I recently had the chance to fly on Air France’s New La Premiere First Class cabin on the Boeing 777-300. My journey was Dublin (DUB) -> Paris (CDG) -> IAD (Washington DC), with the transatlantic flight being in first class.
People have described this as the best first class experience in the world, and at the end of this post you can get my opinion on the matter 🙂 There’s lots of photos included. Let’s get started!
Dublin to Paris
DUB->CDG was in business class, European style, so just a seat blocked off. I think there was meal service but I slept through the whole flight and there was nothing memorable about it.
What WAS memorable was the terrible ground experience at Dublin. At the airport, I went to the Air France desk, where there was a separate check-in for business/first class/elite travelers and no line. The gate agent didn’t greet me warmly at all, just things like “Passport? Where is your destination?” and looked totally disinterested. Now obviously Dublin isn’t a hub for Air France, but other airlines have dedicated support for First class passengers, including escort through security and taking you to the lounge like I had when I flew Lufthansa First out of Miami.
I then waited in the normal security line for ~20 minutes, and my plane ticket had fallen out of my box in the security check. I asked an agent to help and he promptly retrieved it and then said “Why did you go through here? With SkyPriority you could’ve taken the elite line and it would’ve just taken a few minutes!” The gate agent never told me anything about an elite line for security check, and I looked but didn’t see a sign, so I just got in the normal line. Bummer!
Then I walked over to the Dublin Airport Executive Lounge, which is a Priority Pass lounge. I showed the lounge agent my boarding pass and my Priority Pass card, but she says “Oh you get access since you’re flying in Air France business!” Again, the gate agent never told me I had lounge access! Argh! These may sound like minor things, but flying First Class is all about the experience, and so far this was a terrible experience because of these annoyances.
The lounge itself was fine. There was some food, not a lot, but the lounge had plenty of seating and power outlets. They also had a shower but I didn’t see towels, and I was more excited about showering in the Air France La Premiere Lounge afterwards ^_^
Long story short, the Dublin ground experience sucked, the DUB->CDG flight was fine, and the real “La Premiere” experience began once I arrived in Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport.
Arrival In CDG
We had a fine landing, and as soon as I exited the plane there was an AF ground agent waiting for me. She was wonderful, and asked me how my flight was and then informed me that we’d be riding in a Jaguar straight to the La Premiere First Class lounge!
The ride was great, the agent was friendly, and this was a huge time saver as CDG is infamous for riding buses all over the airport and generally a bit of a pain to get through.
We had our own security for first class passengers. There was no line, and they just checked my passport and then up we went the elevator into the lounge.
La Premiere First Class Lounge
This lounge was fantastic! Very elegant decor, a lot of sleek beige and soft tones accented by strong red chairs and couches. I was taken on a tour of the lounge and saw the cafe/dining area, showers, restrooms, massage area, and general lounging areas. The gate agent whisked away my rolling carryon bag and said she’d come get me when it was time to board the plane. She also went to ask about a massage appointment for me and booked one in 30 minutes. The lounge only sees 100-200 passengers a day, so it feels private and quiet, and there’s always shower rooms/restrooms ready. I started with a shower, then did a massage, then had some food, and did email until my flight was ready to depart.
Now for the some pictures:
The Cathay Cabanas or Lufthansa Bathtub definitely have nicer showers, but the La Premiere Shower is compact and has great creams/gels to use.
Overall, the lounge experience was excellent. It was very relaxing, and the lounge employees were attentive but respected your privacy. I didn’t eat much of the food but it looked pretty fantastic and the food I did have was great. Next time I’ll skip breakfast completely and just eat at the lounge.
The original agent who had picked me up came back with my roller bag and said my flight was ready for boarding. She then walked me down the elevator to the security, where again they quickly checked my passport, and then I was off in the Jaguar to the La Premiere flight!
La Premiere In-Flight Experience
Once the car arrived near the plane, the lounge agent escorted me directly to my seat. It is a little awkward to cut through the line of business/economy passengers, but there’s a separate entrance door for first class which literally says “Row 1 passengers,” and you do feel like a baller being escorted to your seat. That capped off the ground experience, and it was simply fantastic. Best ground experience I’ve ever had!
The in-flight experience was magnificent too. There are only four seats in La Premiere, and I was in 1A (window) and there was another passenger in 1L (the other end). This is what the cabin looks like:
Whew, that’s a lot of photos! I didn’t take photos of the rest of the meal service, but it was super tasty. I mean the menu has things I never would’ve imagined, like steak with tomato juice on the side. I truly think Air France has the best food in the sky and this flight confirmed that. I’m never going to be able to top this.
