Air France Launches Domestic Business Class Service


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One of the oddities of Air France is that although it offers one of the best First Class long-haul cabins, some excellent long-haul Business Class cabins and (admittedly mediocre) Business Class cabins on short-haul routes traveling outside of France, the airline hasn’t offered a premium cabin domestically for years (even BA offers a premium cabin within the UK).

From next month this will change.

Air France Selling Domestic Business Class

As of yesterday, Air France is now selling domestic Business Class service between various regional cities and it hubs in Paris for travel from 4 February 2020.

What this means is that passengers booking international premium cabin fares originating outside of Paris will no longer have to suffer a short-haul Economy Class cabin on their flight from the regions to the French capital before finally getting some comfort in a premium cabin when they connect to their international sector.

What Does Air France Domestic Business Class Offer?

Pre-Flight

  • SkyPriority channels (at airports which offer this service):
    • Dedicated check-in and baggage drop-off
    • Priority lines at security checkpoint and passport control
    • Priority boarding
    • Priority at transfer desks during connections
    • Priority baggage delivery
  • Access to Air France lounges
    • The lounges for short-haul flights are available at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (terminals F and G), Paris-Orly 1, Bordeaux and Lyon airports.
    • Partner lounges are available at Paris-Orly (terminal 1A), Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Montpellier and Mulhouse airports.
  • A more generous baggage allowance
    • Two pieces of checked baggage weighing 32kg (~70lbs) each
    • Two carry-on bags and a cabin accessory weighing no more than 18kg (~40lbs) in total.
  • Seat selection at the time of booking

In-Flight

  • A dedicated catering service which includes:
    • A savoury snack
    • A sweet snack
    • A selection of beverages including wines and champagnes (from the Air France Business class wine cellar) soft drinks and “much more”.
    • An oshibori (small hand towel) to freshen up.
Image Air France
  • Unlimited digital newspapers and magazines (downloadable via the Air France Play App starting from 30 hours before departure)
  • Blocked middle seat (just two passengers per 3 seats)

Fares & Upgrades

For travel within France, there are three fare types:

  • Business Leisure: a non-refundable ticket but changes can be made for a fee of €70;
  • Business Flex: a refundable ticket with no charge for any changes
  • Business Abonné: a refundable ticket with no charge for any changes and which allows passengers to take an earlier or later flight on the day of travel if seats are available.

It will be possible to upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class when check-in opens 30 hours before departure.

Thoughts

There’s some good stuff in here but there’s also a good supply of “meh” in here too.

The Positives:

  • Lounge access (good for non-elites traveling domestically)
  • Priority check-in and security
  • Good baggage allowance
  • Blocked middle seat (Air France didn’t actually mention this anywhere in its press release but if you attempt to make a booking on the Air France website the seat map only allows you to choose a window seat or an aisle seat).

The “Meh”:

  • As in Air France’s other short-haul Business Class cabins, domestic Business Class passengers don’t get any more legroom than Economy Class passengers.
  • As in Air France’s other short-haul Business Class cabins, the domestic Business Class seat isn’t wider, more comfortable or better in any way than the seat in the standard Economy Class cabin….because it’s the same seat.
  • Based on the one picture of the food that Air France has provided, the savory and sweet snacks are hardly worth mentioning.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of having a Business Flex fare and a Business Abonné fare is. The only difference between the two that Air France has highlighted is that the Abonné fare allows passengers to take an earlier or later flight on the day of travel…but if the Business Flex fare allows free changes (as Air France says that it does) it would seem that passengers on the cheaper fare can take earlier or later flights too.

What am I missing?

Bottom Line

Air France often offers good Business Class fares to North America, Asia, Africa and various other parts of the world out of the regions so it’s nice that passengers who book those fares can now have a little bit more comfort when on their flight to Paris.

Having said that, there’s absolutely nothing to get excited about when it comes to the seating or the onboard food and drink, and most of the benefits that come with the new domestic Business Class fares are benefits that connecting Business Class passengers and some Flying Blue elites would get anyway.

The biggest winners (passenger-wise) out of Air France’s decision to introduce domestic Business Class cabins are non-elites traveling domestically (especially the ones who et their fares paid by the corporations they work for).

6 COMMENTS

  1. I would imagine that the difference between the Flex and Abonne fares is that the Flex has no change fees but would charge a difference in fare, whereas the Abonne fares would essentially allow a free same-day change to any flight on the same route that has seats available.

  2. Abonné means subscriber in French so I would expect this will be aimed at people who commute frequently on the same route. There may be a special card you need to buy for that privilege. I could be wrong of course.

  3. Free changes, I assume, only means that the change fee is waived. You’d probably still need to pay difference in fare. Whereas the more expensive abonne fare likely allows you to get on a same day flight for nothing out of pocket.

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