Joon A340-300 business class CDG-Cape Town; SAA A330-300 business class LHR-Johannesburg
Joon A340-300 business class
BACKGROUND Joon is the new airline brand from Air France. The aim is that it will support Air France in growing its network to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, and also act as an innovation lab for Air France.
Joon has a raft of shorthaul, medium-haul and now long-haul routes, which use reconfigured Air France aircraft. As of July 2018, Joon will have a fleet of seven Airbus A320s, four A321s and four A340s. By summer 2019 this will have increased to 18 Airbus A320 and A321, with the long-haul fleet staying at four A340 aircraft. There is also the prospect of an A350 joining in autumn 2019.
Joon isn’t a low-cost airline, as indicated by the ticket prices. The airline is positioning itself as something new – which is difficult to do convincingly on long haul with an ageing fleet, as was obvious on this inaugural flight.
This flight to Cape Town departs three-times weekly during the summer, rising to five-times weekly in the winter. Air France previously operated the route with an A330.
BOARDING I was transferring from a morning flight from London Heathrow. The flight boarded on time at Gate L22 and we were quickly away without any fuss.
THESE AT The business class cabin has a total of 30 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, with four rows A-C, six centre rows of D-H and five rows of J-L.
The seat is an old-style Air France business class seat with new upholstery. It is lie-flat rather than fully flat, with a recline of 175 degrees, a bed width of 61cm and a length of two metres. There is one USB socket for each seat and also an electric socket, though you need an adaptor if you have a UK plug (US and EU ones fit without a problem).
There is a storage compartment for magazines between each seat and a slot for your shoes. The side table slides out and upwards from the arm of the chair. The seats have a new in-flight entertainment system (IFE), which was going through teething problems. My screen needed to be reset three times in total. If you download the Joon app before you fly, you can then use the on-board wifi to stream entertainment to your device from the on-board server.
BEST SEAT I’d avoid seats 1 A and 1C because they are close to the front galley, and also the two centre seats of row 6 for the same reason for the rear galley. The 2-2-2 configuration means you have the option of climbing over the person on the aisle if you are in a window seat or being climbed over.
THE FLIGHT Once at my seat I was offered champagne, juice or water. There was a sheet/duvet at the seat, along with a shoe bag containing blue slippers, blue flight socks and some covers for the headphones. Flight attendants also offered an amenity bag that contained a small Clarins
moisturiser, a pillow mister, eye mask, earplugs, and toothbrush and toothpaste.
There is no washroom at the front for passengers’ use, and at the back there are only two.
I’ve come across the option of pre-booking your meal online before (Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook, for instance), but the Joon model is slightly different. There is a choice of four hot courses with another six courses available for pre-booking at no extra cost. By the time they got to the last row (row 5) where I was sitting, they had run out of most of the meal choices so I was only given the option of pork or squid. If there is a better incentive to pre-book a meal I can’t think of it.
The meal started with a mise en bouche (pre-starter) of shrimp and grapefruit jelly with a cocktail of Martini Rosso, Campari, champagne and ice. The starter proper was a neat slab of poultry terrine served with a fruit chutney, spelt salad and crusty roll. The main course options (potentially) included chicken in a lemon sauce with dauphiné ravioles (French cheese-filled ravioli); risotto with saffron and basil cream; orecchiette pasta with squid; or pork loin with sesame in an orange and vinegar sauce. The menu lists the option “Or your preferred dish”, which must refer to the meals pre-booked online. There are also French cheeses – Cantal, similar to Gruyère, and a goat’s cheese. To finish there was canelé (a small pastry) with fruit and some milk chocolate.
The wines were Taittinger Brut Réserve NV champagne, a red Bordeaux (St Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Jean Faure 2013), a Languedoc red (Gérard Bertrand Château de la Soujeole 2015), a chardonnay from Burgundy (Domaine Laroche Chablis 2017), and for sauvignon blanc fans, a very nice Sancerre (Joseph Mellot La Chatellenie 2016).
As with other long-haul Air France flights I have taken, we experienced moderate turbulence without the flight crew ever communicating to passengers other than the seatbelt sign coming on.
During the flight it was possible to go up to the rear galley to get a drink or snack. It was a day flight, but the cabin lights were dimmed for a few hours and so I reclined the seat to sleep. It’s comfortable, though when fully reclined there isn’t quite enough room for your feet so you have to sleep sideways.
About two hours from Cape Town there was a second meal service. The options on the menu were chicken and mushroom flan in a creamy onion and carrot sauce; chicken fillet in a green curry and tomato
On the flight I was only given the option of pork or squid. If there is a better incentive to pre-book a meal I can’t think of it
sauce, bulghur wheat risotto; grated potato cake with thyme and smoked cream, asparagus and porcini mushrooms; smoked salmon fillet and mint pesto with fregola salad.
I had the chicken fillet, which wasn’t in a green curry and was cold, so I left it. The attendant offered to warm it up, but I declined. The flight was smooth for the final few hours.
ARRIVAL We arrived at Cape Town on time and were quickly off the aircraft. There was a queue at immigration because we had arrived at the same time as the KLM flight.
VERDICT In business class there isn’t much to choose between Air France and Joon, which is probably how the parent airline wants it. For passengers the improvements are likely to be in economy and premium economy with the new seating. Check out the video review of the flight on the Business Traveller Youtube channel. Tom Otley