Air France Business-Class Seats Get an Upgrade and We Put Them to the Test
Air France recently introduced a series of transformative enhancements to its premium cabin experience. In this article, we share our firsthand review of these exciting changes. Earlier this year, Air France unveiled a set of impressive upgrades to its business-class seats designed for long-haul flights. The airline had already offered a pod-like, lie-flat seat in its previous business-class offering, a feature that remains a part of this latest enhancement. However, the new seats come with several noteworthy additions, such as a retractable door for added privacy between each pod and the aisle, a convenient "do not disturb" button, and Bluetooth connectivity to the personal entertainment screen. In addition, bulkhead seats have replaced the footwell with an ottoman, providing an extra seating option for passengers.
I had the opportunity to fly with Air France to experience these new business-class seats, and here's a detailed account of my experience.
Flight Routes Initially, the upgraded seats were available on select flights operating between Paris's Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and New York City's John F. Kennedy (JFK) airports. However, they have since been gradually introduced on additional routes. Passengers can now enjoy these enhanced seats on specific flights between Paris and Los Angeles (LAX) and Paris and Washington, D.C. (IAD). For my journey, I flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Paris (CDG) in Air France's previous business-class configuration (as the new seats were not yet available on this route) and then continued from Paris (CDG) to New York (JFK) in the updated seats.
Airport Experience and Lounge Air France's lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris offers an excellent pre-flight experience, featuring ample seating, a variety of food options, and other traveler-friendly amenities. Business-class passengers with Air France benefit from Sky Priority access, granting them access to dedicated, expedited lanes for security checks before boarding and customs clearance upon arrival at CDG airport.
After passing through security, all business-class passengers are welcomed into Air France's lounges, with a total of five lounges located in Charles de Gaulle. I visited the newly renovated lounge in terminal 2E, a spacious and modern area with plenty of seating. During my visit at 7 a.m., the lounge was relatively uncrowded. The lounge offered a self-service buffet featuring a delectable selection of French specialties for breakfast, including crepes, baguettes, pastries, eggs, and fresh yogurt. There was also a bar serving wine, beer, cocktails, a dedicated kids' play area with an impressive video game setup, free Wi-Fi, showers, a sauna, and a noteworthy feature—a spa by Clarins. Notably, the spa provided guests with complimentary 20-minute facials on a first-come, first-served basis (available from 7:40 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except on Sundays). Although I arrived too early to take advantage of this amenity, I was impressed by the array of services offered within the lounge.
Seats and On-Board Experience The new business-class seats feature doors on each pod, providing passengers with increased privacy. Upon boarding the flight in the first group, I settled into my seat, 11A, a window seat on the left side of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The cabin was configured in a one-two-one herringbone layout, with privacy partitions between seat pairs in the middle and external doors separating each seat from the aisle. The business-class section was divided by a galley in the middle.
Each seat was equipped with a spacious table area, located either between the seat and the window or between pairs of seats in the middle section. Additionally, a small cubby held noise-canceling headphones, a USB-C outlet, and a mirror. Despite the headphones taking up some space, there was enough room in the cubby for my water bottle and a small toiletry bag. Additional storage was available via a pocket beneath the table, which contained safety pamphlets and a water bottle, as well as a USB-A and a universal plug outlet for charging various devices.
A pillow and a cozy, quilt-like blanket were provided at each seat, ready for passengers to use upon settling in. Flight attendants distributed amenity kits shortly after boarding, including an eye mask, earplugs, socks, a compostable toothbrush, toothpaste, a pen, and two different moisturizers by Clarins.
In terms of privacy, I found that even with the door open, I had a sense of seclusion. The door allowed me to see only the feet of the passenger seated immediately to my right. Closing the door provided even more privacy, although it was at the same height as the seat, so it didn't create complete isolation. While seated, I couldn't see into neighboring pods, but I could glance over the door into adjacent pods (which I tried to avoid, of course) when walking or standing in the aisle. Notably, closing the door automatically activated a "do not disturb" light, signaling to flight attendants that I preferred to be left undisturbed. I particularly appreciated this feature when I wanted to rest. A tip: When closing the door, it's best to guide it with your hand rather than simply pressing the "door close" button to prevent it from slamming into the wall aggressively.
