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Sometimes it can be quite amazing what a difference an aircraft swap can make and a recent change of heart by Air France is a great example of how an airline’s decision on which aircraft to use can make a significant difference (both positive and negative) to its offering on any given route.
When Air France first published its summer 2020 schedules earlier this year we discovered two things:
- The airline would gradually increase service between Paris CDG and San Francisco from the beginning of May 2020.
- The airline would be operating the first of its two daily flights between Paris CDG and San Francisco using an Airbus A380.
Now things have changed.
Air France will still increase the number of flights it offers to San Franciso as planned but it no longer plans to operate an Airbus A380 on this route – a Boeing 777-300ER is set to take its place.
How frequent flyers on this route will view this news will depend on what cabins they like to book and if they’re booking with cash or with miles. For some, this news will be music to the ears while for others this will be viewed as a serious downgrade.
Air France A380 vs Air France 777-300ER
The Air France A380 is a strange beast because although it features a four-cabin layout with noticeably large First Class, Business Class, and Premium Economy cabins, it is also home to somewhat outdated seats.
The ‘La Premiere’ First Class cabin is perfectly comfortable but by modern First Class standards it lags quite a long way behind other premium airlines – the seats lack privacy, the seat controls and IFE controls are antiquated, the seats themselves are now showing their age and the beige decor is more reminiscent of a bandaid than a premium cabin.
The Business Class cabin is an abomination. The seats are set out in a 2-2-2 formation and don’t recline to a true lie-flat position (these are angle-flat seats from the first decade of the beginning of the millennium).
When it comes to the Air France 777-300ER which will operate on the San Francisco route, the ‘La Premiere’ seats are a significant upgrade on the First Class seats in the A380 and the Business Class seats in the 777 are so much better then what the A380 offers that you may struggle to believe that both are offered by the same airline.
Air France 777 Business Class – Image courtesy of Air FranceFor First Class flyers the 777 is a noticeable upgrade on the A380 while for Business Class flyers the swap from an Air France A380 to an Air France 777-300ER will be a massive improvement (I loved the 777 Business Class experience when I flew it a couple of years ago)….but all of this comes at a cost.
Cost 1 – Cabin Size
The premium cabins in the 777 are noticeably smaller than those in the A380:
- First Class: 9 seats vs 4 seats (A380/777)
- Business Class: 80 seats vs 58 seats
- Premium Economy: 38 seats vs 28 seats
For travelers who book their flights with miles and who are more interested in being able to find award space than in having the best seats the airline offers, these smaller cabins may cause an issue – award space will probably now be a little harder to find…at least at the lower end of the cost spectrum.
Cost 2 – Economy Class Seating
The Economy Class seats in the A380 are 0.5″ wider than the comparable seats in the Air France 777 and while that may not seem like much, on a 10+ hour transatlantic flight every little bit of extra room can make a difference and the 17″ seats will feel tight. Very tight.
Overall, the change from an Air France A380 to an Air France A777 will be a net positive for most premium cabin flyers as the seating in First and Business Class is greatly improved and the addition of a third flight in May (which goes daily in July) should help with award availability.
For Premium Economy flyers not much will change (except that it may be a little harder to find low-cost awards) while Economy Class flyers get a net negative with this move – there are no real improvements anywhere but there will be a little less seat width throughout the cabin.