/Business Class boarding area, which was busier than it usually is. We were checked in in no time (no issued with dog travel, just had to show his rabies and health certificates), and the agent moved on to the next line of business: the lounge.
I had long heard about Air France’s Night Service program, which allows Business Class passengers to eat your meal at their lounge to allow more time for rest up in the air (or, have a meal on the ground and in the sky, if you’re so enclined). When I called the Air France USA number, it directed me to Delta, and the associate was not particularly familiar with the program, and all she could do was look up the details and read off their internal documents. That being said, I wasn’t sure how popular the offering was, nor was I sure if anyone would even know about it.
There is no additional charge for Night Service, nor is any prior arrangements required – all you have to do is arrive at the lounge with enough time prior to boarding to dine. The service is offered (currently) only out of JFK’s Air France salon for the following evening flights:
- AF009 from New York JFK
- AF011 from New York JFK
Fortunately, the agent knew all about it and asked if we’d like to partake in the pre-flight meal offering. We said we did but we weren’t sure if we had enough time. She said that she didn’t think there would be any issues and we were on our way.
Since Air France does not participate in the TSA Precheck program, there is no expedited screening through security, but business class passengers do go through a different line to be processed, so this does speed things up a bit.
The lounge is located after security at the end of the hallway near Gate 1. Upon entering the lounge, we were greeted by several lounge staff who checked us in and let us know that the Night Service meal was being served exclusively upstairs.
Once we got upstairs, another member of the staff checked our tickets before welcoming us to the rest of the lounge. The Night Service
The lounge area upstairs is similarly sized to the area downstairs. I’ve photographed the lounge before on a recent trip to Mexico City when I was flying Aeromexico, which I documented here, so I won’t cover that here again. I’ll be focusing on the Night Service for the purpose of this trip report.
Once we got to the dining area, our tickets were checked again and marked. The lounge agent asked us to keep our tickets visibly on the table, and allowed us to choose where to sit. Much to my surprise, the dining area was more than half full with other pre-flight diners.
As we sat down, we found a menu on our table, with the French version on one side and the English version on the other.
I meant to ask about the special dish prepared by Daniel Boulud, but I jumped the gun and ordered the beef (which I don’t regret) while Brian had the mushroom risotto .
Since there is a section for wine, beer, and other beverages at the lounge, I asked our server if the drinks were self-serve, and she apologetically said they were. I didn’t mind too much (although it was a bit of a challenge weaving through all the tables and everyone’s luggage) and got up and grabbed Brian and myself a couple drinks.
I loved the foie gras, though it was a little dry. The seared scallops were good, but I’m not a big scallop person, so I never have a strong opinion on them.
The starters were presented with cheese, and our server came by with a basket of bread with several types – I opted for a couple rolls of the miniature french bread.
Our mains were served after we were done with our starters. I had ordered my beef medium well but it came a little bit more on the medium side. I could have easily sent it back, but the discrepancy wasn’t terribly different. The cut of meat was lean (as I prefer it) so I enjoyed my meal. Brian was a little less impressed with his mushroom risotto, but inhaled it nonetheless.
Our dessert arrived after we polished off our mains – a chocolate hazelnut tart-type dish. Brian loved it but it was a bit too sweet for me (not that I stopped eating it though).
This is going to sound odd but (maybe not really) – since I’ve had my meal before but in the air – I think I think it tasted better when I had it in-flight. I think a couple things attribute to this – first, they create airline menus with the idea that the food will be consumed when flying, so it makes sense that the flavors and preparation speaks to how your taste buds might assess something at 34,000 feet. The other thing that I think impacted my opinion is that I think I had higher expectations when dining on the ground because it could be better. That being – there is a full fledged kitchen, with tons of space, and far more resources in preparing a meal than there would be up in the air. The food was also served on the same trays and the same dishes that we get on the plane – something I thought that they might expand on for their on-the-ground service and use different plates and such. Again – not that the meal was not good, because it was, but I think it was a bit of an unusual setting that my expectations were completely thrown off.
