Review: Air France Business Class B777-2, Vancouver – Paris.
The Sky Team Alliance is an airline network that doesn’t have a major foot print in my home country of Canada. While Sky Team serves many Pacific Rim destinations westward towards China, its service in North America is limited to Delta Airlines which doesn’t operate a domestic version within Canada. Air France established itself as a European Sky Team option; providing connecting service at Paris Charles De Gaulle. From Vancouver, Canada, it enters a crowded market, going head to head against Air Canada and Lufthansa from Star Alliance and British Airways and American Airlines from One World. We’d get the opportunity to test out their service on our Air France Business Class Vancouver – Paris.
This post is one chapter on our trip to Malta, Italy and Germany. This trip was enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status and credited to Alaska Mileage Plan and Air Canada’s Aeroplan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read More from This Trip
- Trip Introduction: Valetta Gozo – Malta, Venice – Italy, and Oktoberfest Munich – Germany via Air France Business Class
- Air France Business Class: Vancouver – Paris
- Air France Business Lounge: Paris Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2F
- Air France Business Class: Paris – Munich
- Lufthansa Airlines: Munich – Malta
- The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta
- Boating to Gozo and a last look at the Azure Window, Malta
- Swimming on the Island of Comino and Exploring the Coastal Caves of Malta
- Wandering in the Walled City of Valetta, Malta
- Lufthansa Airlines: Malta – Frankfurt
- Lufthansa Airlines: Frankfurt – Venice
- The Westin Regina Europa, Venice, Italy
- Getting Lost in the Streets of Venice, Italy
- Is a Gondola Ride through the Canals of Venice worth it?
- Air Dolomiti: Venice – Munich
- The Westin Grand Munich, Germany
- Drinking at the Beer Garden at Hofbrahaus, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
- Taking in BMW World and the Alstat, Munich, Germany
- Air France / KLM Business Lounge, Munich Terminal One
- Air France Business Class: Munich – Paris
- Air France Business Lounge: Paris Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E – Concourse L
- Air France Business Class: Paris – Vancouver
Review: Air France Business Class B777-200 ER Vancouver International Airport – Paris Charles de Gaulle.
Checking into Air France Business Class:
It was not our best performance leaving the house today. We usually take the Aerocar service since we’re usually heading out for more than 2 weeks travels on bizarre award tickets leading us on double continent adventures. But today, since we had a shorter trip this time of 10 days, we had decided to self drive.
I had offered to take MrsWT73 out for brunch at the Globe at YVR restaurant in the Fairmont Vancouver Airport prior to our two o’clock departure but we had to drop the cat off at the “cat hotel” since it has taken to peeing all over the floor if left unattended. After that whole process, assurances of owner / cat separation anxiety, the fact that MrsWT73 somehow let the cat vaccinations lapse, and the call over to the veterinarian to get the cat medical records, it gobbled up any sort of champagne brunch time we might have had. All in all it got us to the airport quite late at about noon, or about two hours before our flight.
On arrival to the Air France check in queue, it was a bit of a disaster. There were major lines and crowded queues today. Even the business Sky Priority line was backed up by about 6 groups of travellers. I ended up using a kiosk to check us in but the bag drop line was the regular line; no shortcuts here today as there was no dedicated bag drop or bag tagging line that would have allowed any bypass.
Thankfully, the line was moving fairly quickly. For the first time ever, we were issued a paper stock single boarding card for our connecting flights, with two flights printed on the same card (top and bottom half).
With an odd 2:00 PM international flight departure time, we had a quick lunch of Wendy’s at the public international food court and a fast clearance through the international security thanks to Fast Track stickers and Nexus cards. We ended up through to the security side within ten minutes. The regular lines were ever crowded, with almost TSA like volume.
The Lounge: The Plaza Premium Lounge
Air France used the Plaza Premium Vancouver International Lounge in the International Departures concourse at Vancouver International Airport. We’ve visited this lounge before, so please see our fuller review of the Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver International for more information. Since this flight, Vancouver International Airport has also opened the Sky Team International Lounge that is also accessible through Sky Team First and Business Class passengers, as well as via Priority Pass as another alternative lounge option.
The Plaza Premium Lounge International is almost immediately after security. It’s on the left past the first duty free shop. It’s accessible via Priority Pass and home to almost every single contract airline that’s flying out of Vancouver. Today, this meant that the Plaza Premium Lounge was home to every single SkyTeam asian bound flight that was leaving at this hour.
We were admitted to the lounge without a voucher just by showing our Air France boarding cards. We had visited the lounge on our last international flight departing Vancouver on Air Canada Business Class Vancouver – Sydney, Australia. The lounge was a bit of a different experience this time. At about ninety minutes prior to the Air France flight, the lounge was completely packed full without a double seat to be had. The lounge itself is an average experience, but today it suffered a major over capacity issue.
There was an Air France / KLM area in the back, but it wasn’t of any use anyway as it was all full up. I suspect there must have been complaints of space issues for them to have this sign up, as no other carriers had similar arrangements.
With no where to sit, I went and check out the food area. It wasn’t too exciting and I was happy that we had eaten a proper fast food meal outside of the lounge.
