As you can tell by my ID name, I`m a fan of Air France. I hold a Red Level Frequence Plus card, but very rarely get the chance to travel in Business Class. This was one of those rare events……
Air France AF273 24FEB
A nice surprise at NRT when the check in agent asked me if I would prefer an aisle or window seat. I told him that I already had a seat assignment, 28A in Tempo Economy Class, but he said that the flight was oversold and that I had been upgraded to Classe Affaires !
I was allocated seat 7B and given an invitation to the AF lounge at NRT. Very relaxing place to wait, just above the departure gates. The AF A340 en route for Noumea came and went, our B744 arrived from Paris, followed closely to the adjacent gate by a CX B777.
Boarding was called at 21.25 with First & Business class passengers channelled through a separate security & passport check.
The Chef de Cabine, was at the door to greet the premium passengers along with 2 other cabin crew who guided us to our seats. Coats were taken on numbered coat hangars, co-inciding with seat numbers, and we settled in. The main deck cabin holds approx 35 Business Class, and on this flight it was full. I would guess that upgraded pax outnumbered revenue ones, although I found out later that full revenue business class pax had also been upgraded, to the First Class cabin.
Before moving from the gate, the Chef de Cabine, named Elizabeth, came round and personally introduced herself to all the passengers, thanking us for choosing to fly Air France and also explaining how to use the pop-up video screen and the recliner controls for the chairs.
The seating is very good. Wide seats with headrest wings to cushion your head, fully extending leg-rests and a very good recline, not quite flat, but not far off it ! There is also a flexible reading lamp which is far better than the usual overhead type, this one pulls forward from behind your headrest and can be adjusted to suit..
Champagne was served during taxi and the moving map was already on the overhead screens. The safety demo was carried out in French, English and Japanese, mixing video with `live action` from the Cabin Crew pointing out the exits and strip lighting on the floor.
After a very long take off run, the B744 rose very smoothly into the sky and we seemed to be on full power for quite some time, heading east out of Tokyo, over the sea.
I was surprised that the routing was different to those I have had on previous trips to and from Japan – usually the aircraft heads west to cross Siberia towards Moscow then eastern Europe, but the moving map showed our course to be east from Japan, over the northern Pacific towards Alaska…. We actually did a true Polar route, passing by the Aleutian Islands (I think..), over the Arctic making landfall over Tronhdeim. The flight length was pretty much the same as the trans-Siberian route.
Menus were handed out by the Cabin Crew, listing a very tempting choice of French or Japanese dishes, together with a wine list. There was also a choice of an express menu for those who just wanted to eat and sleep ! Aperitifs were then served and dinner orders taken.
My choice was for a poached salmon appetiser with beef filet to follow, desert being a serving of fruit sorbet and cookies. The whole dining experience was excellent, and the crew were first rate, recommending the best wines to accompany both the main course and the cheese selection. Freshly made espresso coffee was offered from the newly installed machine in the galley, followed by a `digestif` in the form of cognac. All the wining and dining took it`s course and I reclined my seat, almost flat, and slept for the next 3 hours.
I woke up as the aircraft was approaching the north pole, the whole cabin in darkness with just the flicker of the video screens. I took a walk to the rear of the J cabin where the crew had set up a buffet of drinks and snacks. Great idea this, wines, champagne, sodas and espresso were on offer along with freshly made sandwiches, hot noodles and cakes.
A quick visit to the bathroom – well stocked with all those lotions and potions which I`m never sure what to do with – I used the razor and toothbrush from my amenity kit and came out feeling a little bit more human again !
Breakfast was served about 90 minutes out of Paris, again there was a choice, this time being light continental, fruit crepes or mushroom omelette with all the trimmings…. I chose the latter… warm croissants and brioches were in constant supply with a bottomless coffee pot following close behind.
Just before landing, our coats were brought back to us and, again, the Chef de Cabine came round and personally thanked us for flying with her and the crew, hoping that everything had been to our liking.
We landed spot on time at a very dark and windy CDG, it was 0435 and I had 3 hours to wait for my connection to Manchester. Thanks to my Red Level card, I was able to wait in the AF lounge and even had time for a shower !
An excellent flight, it was a real treat to be in the Business Class cabin, and Air France crews certainly go out of their way to offer a personalised, amicable and professional service, but it does spoil you……. Next time I`ll be back where I belong, one of the travelling masses in the `back end` … ah well ……