Reviews

Best across the pond? We review Air France Business Class 777-300ER Paris to Washington D.C.

a stuffed animal on a bed

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If you’ve been following along on this trip, thank you! It’s been quite an experience…one filled with last minute pivots, expectations both missed and exceeded, and one that I certainly feel an immense amount of gratitude having the great fortune to experience. In the end…our two week trip took us through Rome, Budapest, Vienna, London, Sheffield, and Paris. A dream trip, no doubt, and being able to fly Air France Business Class back to the States was certainly the cherry on top.

I’d long heard people rave about Air France’s business class, some even heralding it as the absolute best way to fly to Europe from the States, and when space opened up from Paris to Washington D.C. I was elated. I was even more elated that it priced in at just 55k miles + $330 ( steep, but not the worst case scenario). The specific flight I chose also meant I had a shot at making a separate flight between IAD and IND on United – booked via Avianca. In the end I did…having made great use of the transfer desk.

The Deets:

  • When: January 2019
  • Where: Paris to Washington D.C. ( CDG to IAD )
  • Airline: Air France
  • Cabin: Business Class
  • Flight: AF54
  • Flight Time: 7h45min
  • Seat: 10A
  • Price: 55k + $330

Booking:

Air France abandoned their fixed rate calendar and implemented one that is quite fluid. You never know what rates you’ll come across, but typically if you can score their business class for 55k-70k points, I think you’ve got yourself a deal. I ended up finding flights to both IAD and JFK that priced in at 55k + $330 and ultimately went for the IAD option because it meant I’d have a chance at landing my preferred flight back to IND.

I transferred a combo of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards instantly to my Air France account and booked online, trouble free.

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Air France is one of the easiest currencies to acrue with the ability to transfer from

Which credit card I used to pay for the taxes and fees

Since this flight was booked straight with the airline I chose to use my American Express Platinum card to pay the taxes and fees because it earned me 5x points, or 1650 Membership Rewards. This ultimately meant my net cost was just 53,350

Other cards I would suggest using are the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred. Both cards would earn you 3x points.

Looking for a Citi option? The Citi Prestige would also earn 5x points, and the Citi Premier would give 3x.

Selecting a seat. Air France Seat Map and Cabin

Air France has different business class seats depending on the plane. If you want the best experience, like mine, you want to choose planes that feature the reverse herringbone seat. They will be configured in a 1-2-1 fashion much like the 77W was that I was flying. AF’s 772s have this product, and many of their A330s have it as well. Their A380s do not. Check out the following from seatguru.com:

Since I was flying alone I preferred a window seat. None were available. However…I was able to score one when I arrived at the lounge ( an hour to departure ), and ultimately landed 10A. I loved it.

a stuffed animal on a seat

Check-In – Terminal 2E

Air France has a designated area at CDG for SkyTeam elites and premium cabin passengers as seen below.

people standing at a counter in an airport

It was quick, easy, and here’s one thing that popped up at Check-in that I was unaware of, but worked out perfectly. You can bring 2 bags + 1 personal item if you’re in premium economy, business, or first. I expound on this further, but the lady at the check-in desk was unbelievably nice, personal, and helpful. When I asked her about the 2 bag policy she merely weighed both bags to see if they came in under 24kg total. This was a gamechanger. It meant when I landed in D.C. I wouldn’t have to collect bags, and I could sail straight to the transit desk.

 

Air France Business Class Lounge Terminal 2E

I’ll have a full review of the lounge, but it’s solid and relatively new. It’s partitioned into two sections, one left/one right from the lounge check-in with a variety of food options, etc. It was very busy and I got to the lounge with just an hour to spare before boarding. I was able to use the Wifi to book a second flight from IAD to IND since I was carrying on two rollers and wouldn’t have to go to baggage upon landing, and crossed my fingers we’d land early, as did the prior flights that week. As I mentioned earlier, I also changed my seat to 10A which was awesome.

people inside a building with people sitting at tables

Boarding – increased SSSS measures

I was running later than usual for a flight I know I’ll be reviewing. Typically I try to be on the plane ahead of anyone else so I can grab clean cabin photos.  However, I’d run into a jam with collecting duty on my Rimowa suitcase purchase, and ultimately arrived at the gate with roughly 40mins to board.

To make matters worse…I had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass so I knew I’d be delayed even further.

Security inspected both my rollers and my backpack, and when all was said and done, I was basically alone in the jetway. This doesn’t happen often. What occurred next was really the only negative in my entire Air France experience, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

a hallway with a plane on the tarmac

Air France’s carry-on baggage policy

Air France has an entire video dedicated to the increased cabin baggage you’re allowed to carry-on if you’re flying in Premium Economy, Business Class, or La Premiere. However…I was scolded when I proceeded to bring on exactly what this video tells me I can: 2 baggage items and an accessory. Why? More than likely because I was filming.

I video most of my flights now. While I’m very behind in releasing them on YouTube, I have a significant cache of premium cabin/lounge footage, and I definitely wanted Air France Business Class to be a part of it. It’s not unusual to be asked to not film the crew, but some are actually very cool with being a part of the experience and included. I totally get it either way. In fact, as I boarded I was told to not film the crew. I put my GoPro down, but it was still running while I was talking to her – I did have 2 bags and my backpack after all.