Boarding and the Flight
We only had a half hour after dinner to enjoy the lounge before it was time to board, unfortunately. We made our way over to Gate 4 where our plane was boarding.
We arrived as they were boarding premium passengers, so we didn’t have to wait. Business class was boarded in the Sky Priority lane, while there was a separate line for General Boarding.
As we boarded the plane, we were courteously greeted by an FA who helped us find our seats. The business class cabin offers reveres herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. We were assigned to seats 7E and 7F, which are middle seats located in the back of the forward business class cabin. This is my second time flying this configuration on Air France (though alst time I was traveling by myself and had a window seat).
Some people might find the proximity to the lavatory and galley to be bothersome, but I don’t mind it too much. Being on the last row does offer a little bit more privacy (since no one is sitting behind you) – although I did find one major downside to my seat – the tiny overhead compartment.
When I got to my seat, I found slippers, a pillow and blanket on the seat, as well as a hanger for my coat. Shortly after taaking my coat off, an FA came by to store my hanger in a closet.
I’m a fan of fluffy pillows with a bit of firmness to them, and the Air France pillow is a pretty decent version of what I’m looking for (keeping in mind that most airplane pillows tend to fall on the flatter side). The blanket is a little thinner than I’d like, but then again, I prefer my blankets excessively thick.
If for some reason you decide you’d rather hold on to your coat (and block your TV), you’ll find a coat hanger button that pops open to a hook for you to hang your outerwear on.
The footwell was a comfortable size, though I am on the shorter side, so a taller person may find this to be a bit narrow. According to their website, when fully flat, the seat extends to “nearly” 2m/6.5ft.
To the left of the footwell was the magazine holder and a small holder for bottled water.
The outlets were located on the lower half of the center console, by the water bottle holder.
On the aisle side is an arm rest that can be retracted downwards to increase seat/flatbed space.
Air France AF11 retractable armrest – down positionIn between the two seats was the seat console, and a privacy divider. Since Brian was my neighbor, we removed the divider. Tucked away on the “wall” or back side of the seat console is the stowage compartment for headphones and a mirror. Brian asked me if you could stow things in this compartment – short answer is no. Though it is a ton of space for such a tiny thing.
I went through the amenity kit, which came with some basics like mouth wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, an eye mask, earplugs, a comb and a shoe horn. It also came with some Clarins moisturizer (perfect after a long flight) and chapstick. I was a little disappointed that the kit didn’t come with something more, well, French, in lieu of boring old chapstick.
As I settled in, a flight attendant came by to take my dinner order. Since we had eaten already, Brian and I decided to skip (a second) dinner. The meal onboard was the same as what was served on the ground, for the most part, except the daily special was specified as a lamb stew. The dessert offering was different as well – an opera cake.
The FA also left card with the breakfast items on it, which we were to mark up with our selection.
Before I knew it, it was time to push back. We took off at about 9:40, ten minutes later than scheduled.
Once we were up in the air, the flight attendants came through the cabin to begin serving dinner. Since we had already eaten dinner, I switched my seat into the flat position to get some rest.
After making my bed, I took off my shoes, put on my slippers and made my way to the bathroom to change into my pajamas (yes, I bring pajamas on the plane).
The bathroom was your standard airline bathroom – sink, toilet, nothing really to it.
Oh, except the toilet turns into a bench. I noticed there was a handle right over the toilet and voila! A bench. Handy for sitting in the bathroom, if that’s your thing.
The bathroom also had some cleanser and toner, both of which I used.
Back at my seat, I wasn’t quite ready for bed, so I decided to flip through the in-flight entertainment offerings. The TV is nicely large – 16 inches according to Air France’s website.
It’s fairly easy and straightforward to use. Must point out my favorite part – the countdown to landing on the top right.
The system was very straightforward and easy to use – buttons with clear and concise purpose. The seat also came with a handheld controller for the PTV, so you wouldn’t have to lean forward every time you wanted to pause what you were watching. You also had thee option to have a map up on the handheld controller while watching a show on the TV, which I liked.