It was a pretty chaotic environment in the Plaza Premium Vancouver International, echoing the check in line experience as well. I ended up taking over someone’s seat who had a stale glass of wine that was covered in condensation that appeared to have been sitting there for quite some time. There were 5 Asian flights that were also departing within 30 minutes and as a result, the place was pretty full.
One of the better features of the lounge is the plane spotting. This one featured Air Transat on its way to Rome, Italy.
The Air France flight boarding was announced in the lounge with a very loud public address announcement reminiscent of what you’d expect in a bus station. We finished up our discounted wines and headed out. The Vancouver International Terminal is still a nice place, although today it was full of slow walkers and construction scaffolding.
The Vancouver International concourse is always a pleasure to walk through with lots to look at and a fair amount of natural light.
YVR-CDG (Vancouver International Airport – Paris Charles De Gaulle T2E)
Sept 16, 2016
Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-200 ER
Departure: 2:00 PM
Arrival: 08:25 AM + 1
On arrival to the gate, boarding had already started and was at rows 40 and higher at the T-45 mark. We were able to get through thanks to a dedicated Sky Priority Lane. With single jet bridge boarding today, we had all lanes merging into a single boarding lane today.
While we were boarding an older woman decided to hold up the entire boarding process at the boarding door as her poodle was on a leash walking down the jet bridge. About fifty of us all waited on the jet bridge as she slowly and carefully zipped the cotton ball into a carrier while the flight attendants carefully and patiently looked on. This felt like it must have taken half an hour but instead it was probably more like 5 minutes.
On Board Air France Business Class:
Once we were on through door 2L, we turned left to head into the old Air France Business Class cabin on their 18 Boeing 777-200 ER’s. Firstly, it’s worth noting that the older business class cabin offers angled flat seats. This configuration must be about 10+ years old and believe me, it shows. The seats have been outclassed by both styles of full flat business class seating and many carriers with direct aisle reverse angled herringbone seating that you’d typically find on Air Canada Business Class of Lufthansa Business Class to Europe.
The Air France seating itself is configured in a 2 – 3 – 2 configuration. While the pair of seats on the outer edges of the plane aren’t too bad for travelling with a friend, the center seats of 3 seats has the risk of being stuck in the middle seat with no easy aisle access.
Our seats for this flight were in seats 4 A and 4C on the left hand side of the aircraft. It was seated towards at the back of the business class cabin.
I’d pity those poor people stuck in the middle seats of the plane, with no immediate access to the aisle. This is more evidence that seat selection is important when choosing a flight.
On arrival to the seat, we found that each seat had a coat hanger on it, with a pre-assigned seat number to it. This was a nice touch, since I’ve found that the alternative “jacket collection” from flight crews is sometimes a little intermittent. There was also a bottle of Eska Water, a pillow, and a set of sealed slippers waiting for us.
The seat had fairly elementary seat controls of recline, relax and upright. This was consistent with the era of this business class configuration. The seating had 1 control feature: recline or no recline. There was no ability to adjust the lumbar or seat support. Practically, this meant that you could only lounge in the half way to recline position, and couldn’t elevate the legs or adjust the bottom half of the chair, separate from the top.
The load today was a full 24 out of 24 seats taken, making for the cabin environment on the busier side instead of a quieter calming atmosphere.
Pre Departure Services:
It took quite a while for the staff to complete the pre-departure beverage service. It seemed as though the staff were waiting for everyone to board, instead of bringing beverages out as passengers arrived to the cabin. Today’s pre-departure beverage choice was orange juice or champagne. We would both end up choosing champagne.
As we headed out to taxi to the runway for departure, the Air New Zealand Vancouver – Auckland B777-300 flight that operates 4x weekly, was just arriving to the International concourse.
We had a departure out on runway 08R heading eastward over the suburb of Surrey, and eventually north eastward toward Edmonton. As we went airborne, there were some great views of the mountains that surround Vancouver.
The Amenity Kits:
After we had climbed to altitude, amenity kits were passed out from a tray. The kits were pretty straight forward, and contained Chapstick, a generous container of red mouthwash and toothbrushes. The case was unusually cool looking for an airline amenity kit, making this one a great souvenir to take off the aircraft with you.
The Meal: A Three Course Lunch
Air France passed out some bright and colourful menus. Air France has gone a bit cheaper on the menus since most of the pages are printed in black and white with the cover sheet in colour. It reminded me of that small town newspaper that could only afford to put colour on the front page and had black and white through the rest of the paper. Strangely, a designer is featured on the menu for “design of the plates” and two wine consultants are also featured, but there is no guest or celebrity chef featured for the menu.
The menu included a wine and beverage list. There were some okay wines there compared to Ken Chase’s selections for Air Canada that always feature the Niagara Region of Ontario. However, there wasn’t anything over the top that I’d write home about.
Prior to dinner, a pre-dinner cocktail was offered. I went with a straight forward gin and tonic. This was paired with a Mis en Bouche of smoked tuna over seaweed salad and sesame. The presentation was nice and we were of to a great start. Regretfully, the amuse bouche was the high point of the meal.