During the flight, I was able to recline my seat into a fully flat position, providing ample space with a length of 6.5 feet. As a passenger of average height at 5'3", I could stretch out completely and still had room to spare.
I also observed a fellow passenger in a bulkhead seat traveling with a young toddler as a lap child, and it seemed that the new ottoman feature was particularly suitable for this situation. During the flight, the passenger could comfortably sit in the main seat while the child played or sat on the ottoman.
Entertainment The personal entertainment screens in Air France's new business cabin can now connect to Bluetooth devices, such as headphones. Although the entertainment options on the new and old business-class seats were similar (featuring a delightful selection of French films and TV shows to enhance the travel experience), the new screens were glare-free, and the Bluetooth connectivity was a significant improvement. I encountered some difficulty connecting my device while the aircraft was taxiing, but once in the air, I managed to establish a stable connection. However, the Bluetooth connection was not flawless—it worked mostly well but had occasional minor issues. I needed to reconnect my device to the TV each time I removed and reinserted my headphones. Nevertheless, once connected, it remained consistent and did not unexpectedly disconnect. Overall, I welcomed this new addition and enjoyed the convenience of using my personal headphones.
Food and Beverage Air France excels in its food offerings, and this is particularly evident in its in-flight dining experience. The airline's in-flight menu has been curated by a team of more than a dozen French chefs, including those from Michelin-starred restaurants. The menu features a variety of entrees, catering to vegetarian, fish, and meat preferences. As my flight was during the morning, I was served a substantial brunch that included an English muffin with salmon lox, a warm mushroom and spinach frittata, fresh fruit, and plain yogurt with granola. Towards the end of the flight, a light snack was provided, consisting of a savory puff pastry dish, an almond financier, and more fresh fruit. Passengers were also offered a selection of packaged snacks, including a gourmet chocolate bar, between meal services.
For passengers traveling during dinner service, Air France offers an even more enticing array of dishes, which can include options like a savory beef filet with port sauce and carrots or a vegetarian risotto with artichokes and mushrooms, depending on the day's menu. Naturally, the airline provides an impressive selection of wines and champagnes, meticulously curated by sommelier Paolo Basso to complement the meals. For my snack, I chose the 2021 Chablis Jean-Marc Brocard Vieilles Vignes De Sainte-Claire, a refreshing white wine.
Bathrooms The bathrooms on the aircraft were relatively standard, although there was one larger, accessible bathroom with a full-length mirror located at the very front of the cabin. A thoughtful touch was the presence of Clarins Eau Dynamisante, a hydrating toner, and cotton pads in each bathroom, offering passengers a refreshing skincare experience during the flight.
Booking and Price A recent search for business-class flights on Air France's New York-JFK to Paris-CDG route in April 2024 revealed fares starting at $2,592 for a round-trip ticket. The fares were comparable to those offered by other airlines operating direct flights on the same dates. It's important to note that ticket prices can vary widely, ranging from $1,500 to over $5,000, depending on factors such as the travel date and booking lead time. Business-class seats can also be secured using points or miles, which is generally considered a cost-effective method for obtaining a business-class seat, or by upgrading from an economy class ticket with a combination of points or cash, although this carries some degree of risk.
Overall Review: Is It Worth It? If you can find a fare or upgrade option that aligns with your budget, flying in Air France's new business-class offering is unquestionably worthwhile. I was thoroughly impressed by the in-flight dining experience and appreciated the attention to detail in getting passengers excited about their journey to France, as evidenced by the culinary and beverage offerings in the airport lounges and the entertainment options on board.
While the new privacy doors and Bluetooth connectivity are valuable additions, the key aspects of the experience—the lie-flat seats, priority access at customs and security checkpoints, exceptional in-flight dining, and the splendid lounge at Charles de Gaulle—are available on all long-haul business-class seats with Air France. The primary reason to opt for the new cabin over the older version is for overnight flights where a good night's sleep is a top priority.