I found the in-flight entertainment to be somewhat dull, a hodgepodge of old shows and shows I generally don’t watch (ahem, 2 Broke Girls), with the exception of a handful of shows.
The movie options were not a lot better, though I don’t have the attention span to watch movies on flights for some reason (though I could easily marathon a TV show… not sure how).
I ended up flipping through some magazines that I had brought with me. I used the reading light, which is tucked into the top left corner of the seat and turns on when you press down on the indented size of it, “flipping” it out, if you will.
Air France AF11 reading lightBefore I knew it I had fallen asleep. Some four plus hours later I was awoken by the smell of breakfast. I got up to change and brush my teeth and found myself at the end of the line for the one bathroom that was located in the front of the plane. An odd thing about the flight (though logical) – when possible, the FAs asked passengers to use the bathroom in the front of the cabin, since the galley was located where the two bathrooms in the back were. This caused a bit of a bottleneck, though I understand why they did so during meal service.
An FA came by with my breakfast, not long after I returned from the bathroom, at around 3:15 AM EST, or 9:15 AM CET. In contrast to the dinners or lunches I’ve been served on Air France flights, the breakfasts are always far more modest, which I imagine is a more cultural thing more than anything, but I’m often left wanting more. Breakfast came with a bowl of fruit, a couple pastries, and bread. Yogurt was also an option, but I’m not big on French yogurt so I passed. Service was excellent, and the FAs came by numerous times to ask if I wanted more pastries or needed anything else.
Brian and I were both very impressed by the attentiveness of the crew on this flight. Even the manner in which they presented themselves to you, they came across as very poised and polished. At one point during the flight, I had used the bathroom and the automatic faucet didn’t stop running, so I walked to the galley to let someone know. I could tell they didn’t want passengers back there, since they seemed to be prepping or cleaning, but instead of asking me to leave, the FA stepped towards me and asked if there was anything she could assist me with and walked me to my seat. The crew on this flight was just class all the way.
As soon as I was winding down with breakfast, the captain announced that we would begin our descent into CDG.
We landed at 10:22 AM in Paris and made it to our gate with no issue.
Another solid Air France flight in the books for me. I’ve flown this route more than a few times and the service gets better ever time. I would easily fly Air France again on this route (and others). For a long time, their hard product was fantastic but sometimes the crew could be a little bit… off putting. This time, the crew was fantastic, and I hope the service continues to trend upwards on all Air France flights.
Check in: 9/10 – Quick and effortless. Agent was knowledgeable about ground services offered to business class passengers. Oddly, there was a line to check in. (Who knew everyone else was going to Paris on Thanksgiving weekend?!)
Lounge: 8/10 – The Air France lounge is tiny at JFK, but points for changing things up and offering on-the-ground meal service for late night flights.
Boarding: 9/10 – Standard and quick. Elites and premium passengers board through a separate entrance, which helps at least break up the boarding process.
Food: 9/10 – I always enjoy my meals on Air France, but it wasn’t quite as good eating at the lounge. Will likely skip this service next time.
Seat: 10/10 – Comfortable and well-designed. One of my favorite ways to cross the Atlantic.
Cleanliness of aircraft: 10/10 – Clean upon boarding, and honestly seemed spotless the entire flight
Crew: 10/10 – Friendly, very service oriented, came by to check on us multiple times during the flight. Presented themselves very well, and were poised and polished the entire flight.
IFE: 8/10 – Really odd selection of English shows and movies, but the PTV was nice and large.
Elite recognition: 8/10 – Nothing special here – just the standard SkyTeam elite treatment
Flight Timeliness: 9/10 – Departed a little late, but we made great time and arrived about 20 minutes earlier than planned.
Overall Rating: 90/100 (90%) ★★★★★
This flight was one of two flights I took enroute to Berlin, Germany. While this was not the most direct way to get there (United and Air Berlin both run a nonstop flight from JFK-TXL), I had found an amazing deal on the flight I couldn’t pass up. Stay tuned for the next leg of this trip!