Air France B777-300ER first class; Fair­mont Rey Juan Carlos I, Barcelona

Paris-Wash­ing­ton DC

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS -

BACK­GROUND Air France launched its new first class La Pre­mière prod­uct in 2014. It is only avail­able on spe­cific B777-300ERs serv­ing cities such as Wash­ing­ton DC, LA, Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai and Shang­hai. A380s have the older ver­sion.

CHECK-IN I checked in via the Air France app and ar­rived at Lon­don Heathrow T4 by taxi at 0450 for my con­nect­ing flight to Paris de­part­ing at 0620 (Air France does not in­clude a chauf­feur ser­vice). My case was pri­or­ity-tagged and through-checked to DC.

TRANS­FER We landed at Paris CDG Ter­mi­nal 2E at 0820 lo­cal time. My on­ward flight was sched­uled for 1320. An Air France em­ployee was wait­ing on the air­bridge to es­cort me to the lounge. We took a pri­vate lift down to the ground and stepped into an await­ing BMW, which drove to the en­trance of the La Pre­mière lounge. There was an ID check by a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer.

THE LOUNGE I was ad­vised that I would be met at 1240 to be taken to the plane. High­lights of the lounge are the Bi­ologique Recherche spa (book a free 30-minute mas­sage in ad­vance), the sleep zone, the Alain Du­casse restau­rant, which has an ex­ten­sive à la carte menu of Miche­lin-qual­ity cui­sine, and the bar, which serves cock­tails and three types of cham­pagne. For a full re­view visit busi­nesstrav­eller.com.

BOARD­ING The gate was close by so you could walk there or be driven – I chose the lat­ter. I was taken up­stairs to the air­bridge, where there was a sep­a­rate en­trance to the first class cabin at the very front of the plane. I was wel­comed and given the op­tion of sit­ting any­where I liked, as the other three seats were empty. I stuck with 1A but, later on, 1E was made into a bed so I had the choice of both. My coat was hung in a closet and I was of­fered a glass of Lau­rent-Per­rier 2004 Alexan­dra Grande Cu­vée Rosé cham­pagne. A leather amenity box con­tained Carita Paris prod­ucts. Loungewear, socks and slip­pers were also pro­vided, and Bose head­phones were stored in a side cup­board. I had al­most no aware­ness of board­ing go­ing on behind me in busi­ness class. With the gi­ant TV screens and four win­dows per seat, it was like be­ing in my own apart­ment.

THE SEAT The cabin had only one row con­fig­ured 1-2-1. It felt peace­ful, light and spa­cious. Each seat had a cur­tain that could be drawn to cre­ate a com­pletely pri­vate suite. The prod­uct was in­cred­i­bly comfy – it’s ba­si­cally an arm­chair (23 inches wide) that con­verts into a 30-inch-wide, six-foot five-inch­long, fully-flat bed. Crew can make them up with a mat­tress, sheet, pil­low, du­vet and blan­ket. A pull-out ta­ble was large enough for two – a com­pan­ion can join you for a meal when seated on the ot­toman op­po­site. Un­der­neath was a drawer for shoes. There was also a 24-inch TV screen, uni­ver­sal/USB charg­ing points and a hand­held touch­screen IFE con­troller.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? They are all amaz­ing, but I liked be­ing by the win­dow best. The mid­dle two are ideal for a cou­ple as the cur­tains ei­ther side en­close you, but it’s not a prob­lem if you’re alone, as a di­vid­ing wall can be sum­moned be­tween you.

THE FLIGHT We pushed back on time at 1320. Once air­borne, my ded­i­cated crew mem­ber, Pasquale, asked when I wanted to dine. As I had eaten in the lounge, I said later would be bet­ter. At 1345 Pasquale brought me a bowl of fruit salad on a sil­ver tray, and kept my glass of sparkling Badoit water topped up. At 1515 I de­cided to eat. There were no veg­e­tar­ian op­tions on the menu but be­cause I had fore­warned them they had pre­pared a de­li­cious cele­riac risotto.

Miche­lin-starred chef Joel Robu­chon over­saw the de­sign of the first class menu, while Guy Martin of Le Grand Vé­four in Paris de­signed the sum­mer of­fer­ings. If you de­sire, you can have up to seven cour­ses: there was an amuse bouche of sal­mon and caviar tartare, creamed corn soup with cachaça, a ter­rine of foie gras poached in red wine, and roast lob­ster. The mains were pan-seared veal, fil­let of pan-seared sea bass in a creamy lemon­grass sauce, roasted guinea fowl supreme, and for­est fric­as­see. You could fol­low this with a salad of your own de­sign, a choice of five types of cheese, choco­late nouga­tine tart­let, ap­ple tatin, and three flavours of sor­bet.

There were two red wines – 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Do­maine du Grand Veneur, Alain Jaume et Fils, Rhône Val­ley, and 2010 or 2011 Mar­gaux Château Can­tenac Brown, Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux. The two whites were 2013 Meur­sault les Clous, Bouchard Pere and Fils, Burgundy, and 2010 Grand Cru Ries­ling, Al­tenberg de Bergheim, Gus­tave Lorentz, Al­sace.

Af­ter do­ing a bit of work, I went to the wash­room to get changed while Pasquale made the seat next to me into a bed. I set­tled down for a cou­ple of hours’ sleep – the mat­tress was supremely com­fort­able and the cur­tains made it re­ally dark. I got up and dressed when the win­dow blinds were opened and was brought a cold glass of juice.

AR­RIVAL We landed at Wash­ing­ton Dulles In­ter­na­tional at 1630 lo­cal time. This time there wasn’t a sep­a­rate air­bridge for first class pas­sen­gers so Pasquale walked me through the busi­ness class cabin to en­sure I was first off the plane. An­other mem­ber of staff greeted me and es­corted me on to my own per­sonal shut­tle bus, through im­mi­gra­tion to bag­gage re­claim, past cus­toms and to my driver wait­ing in ar­rivals. Jenny Southan

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