The best thing about this flight was the service. My flight attendant was named Claire and she was very friendly and experienced. Knew exactly when to come, gave great suggestions, was fun to talk to, and was very proud of the new cabin. It was a delight flying with her.
Oh and before I forget, the pajamas were fantastic!! Here’s a picture from TravelWeekly:
They are very sleek and form fitting, very soft, and very stylish. It’s something I’m proud to own.
Arrival in D.C.
Upon arrival, we were also escorted by an Air France agent in a shuttle and sped past immigration/security. It saves so much time and really makes you feel appreciated as a premium passengers.
Is This the Best First Class?
Flying La Premiere was fantastic, both on the ground and in the air. I can only speak from personal experience, but I’ve flown first class on United, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, and British Airways, and business on pretty much everybody, and I think Air France is #1. Here’s how I’d rank them on various categories:
Air France is the best, ahead of Lufthansa, who are both miles ahead of everybody else. Lufthansa sometimes drives you to your flight out of Frankfurt, if it’s sufficiently far, but Air France is the only one that picks you up on arrival and on departure. With the other airlines there really isn’t anything special that happens on the ground.
The Salon La Premiere is one of the best lounges in the world in terms of decor, food, and services like the free massage. Lufthansa has an edge with the First Class Terminal (I mean it’s a whole terminal!), and Cathay does as well with their Cabanas, which feel almost like a resort while you’re there. Singapore Airlines is also pretty close with the Private Room, but the other facilities aren’t as great as AF/LH/CX. Another perk for Air France or Lufthansa is the difficulty of access – Cathay First lounges are open to One World Emerald members, so it’s never as private. Similarly, British Airways’ Concorde Room is open to BA Gold members, and it’s not even that great – I prefer their business/First class lounge in Heathrow. In terms of other top lounges, Qantas in Sydney is pretty great and has the best views of any airport lounge, but Air France wins on everything else.
Air France – this is not even worth discussing IMO. The menus are made by Michelin starred chefs like Alain Ducasse and you see it in the food quality and creativity. Other lounges/airlines have fine food, but with Air France the quality, presentation and timeliness are all exceptional. I think Singapore and Lufthansa are both close in that department, but lose in overall quality. Japan Airlines also has terrific food, but I feel their business class food is just as good.
I think it’s much closer here. Air France had excellent service, but I’d say of the airlines mentioned were pretty close to each other in that they all had great service. The exception is United/BA, which were unmemorable, although I didn’t expect much for either. The Air France/Lufthansa/Cathay attendants were the best to talk with, and on Cathay they even give each passenger a little note, which is very nice.
Air France on the Boeing 777-300ER has the best seats in the sky, period. With only four first class seats, it is the most private, unlike British Airways which has up to 14 seats in First. The big knock against Air France is the A380, which actually has nine seats in their First class cabin, and it looks closer to business class than a true First cabin. Here’s a picture of the A380 seats, from One Mile At A Time:
Obviously not bad, but disappointing for a first class cabin. The 777-300 has way more privacy and has the curtains, which is really innovative and makes the seat feel much roomier than enclosed suites like you see on Singapore Airlines.
So overall, mixed here on seats. I would say Lufthansa, JAL, Cathay, and Singapore all have better first class seats, and even BA on the A380 feels more private than the AF A380 seats.
Entertainment and Amenities
In terms of Pajamas, here’s my ranking: Air France > Singapore Airlines > British Airways > Cathay > Lufthansa > JAL > United (didn’t even get PJs..). For the other stuff like gels/mask/etc, Lufthansa has the best amenities with La Prairie, and Air France is 2nd with Carita. I also like Shiseido, which is provided on JAL.
Entertainment wise I thought Air France had a great selection, no complaints there. It’s hard to remember exactly how the others compare but this isn’t a huge deal for me. Air France didn’t have WiFi on my flight, which is a letdown.
All in all, Air France’s La Premiere on the 777-300ER (773) was the best flight I had taken, factoring in the ground and flight experience. I think the ground experience was particularly outstanding and made me feel very valued as a customer. You’re able to book the ground experience if flying on a AF ticket operated by AF or Delta where there is no business cabin. You can pay 300 euros to get the ground service, assuming you’re connecting through or departing from CDG. You can read the full terms here.
Booking a La Premiere award flight is very difficult since you need 200,000 miles to fly LAX-CDG one-way, and you have to be a Flying Blue elite member to book First class awards. The redemption is just insane and I wouldn’t recommend it. A better way to do it is to look for fare deals or cheaper fares. For example, CDG-IAD was ~$4700 round-trip in first class operated on the 773. That’s still very expensive but that’s the ballpark for Air France first class fares. If all else fails, booking the ground experience can be a great way to experience half the benefits.