I think there was a misunderstanding that I intended to keep filming, and they sternly told me to stop filming immediately.

I politely complied even though I’d already laid my camera facedown onto my backpack which was sitting atop my carry on. It was then that the purser started questioning me about my 2 baggage items and pretty rudely asking me what I was doing bringing on two pieces and if they were both for me.

“Yes, they are, but this is within the business class allotment,” I told him, “and this was verified at check-in.

Plus I had just gone through an SSSS increased security screening which delayed my boarding significantly. He huffed and puffed, and ultimately said I was breaking the rules, but it was too late and I should find space for them. I was in front of a completely boarded business class cabin mind you. Not exactly the best way to start off a flight that many pay several thousand dollars to fly.

Should I have been filming? There’s nothing that prohibits it, and if you look at YouTube you’ll see a LONG list of filmed reviews including one from the inimitable Sam Chui, plus I kindly and quickly stopped when asked.

Ultimately I was left feeling quite disrespected regarding the baggage incident. I complied with the camera rules, but I believe in an effort to defend his crew, the purser ultimately disrespected me, the passenger, in front of a cabin full of people for utilizing the company’s own guidelines.

I was seated in the main cabin

Business Class is broken up into two cabins, the mini ( 4 rows ) and the main ( 11 rows ). Each of the two business class cabins are configured in a 1-2-1 fashion with all aisle access, in a reverse herringbone configuration.  Row 9 had no middle seats, but rather only has window seats either side of the aircraft. Obviously I didn’t go up to the mini cabin to take a picture after my incident, but it’s essentially the same as below with 4 rows.

All things equal…I’d go with the mini and choose row 3 if I could. Right behind First Class

a row of seats with monitors on the side

My Seat: 10A

Air France has uses Safran’s Cirrus seat in this business class which I’ve reviewed on other aircraft like AA’s 77W and EVA’s Royal Laurel, but Air France just seems to do it sexier.  From a purely hard product stand point, it’s about as good as it gets in my opinion.

a seat with a monitor and a window

 

  • All Aisle Access
  • Angled for Privacy
  • Large Footwell with enough space to fit my backpack
  • Storage compartment with vanity
  • Additional storage down below
  • Power and USB

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And then in full on bed mode

I found the bed to be quite comfortable, but didn’t attempt to sleep with it being a daytime flight and all. It also looks as though there are two amenity kits, but one is slippers, the other the normal amenity kit ( which I didn’t use and thought I’d perhaps give it away at some point).

a stuffed animal on a bed

Service and food

I was a bit unsure how the service would be after my incident upon boarding, but it was as if it never happened. Staff couldn’t have been lovelier and I only encountered the purser once at the end of the flight, and he was quite friendly.

The entire meal service is delivered via cart and tray served. Here’s my first course. But check out who curated the menu!

a plate of food on a table

The menu is curated by Anne-Sophie Pic, the only female chef in the world with 3 Michelin stars. Even with that knowledge…I wasn’t really hoping for all that much – it is airplane food after all. Boy. Was. I. Wrong.

In the picture above the salmon was delicious, bread warm, and the butter…omg, the butter. Flawless. A nice cheese plate was served along side it.

I’d go as far as to say it was hands down the best business class food I’d ever eaten. Maybe not in the same league as Singapore Suites’ Book the Cook, but exceptional nonetheless.

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The poached pollock was the chef’s recommendation, and boy was it a home run.

a bowl of soup with vegetables and meat

For dessert I kept it simple with coffee and 3 small treats. They were melt in your mouth delicious.

a tray of pastries and a cup of coffee

Overall…Is it the best way to fly across the pond?

If it’s not the best…it’s in the discussion.

  • My biggest reservation in crowning it best is the way the purser handled my baggage situation. It felt punitive, disrespectful, and just plain wrong. In fact, he was. I was abiding by the airline’s own rules and was scolded by him.

Aside from that…

Air France Business Class ( with these seats ) represents a vacation in the sky. My experience had a bump in the road, but I wouldn’t think twice about booking again, in fact, I look forward to it. It’s just done so well. It’s stylish, modern, great food and wine, accessible via so many transfer partners, and the rates are still competitive. Those are all uber attractive to anyone looking for an aspirational experience in the air, and Air France delivers on all accounts.

The biggest downside are the taxes and fees. But when you compare them to flying out of London, or what’s being passed on to customers flying Lufthansa and Swiss, they aren’t really too bad. Wifi was even affordable at roughly $25 for the entire flight, and quite fast. I didn’t conduct a speed test, but I was able to surf, send email, but uploading photos to MM wasn’t the best.

At the end of the day…paying 55k + $330 to fly in what many regard as the best transatlantic business class was not only worth it to me, I found it to live up to expectation, and if you’re looking to get a special treat out of your points — this is pretty awesome.

I would definitely make sure you screencap the baggage policy in case you meet similar cabin crew resistance; however, I think the purser was just looking for a reason to flex.

 

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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