The Gourmet Appetizer and Seasonal Salad with oven dried potatoes was served all at once. It contained peppered smoked salmon and salmon marinated with beets served over fennel salad, duck foie gras with Armagnac. I think Air France is likely the only carrier departing YVR that offers foie gras.
The salad was pretty tasty, although the foie gras was pretty tasteless and about as cheap tasting as you could ask for – with almost a processed taste. This was paired with the menu Bourgogne Blanc Chablis 2014 Jean – Marc Brocard.
They were out of the halibut by the time that they got to row 4. I went with the pan seared beef tournedos with gorgonzola cheese sauce offering that looked surprisingly like gravy, chateau potatoes and sautéed vegetables that looked like they had been steamed. Unfortunately, the beef was almost inedible; tough, overcooked and chewy, I have had better round steak from Walmart that was smoother than this. The only good part of the meal was the red wine which was a Bordeaux Rouge by Margaux Brio de Cantenac Brown 2011.
Sadly, it was a tough and overcooked wasted of a cut of steak.
The cheese serving was dropped off midway through the main meal. It was a thin plate of two soft cheeses. There was no cheese selection or choice with the cheese service; it was a take it or leave it scenario.
After the main courses, including the cheese course, a dessert tray was brought out. Today’s offer was a mini opera cake, lemon tartlet with a raspberry French macaron. Since it was on offer, I went with a second dessert of a sorbet and fresh fruit salad. They were offering digestives with the dessert so I tried a Bas – Armagnac Chateau du Tariquet Folle Blanc 12 ans for the first time. Wow – I hadn’t had anything so horrid tasting in a while. A Bas Armagnac is certainly an acquired taste as they say. It was similar to a single malt whisky without the malt taste. Perhaps Bas Armagnac was just not my style…
In the end, the meal was an effort at being upscale, with quality that didn’t make their way through into food. Despite having upscale menu items like foie gras, macaroons and french wines, the food wasn’t of the quality that you’d expect for such offerings. While I love macaroons, I certainly don’t go to Costco Wholesale in order to buy and enjoy them.
The service execution was quite similar to our Thai Airways Business Class flights and was pretty much a “laissez faire” attitude. The staff turned up to drop the food and pretty much disappeared for the rest of the flight. We didn’t get a single offer of a wine refill, unless it was asked for. Pro-active pass through(s) of the cabin were completely non existent. MrsWT73 was even chided for using the front lavatory “That’s a crew lavatory only – you can’t be using it”. Groan. What a great way to spend 9 hours together (laughing).
The Entertainment System:
After the dinner, I browsed through the AVOD entertainment system. The system, like the rest of the plane, was pretty tired and dated. I wish I could say that there were great movies on there, but the system has easily been outclassed by the quantity of movies on the Middle East Three and Asian carriers.
The seat, although a business class seat and better than economy, was pretty hard to get comfortable in. The lack of independent seat controls is like using a microwave- you don’t miss them until it’s gone. It’s uncomfortable for relaxing in and hard for getting work done. Furthermore, there are no compartments by the seats, so there isn’t anywhere to take your watch off and place it securly. I pretty much left my SLR camera on the floor since there was nowhere else to put it. These are first world problems I know, but it’s worth mentioning if anyone plans on setting up a photo studio in their suite like I was, or completing a bunch of work in this space.
I had a glass of champagne while I worked on the trip report. We had pleasant sunset views.
When I was finished working, I tried to get some sleep but it doesn’t didn’t work. I forgot the “relax and sleeps” sleeping pills at home, and trying to snooze between 6 PM and 9 PM in your own time zone just didn’t work for me. It’s perhaps one of the considerations if you happen to be taking an eastward trans-continental flight that departs at 2 PM. The seat was an uncomfortable angle flat slope that also didn’t take well to a tall person like myself.
The Second Service: A Breakfast
At about 90 minutes before landing, a breakfast was served. Today’s choice was between a cheese omelette with turkey sausage, or blueberry crepes. There was also a choice of an express continental breakfast for those looking for a quicker option. I went with the cheese omelette with turkey sausage. Again, the presentation looked pretty tired and uninspiring for a country that is famous for its food and Michelin stars.
I managed to get the last omelet by the time they arrived to row 4. The food portions were surprisingly small. I had my first drink refill offering in the last 2 hours of the flight when they came around to offer coffee top ups.
In a bright spot, we had some nice views on the approach to the airport.
As we landed, we rolled up next to an Etihad A340 in this bizarre airport known as Charles De Gualle.
My Thoughts on the Air France Experience:
Wow – if this flight is any representation of Air France, it was pretty disappointing. There are much better equipment and service offerings out there- Lufthansa’s newer full flat seats and Air Canada’s reverse herringbone seats are much nicer. The food and service offerings are miles ahead on other carriers as was the service these days. I got the impression that the staff were just going through the motions and didn’t really appear to interested in their jobs. I think that had we paid a regular price business class fare (instead of the smokin’ deal that we got) that we’d have been quite disappointed. All in all, I can’t say that I would ever choose Air France again if I had the choice between Lufthansa or even Air Canada. Be forewarned if you happen to be flying Air France in order to watch out for the older business class cabins.