Reminiscing about a fabulous first class flight on Air France
By Patti Pietschmann Travel Diva
For the jet-setter who appreciates comfort and style….
We were returning from a Seabourn cruise in the Med a few years ago on Air France. It was our first flight on French carrier in awhile. And it was all good. (Please note you read this that things may have changed since we last flew with Air France).
From the moment the smiling flight attendant presented the bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne we knew this would be no ordinary flight. We were winging our way back from a post-cruise overnight in Paris.
Our fully adjustable seats were part of Air France’s improved business class section on its wide-body B777-200ER airplane, considered by experienced long-distance flyers the finest jumbo.
During a 12-hour flight, it’s the seats that really matter. The seats make it possible to contort into more positions than a gymnast. There’s even a control pad mounted between seats that allows you to manipulate your position in ways a Rolls-Royce owner can only dream his seats could emulate.
Three quick-adjust buttons positions the seats full upright, half reclined or nearly completely flat. Stopping the seat movement anywhere during the process allows for hundreds of minute adjustments. In addition, individual buttons can fine-tune the footrest in multiple ways. And if there wasn’t enough, another button actuates a lumbar massage.
Times flies when wining and dining
The prospect of half a day in the air (flying time between Paris and Los Angeles) is never pleasant. But seats that lay out into an authentic sleep recline make all the difference.
But, boy, did the flight crew help make the long trip as pleasant as possible. Every one of them—and six could be counted—were unfailingly cheerful, helpful and friendly. Punch the help button and one responded in seconds, something that is so rare as to be endangered on other airlines. The most distinguishing difference between this flying experience and that on other carriers was the positive attitudes, hospitality and efficiency of the flight crew, the type of top service that seems to have evaporated almost everywhere else.
French comfort food
That first meal featured a menu du jour that included a lovely beef pot-au-feu with carrots, leeks, celery and turnips. It was French comfort food, delicious and easy to eat. I just wish other airlines could emulate it.
Shrimp sautéed with garlic in a curry cream sauce with rice and broccoli, risotto-style vermicelli, and chicken thigh fricassee with sherry sauce and mustard were the other main course offerings. The starter course was a nice slice of pate de foie gras and a small crab salad with a slice of crumbly gingerbread. Desserts were as delicious, especially the chocolate fondant cake and the raspberry shortbread.
The then new wine list was selected by Olivier Poussier, the airline’s sommelier. It proved a tres bon complement. Wines were so tempting we tried too many, though it was difficult to give up the Billecart-Salmon (a real favorite of mine). Among them was a nice white burgundy (in other words, chardonnay), a rich Bordeaux Rouge and a Vallee Du Rhone Rouge (pinot noir). Somebody had to do it.
Well-fed and nicely beveraged, we sank into our celestial seats in the sky. We read, watched movies on our individual TV screens and, listened to music on the provided Sennheiser headphones.
We also dozed. When we woke a smiling flight attendant greeted us with heated towels and the final meal before landing. The repast contained air-dried beef and fennel salad with pineapple, grilled salmon, ricotta cheese ravioli with spinach and mussel cream sauce with curry and eggplant caviar. A baked caramel apple with raspberry coulis and cheeses were the finishing touches to a fine meal.
After 12 hours, we were almost reluctant to leave. Almost.
And yes, flying First Class on long distance trips is definitely worth the splurge. Contact a Pavlus Travel Specialist to set you up.