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Introduction: From Cold To Hot and Checking The #1 Country Off of My Bucketlist
• Review: Plaza Premium Lounge (Toronto Airport)
• Review: Air France / KLM Lounge (Toronto Airport)
• Review: Air France A350 (Business Class); Toronto (YYZ) – Paris (CDG)
I’ve flown in business class with Air France several times but I specially wanted to fly them from Toronto to Paris because Toronto is the only North American city where Air France flies their new A350 plane.
How Much Did Business Class Cost?
Well, I took advantage of those special edition awards, redeeming 32,000 Flying Blue miles plus ~$200 in taxes for a one-way business class ticket from Toronto to Stockholm (via Paris).
I had also taken advantage of a 25% transfer bonus (AMEX-Air France/KLM). In other words, this redemption required only 26,000 miles which made this redemption an easy choice.
How To Earn Flying Blue Miles
If you’re interested in redeeming points with Flying Blue (the loyalty program of Air France/KLM), it’s super easy as Flying Blue is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards (READ MORE), Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.
Air France Business Class A350 Review
Toronto (YYZ) – Paris (CDG)
Flight: Air France 351
Arrive: 8:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr 30min
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 8A (Business Class)
I departed the lounge at 5:35PM as boarding was scheduled for 5:55PM. I arrived at the gate within a few minutes as the gate was located directly across from the entrance to the lounge.
They had set up three boarding zones with a long line of wheelchairs in the middle.
The boarding experience was chaotic to say the least. Every single wheelchair was used and the staff appeared frazzled as if this was their first time loading a plane. Perhaps it was!?
Regardless, boarding began at 6:25PM (yes, ~30 mins behind schedule). Individuals that required more time and those in wheelchairs boarded first, and then business class passengers were invited to board.
Typically, I like to be the first person to board in business class so I can obtain pictures of the empty cabin. Unfortunately, security stopped the gentleman in front of me and questioned him about his visa and the passengers behind me were ushered to another line for check-in. Thus, I was one of the last business class passengers to board.
Air France boarded everyone (business and economy) through the forward door. This was not ideal as it meant long lines clogged the aisle in the business class cabin.
Typically, while economy passengers are boarding, the flight attendants will introduce themselves and also take dinner orders in business class. However, the service did not seem as tranquil and personal with everyone boarding through the same door.
I was not greeted by anyone or directed to my seat as I boarded the plane.
BUSINESS CLASS SEATS
Air France uses a completely different business class seat for the A350-900 than on other Air France planes. They chose the Zodiac Optima seats (the same seats that you will find in United Polaris).
The business class seat configuration is 1-2-1.
In the seats along the window, the odd numbered rows are closer to the aisle (with a console separating the seat and the window). The seats located in the even numbered rows are close to the window (with the console separating the seat and the aisle).
I chose 8A as I prefer to have great views out of the window and enjoy a buffer between the aisle.
You will also notice a nice high-end touch on the windows. The up/down arrows above the window allow you to control automatic shades at the push of a button.
If your seat is located in the middle of the plane, the even numbered rows have seats that are close together (console separating the seat and the aisle), while the seats in the odd numbered rows are located closer to the aisles with the consoles separating the two seats.
There is also a privacy partition that can be raised (or lowered) in the middle section if you find yourself sharing that pod with a stranger.
When I arrived at my seat, there was a hangar, a soft pillow, and an Air France blanket.
There was a storage compartment (above the console) with a mirror, bottle of water, and a pair of noise cancelling headphones. On the side of the storage compartment, you will also notice the entertainment controller for the TV.
Also waiting at my seat were a pair of slippers, a shoe bag, and ear phone covers.
Immediately below the bin you will find a 110v and USB outlet and seat controls.
Although, the noise-cancelling headphones in the storage bin were adequate, I chose to use my own Bose QC 35 II headphones, however, the headphone jack is hidden and it took me a few minutes to locate it above the TV controller.
Near my right shoulder, I found a reading light and seating controls.
