Air France La Première between Paris and Singapore

What is Air France’s new first class really worth? Since its unveiling and with the promise of an upmarket airline, we really wondered if the result would live up to the promise or if, as has often been the case in the past, it would be “almost”, stumbling on details that are ultimately the most annoying.

First class: the pinnacle of travel experience issues

A good travel experience is not just for the front rows. It requires human time, an investment in the product and the material, it’s true, but the digitalization of a large part of the customer journey, which is a strong trend, makes it possible to create an individualized experience on a large scale for everyone.

However, the thing is critical in the front classes and this criticality reaches its paroxysm in first class. It is the showcase, the jewel that everyone looks at and that few will touch, the product whose promise is a permanent overachievement and whose price means that it will be analyzed, scrutinized, dissected in all directions. In First perfect is not enough. Nothing is forgiven.

And if you imagine that this only concerns a certain number of happy fews, think again. Même si 95% des passagers voyagent en éco ce sont la Première et la Business qui fixent le standing d’une compagEven if 95% of the passengers travel in eco, it is the First and the Business that set the standard of an airline. Just like in the car industry: you buy the smallest model by projecting yourself in the top of the range that you will never drive.

And it’s easy to get out of line. Where for many eco-passengers it takes a good online experience to prepare for the flight and a good in-flight experience, the first class passenger wants consistency from the moment they arrive at the departure airport to the moment they leave the arrival airport. For some it is even from home to the hotel. A continuous experience that considerably lengthens the “experience chain” of an airline, including more services, partners and therefore “uncontrolled” areas.

La Première Air France: a successful experience from end to end

On this point this flight was a success from start to finish.

1°) The dedicated check-in area allows you to settle in quietly while the staff carries out the necessary formalities. While we’re at it, I might as well mention the only negative point of this flight: having a connection in Singapore with a different airline and the two flights being on two different folders, I was told that it was not possible to check in my luggage until the end. While technically it is…the proof is that it was done to me not more than a few weeks ago. A complaint often heard from my friends who are frequent travelers, whereas when you do it the other way around (ask another airline to check in with a final flight on Air France) everything always goes smoothly.

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2°) An “individualized” follow-up of the passenger. A person is “assigned” to me who accompanies me to the “La Première” lounge, taking me through dedicated lanes for the controls. This is even faster than the priority lanes I usually use (5 minutes on the clock). She will oversee my entire journey until I get on the plane to make sure everything goes smoothly. She will show me around the lounge and come back to pick me up to board. When on top of that the person has a sense of service, humor and conversation (okay…we talked about the new cabins and this blog) it changes your relationship to the passenger journey in an airport.

3°) A first class lounge

The Air France La Première lounge has been named the best Première lounge in the world. And it is deserved.

Here’s a tour of the lounge…

 

And on the catering side, it is signed Ducasse.

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A short stay at the bar and my escort comes to seek me to make me embark.

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A car is waiting outside the lounge and that’s how we’ll get to the plane.

3°) A real private suite

Everyone has seen the new cabin at least once in pictures, but settling into it provides something really special. It’s beautiful, sophisticated, not ostentatious. More high fashion than bling.

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And once the curtains are drawn, you feel at home.

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4°) Three-star catering

This month it was Guy Martin who worked on the Premiere’s menu.

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5°) A room like at home

Once the Sofitel MyBed mattress and bedding were installed, and the curtains were drawn, you slept like at home. I don’t remember having slept so well in flight… (and I often slept worse on the ground).

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In the end it is the staff that makes the difference

6°) The staff is also moving upmarket

It would be wrong to think that a beautiful cabin is all that is needed to experience something of the highest order. This contributes to it, but from experience I can tell you that a nice cabin and an incompetent or rude staff ruins your flight even more than if you were in eco with a great crew.

From the agent on the ground who was friendly, efficient and perfect from start to finish to the cabin crew who impeccably carried out the protocol (service on the tray, calling my name, respecting the requested time for the meal and the order of the dishes as I wanted etc…) but, in addition, showed himself to be friendly, open to discussion when I wanted and left me in peace otherwise, everything was perfect from the point of view of the service and from a human point of view And very reactive, what’s more, to my multiple requests during the flight (a strong tendency to ask for fresh water with lemon slices at all hours of the night…).

And it seems to me – having spoken with them and because they were asking for customer feedback – that the strategy of upgrading the product and services is a real source of pride and motivation for the staff. You can feel it in every moment. And this is undeniably felt on the customer side.

In short, I had never had such a flying experience. No shortfall from start to finish. I could be a pain in the ass about checking luggage to the final destination, but the ground crew on arrival immediately resolved the situation with Thai Airways staff as soon as I brought up the subject. But in the future I would still like Air France to be as accommodating as all its competitors on this issue. Especially since at this level of performance and promise it’s hard to justify.

Having spoken with other passengers who have tried it, Air France has surely the best Première in the world in terms of “hard product”. The rest is service, attention and I had exceptional staff…but this is the most difficult variable to generalize and maintain over time. We’ll see how it goes.

In conclusion, the Air France promise is kept with this suite described as “Haute Couture” and all the associated services. Will it be the same on the return flight where the airline does not necessarily have as much control over all the elements of the chain? The answer when I return.

You can read the detailed report of the flight on flight report with all the pictures and details.

Otherwise here is the complete photo album.

 

 

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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