The 4 new Air France cabins

Last Wednesday, May 7, I had the pleasure of discovering the new La Première Suite during an Air France Press Conference in Shanghai. However, I have posted, for the moment, only excerpts from the press kit. However, I had the pleasure of testing this new suite, as well as the 3 other new cabins which will occupy 19 of the Boeing 777-300ERs affected by Air France’s renovation program. I have already posted on FlyerTalk this review. Report, in French this time!

Air France organized an exhibition from May 8 to 11 at Three on the Bund in Shanghai to present the new facilities on its four Long Haul travel classes.
I was lucky enough to be invited by the company because of my participation in FlyerTalk and the existence of this blog.

Here is a complete review of the new Long Haul accommodation, cabin by cabin.

Economy: More leg room, and a much more comfortable seat

The new seat chosen by Air France to equip its new economy class is really comfortable. The pitch (space between the seats) looks more generous than before, thanks in particular to the reduced seat thickness.
I liked the impressive size of the new in-flight entertainment system, and even though it was only in demo mode on this seating block, the GUI looks straightforward.
The availability of 2 power outlets per row of 3 seats is really nice, given the number of portable electronic devices everyone now has.
Not a revolution, then, but nice developments in line with recent changes in economy class in the industry.
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Premium Economy: Small changes that don’t really improve seat comfort

Even though this class is a huge success for Air France, with one of the highest load factors in the group, the comfort of this class remains in question. Has Air France succeeded in changing the situation?
In any case, I wanted to be sure by trying the seat with the modifications presented.
The first impression is that there is no change on the seat… You have to look at each element more closely to see the differences.

A depth-adjustable headrest

The headrest is now adjustable in depth. Except for small jigs (this is not my case), I do not see what it is for.
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An improved footrest

The difference is this time more convincing, with a fold-out footrest mechanism. Again, given my height, this doesn’t concern me too much but I think it can be useful for smaller builds, again.
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The density of the reinforced seat foam? Yeah…

Even if it was told to me by the hostesses and stewards presenting this new cabin, I did not find that the increase in the density of the foam filling the seats had a fundamental impact on the comfort of the seat.
Obviously, the test only lasted a few minutes, and it deserves a full test in a night flight, but the famous bar that destroys your back while you sleep is still there…
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Business: A successful transition from the 90s to the 2010s

It is the cabin that makes the biggest leap forward in terms of comfort, and therefore whose impact in terms of image will have the strongest consequences for Air France, since it is the most profitable for the company.
I was very enthusiastic about being able to test this new seat, presented in September to a very small committee. And I must say that I had the chance and the time to take pictures and position the seat as I wanted.
3 seats were available for the tests: 1 window, and a pair of central seats. I’m going to focus on the window because these are the seats that will be most in demand, as they are both bright and give free access to the aisle.
I knew that by choosing a Cirrus seat, Air France had made a good choice, a reasonable choice aligned with its competitors, particularly in Asia. I was, however, worried about finding a bland cabin, and worried about whether there was enough legroom in the reclining position, unlike my recent experience of these seats on Cathay Pacific .

A comfortable seat in all positions

The comfort of the seat is really optimal. I have never felt uncomfortable, nor felt back pain due to an unsuitable posture.
The bed formed by the seat in the lying position is really wide, even when sleeping on your side (no problem with stuck feet).
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Be careful though: do not sit on the seat when it is lying down: I have broad shoulders, and the “wings” of the seat hurt me a lot.
Your servant on the seat:
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The IFE screen is now worthy of the name

Now the screen of the IFE is very large equivalent to a desktop screen I would say and its mobility allows the screen to be seen properly from any position, unlike the previous generation seat . However, I deplore the fragility of the IFE’s fastening system, which I almost broke while trying to bring it back to me.
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Storage adapted to our digital world

The newly available storage space is completely adapted to the modern business traveller: tablet, books or magazines can be stored in this space, which can be closed and which has rubber bands to hold objects in the event of turbulence. Very well found, just like the mirror.
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A tablet finally useful for work

The table of this new seat is large, perfect for working with a laptop and documents or a drink. This was one of the major flaws of the Air France Business seat, especially since the Premium Economy cabin has had large tablets since its creation.

In conclusion

Air France has been able to capitalize on its product to bring it to the level of quality of a Business product from an Asian or Gulf company.
I would have the pleasure of trying it… starting tonight, with a flight to New York! Stay tuned!

La Première: A more beautiful cabin in real life than on paper

This cabin was, of course, the main purpose of my trip to Shanghai.

The day before the press conference, a very knowledgeable Air France agent posted the press release on FlyerTalk . I was so pissed off that I made an all-nighter of it.

Obviously, I took the opportunity to analyze it and I must say that, at first glance, I was disappointed by this sequel … Fortunately, the photos do not reflect reality: this suite is very elegant, the curtain gives an impression of unparalleled privacy, and the space is really pleasant.

In reality, it was rather difficult to find fault with this new sequel. So here is a summary of the highlights of my observations.

A smart curtain system that fulfills its role with elegance

On paper, it’s a false good idea: replace partitions immediately with a curtain. It looks cheap. In reality, Air France has done both: low, retractable partitions, and a totally blackout curtain creating a completely personal space.
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The sensations are very good, and there is no feeling of claustrophobia.

A very comfortable sleeper seat

The seat is comfortable in all positions: sitting, lounge or lying down. The fabric prevents profuse perspiration, unlike leather.
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The bed is very wide. Unfortunately, the mattress and duvet were not available for the trial.
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Seat position control controls are available in simplified or detailed versions
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Harmonious and soft tones, coupled with new crockery and new equipment

The cabin is designed in pastel shades conducive to rest. A storage lamp has been elegantly added to the seat.
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The cabin is now equipped with shutters at the portholes which allow the sun to be hidden without affecting the luminosity of the suite.
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On the other hand, the storage within reach is insufficient in size, much smaller than that of the Business storage:
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Also, the tableware has been completely redesigned to be more contemporary while remaining elegant:
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Pajamas and slippers have been redesigned. on the other hand, the quality and durability do not seem to be there.
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The new toilet bag is signed Givenchy, and no longer Biologique Recherche. However, the partnership remains active at the La Première lounge in Paris Charles-de-Gaulle.
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An IFE system with a large screen, but far from the seat and unable to be adjusted to adapt to viewing in lying mode

The new IFE system has a large screen size, similar to that of a flat screen. On the other hand, since it is attached to the bulkhead, it is therefore a little far from the seat and cannot be adjusted to another viewing angle.
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The controls are simple and similar to those in Business class. The headphones are a Bose QuietComfort 3 with noise reduction:
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A few remarks, not illustrated…

  • The tablet, which I did not take a picture of, is enormous in size, allowing two to dine without any worries, with one person on the ottoman,
  • The ottoman, by the way, is much more comfortable than before, with a mini backrest for your dining companion,
  • Air France did not seek to use the central seats as a possible single suite, which could be merged and thus create a double bed, like Singapore Airlines
  • The privacy level of the middle suites is in question, as the mock-up featured only one seat. There will, a priori, be no curtain separating the two middle suites.

As a conclusion…

I hope you enjoyed reading me and that you were able to see all the details you were hoping for. If you have any further questions, contact me . I may try this seat again on my trip to New York this afternoon, so hurry up with any questions!

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.
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