One of my biggest pet peeves is individual air nozzles. Although it was not the case with Air France, some airlines tend to keep the cabin warm. I found myself warm because the boarding process was chaotic, I was attempting to get photos, and get comfortable in my seat. Unfortunately, the A350 did not have individual air nozzles but there were two individual reading lights.
Another concern I tend to have about many seats that have a 1-2-1 configuration is how small the footwells can be. I find a small footwell can often make a great seat feel claustrophobic. However, I found the footwell to be spacious.
There was also a USB outlet and a tray table underneath the entertainment monitor. The tray table slid out, was a good size and easy to use. One thing that I found impressive was the ability to turn my tray table 90 degrees and get out of my seat without having to remove my meal.
One potential concern was the entrance space between my seat and the seat in front of me. Although it was not a problem for me, the space was noticeably tight. My bookbag is smaller than a typical bookbag and you can see that it barely fits.
Along with individual air nozzles, storage is always a big concern for me.
Storage-wise, these seats were not great. There was no place to store a laptop, iPad, tablet or anything else larger than a cell phone. I do not like to put my valuables (computer, wallet, etc.) in the overhead compartment. Initially, I placed my laptop in the footwell but the space became cramped once I took off my shoes and attempted to manage the contents of my bookbag at my seat.
There was also a mesh grate that would not allow me to store my shoes.
Directly to the right of my leg was a small compartment that contained a few Air France magazines.
As I mentioned previously, the boarding process was chaotic but at 6:58PM the captain came over the PA, welcomed us onboard, and informed us that despite the delayed departure, he anticipated an estimated flight time of just 6hr 5min (due to strong tailwinds) and ultimately an early arrival.
A few minutes later pre-departure drinks were offered, with the choice between champagne or orange juice.
A few minutes after receiving a pre-departure drink, amenity kits were also distributed. There were four different styles of kits to choose from, though they all had the same contents.
I chose a brown kit with blue strap that had the Air France insignia branded into the strap.
Menus and a box of mini cheesy crackers were distributed after that.
A few minutes later the door closed, and at 7:14PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was shown and I captured this photo of an El Al Dreamliner located at the gate next to us.
The taxi to the runway was fairly long and slow. I assume this was because of the snowy weather conditions but at 7:30PM we were cleared for takeoff.
PERSONAL ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
As we climbed out of Toronto, I was able to capture Toronto, the wingtip, and the moon reflecting off of Lake Ontario.
I began browsing the entertainment selection. I was impressed as the resolution and response time was excellent. And entertainment-wise, the entertainment system was loaded with, literally, hundreds of Hollywood, European and Indian/Bollywood movies (322 movies to be exact), TV shows, video games and music entertainment
Then I moved on to the musical selections as I enjoy music more than I do enjoy watching TV. Plus, I needed to get work done so music always helps. I was extremely impressed with their R&B selection.
Air France also has wifi on the A350 and don’t have any data caps, which is awesome. There were three options:
- Message pass, which includes free messaging throughout the flight
- Surf pass, which is basic internet that costs 8EUR for an hour or 18EUR for the entire flight
- Stream pass, which is premium internet that costs 30EUR for the entire flight
Once you select which plan you would like to purchase, you are asked for your payment.
I ended up purchasing the Surf pass for 8EUR on my computer. It wasn’t the fastest wifi I’ve ever experienced but I assumed it wouldn’t be the fastest considering there was a more expensive option. You get what you pay for, however, it was adequate for the amount of surfing that I needed to complete on the very short flight.
The meal service was started quickly after takeoff. Just 10 minutes after takeoff warm towels were distributed.
A few minutes later, a flight attendant approached my seat and offered a “formal” welcome onboard, inquired about my dinner meal choice, and asked if I wanted to be awoken for breakfast.
These were the dinner menu options for the flight:
These were the drink menu options for the flight:
About an hour after takeoff the starter, salad, cheese, and dessert were served, along with a selection of bread. This tray included:
- Pan-seared scallops on a truffled shiitake mushroom duxelle, and shredded duck with tarragon, pickled cabbage with tumeric and yuzu marmalade
- Seasonal salad
- Cheese plate
- Raspberry cheesecake, chocolate square, Morello cherry financier cake
However, I had chosen a lighter course and enjoyed quinoa with crunchy vegetables and an assortment of fruit on my tray. Personally, I don’t enjoy any food that is cold and everything on my plate was fresh out of the freezer and the salad was bland.
For the main course, I chose the “Indian vegetarian meal” which consisted largely of rice and sautéed vegetables. Although it does not sound very appetizing, I was surprised how good the dish tasted.
The meal service was done within 90 minutes after takeoff, and overall I thought the crew was personable and efficient which made for a great meal service.
Again, overall I think the service was good…but not memorable. If I have one critical remark, it is that meal service in business class on Air France tends to feel like an assembly line.
Once I finished my meal, I began preparing for bed. It had been a long day as I had flown from Atlanta to Toronto, Toronto to Paris and still had a flight from Paris to Stockholm shortly after arriving in Paris.
I checked out (both) lavatories. There was one located at the front of the cabin, and one at the rear of the cabin. They were both stocked with Air France pens and hand sanitizer wipes. They were nice and clean, but not particularly spacious.
I do not know if the economy bathroom had the magnifying mirror in the vanity also but I thought it was a unique feature.
When I returned to my seat, I quickly reclined my seat into a bed and fell asleep. I found the bed to be very comfortable.
When I begin to fall asleep, I tend to start on my side and end up on my stomach when I am finally sleep. I had no problem with space when I was on my stomach. However, I noticed when I laid on my right side, my knees touched the seat in front of me but my knees did not touch anything when I was facing the wall on my left side. Thus, I would recommend if you are a right-side sleeper, to pick a seat on the right side of the plane and left-side sleeper to pick a seat on the left side of the plane so you do not feel constrained.
I slept until I heard the commotion of breakfast being served (just over an hour before landing).
As I woke up, I noticed the cabin had become rather…”patriotic” with the mood lighting.
As you may recall from the menu above, the breakfast consisted of granola, apple sauce, fresh fruit salad and assorted pastries:
Given that the flight was short, I thought this breakfast was great and light option as dinner had just been served just a few hours ago.
At 7:05AM (local time) the captain announced that we would be landing at 7:45AM, and would have approximately a 15 minute taxi to the gate. He also apologized for the turbulence overnight, which was surprising because I hadn’t felt any of it.
A few minutes later, we began our descent into Paris. At the same time, the sun began to rise, making for a great view from the tail camera.
Our breakfast trays were collected about 30 minutes before touchdown.
The seatbelt sign was turned on about 15 minutes before landing, at which point the flight attendant taking care of my aisle came around to every passenger to ask if they enjoyed the flight, which gave a touch of personalization to the flight.
Just as the pilot said, we landed exactly at 7:45AM and arrived at our gate at 8:00AM.
From there, I bid adieu to “Toulouse” as I only had an hour connection before my flight to Stockholm.
Overall, I enjoyed my flight in Air France’s A350 business class. Although, the boarding process was a bit chaotic, Air France was able to pull it together for a good flight.
Second, the meal service was not memorable and left something to be desired. Personally, I wish airlines would present healthier and tasty options. Although “classy,” many people do not eat duck, and would prefer another option besides cold unappealing vegetables.
Third, although this plane (and thus seats) were meant for their low-cost carrier Joon, they were surprisingly nice. Personally, I slightly prefer the reverse herringbone seats they have on their other planes, but I would not hesitate to fly in these seats again.
The crew was friendly, the entertainment selection was robust, and they have good wifi on their A350s. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Would I rank this in my top five business class products in the world? No.
Is it a good product overall that I recommend? Yes, without hesitation.
Given that I redeemed just 32,000 Flying Blue miles total, this was a great redemption that is hard to beat!
Have you experienced Air France’s new A350? Which seats do you prefer…the A350 seats or the reverse herringbone seats found on their other planes?