Air France Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A350-900 (First Impressions)

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Air France has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 aircraft which is set to make its first commercial flight in just 10 days’ time. The new aircraft, the first of 28 Airbus A350’s that Air France expects to integrate into its fleet, will be rolled out to 6 destinations by 2020.

The Air France A350-900

The new Air France A350-900 comes fitted with 324 seats split across three cabins…

  • Business Class – 34 seats
  • Premium Economy – 24 seats
  • Economy Class – 266

…and it looks to be quite densely packed towards the back of the aircraft

Delta’s A350-900s, for example, offer a total of just 306 seats split 32/48/226 across the same cabins, while Cathay Pacific’s A350-900s offer a total of just 280 seats split 38/28/214 across the same cabins.

I suspect there may be a noticeable lack of personal space in the Economy Class cabin.

Speaking of cabins, here’s what the Air France A350’s cabins look like:

Business Class

Air France A350-900 Business Class – Image courtesy of Air France

The cabin offers 34 seats set out in a 1-2-1 layout and giving all passengers direct access to one of the aircraft’s two aisles.

The seats convert into a 78.5″ (200cm) lie-flat bed and come equipped with new 18.5″ touchscreen inflight entertainment screens and, in the case of the center seats, they also come with a center partition for extra privacy.

Air France A350-900 Business Class – Image courtesy of Air France

As is the case with aircraft like the Iberia A350, it looks as if passengers will need to be careful when choosing their seats to ensure that they get the experience they’re hoping for.

Based on what the images Air France has provided show…

  • The center seats in the even-numbered rows are closer together than those in the odd-numbered rows and will, therefore, suit couples better than passengers who aren’t well acquainted (or acquainted at all).
  • The single seats (on either side of the aircraft) in the even-numbered rows are positioned closer to the windows than the seats in the odd-numbered rows and will, therefore, offer more protection from the aisle – these will be the seats to choose if you’re traveling alone or aren’t hung up on sitting next to your traveling companion(s).

Premium Economy

Air France A350-900 Premium Economy – Image courtesy of Air France

Air France says that the 24 seats (arranged in a 2-4-2 layout) in its A350 Premium Economy cabin are brand new “Recliner” seats which are ~19″ wide (48cm) and which offer ~38″ of legroom (96cm) and this is pretty much in line with what you’ll find in most European and US Premium Economy cabins.

it’s the bare minimum a Premium Economy cabin needs to offer.

Premium Economy passengers will be offered pillows and duvets for added comfort and a 13.3″ touchscreen will deliver “over 1,400 hours of entertainment.

It’s hard to tell properly from the images that the airline has provided…but those seats look incredibly thin to my eyes and I’m not sure just how comfortable they’re going to be on long flights (which are the flights this aircraft will be operating).

Clearly it’s too early to pass judgment just yet but it will be interesting to hear and read the first authentic consumer reports when they start coming in – this is definitely something to watch.

Economy Class

Air France A350-900 Economy Class – Image courtesy of Air France

With 266 seats set out in rows of 9, I don’t have particularly high hopes for the Air France A350 Economy Class cabin – that’s a lot of seats compared to what some other major airlines offer in their A350-900s.

Air France says that its Economy Class seat has been “redesigned for even more comfort, with a reinforced ergonomic seat cushion, a 118° seat recline, as well as a 79-cm seat pitch.

OK, well…

Firstly, 79cm is ~31″ so the amount of legroom on offer here is poor (although comparable to a number of other European and US carriers).

Secondly, the seats look very thin and I’m sure that I’m not the only person who reads “reinforced ergonomic seat cushion” and immediately expects that the cushion will be rock hard.

The Air France A350 Economy Class seats come with 11.6″ HD touchscreens but the airline has made no mention of USB ports or power outlets (although I’m sure at least one of those will be provided at each seat).

Air France A350-900 Economy Class – Image courtesy of Air France

Wi-Fi

The Air France A350-900 comes fully equipped with high-speed wi-fi and the airline will be offering 3 separate plans for passenger’s to choose from:

  1. “Message Pass” – This comes free of charge and allows passengers to send and receive messages throughout the flight.
  2. “Surf Pass” – This costs between €3 and €18 and will allow passengers to surf the internet and send/receive emails.
  3. “Stream Pass” – This costs €30 and gives passengers access to high-speed internet, streaming and downloads, as well as all the benefits of the Surf and Message passes.

Air France A350 First Destinations

Image courtesy of Air France

Per Air France:

The Air France Airbus A350 will gradually start operating to 6 destinations on 4 continents starting from October 7:

Abidjan (Ivory Coast):

  • 7 October – 8 December 2019
  • 10 February 2020 onwards for the 2020 summer season

Bamako (Mali):

  • 7 October – 8 December 2019
  • 10 February 2020 onwards for the 2020 summer season

Toronto (Canada):

  • From 27 October 2019 onwards

Cairo (Egypt):

  • From 9 December 2019 onwards

Seoul (South Korea):

  • From 9 December 2019 onwards

Bangkok (Thailand):

No official start date but Air France says the aircraft will operate to Bangkok during its 2020 summer season

Image courtesy of Air France

Bottom Line

I’m a huge fan of the Airbus A350 but while I have no doubt that the Business Class cabin will be very nice and that the service in it will be up to the usual good standard I’ve come to expect from Air France, I can’t help but feel that the Premium Economy and Economy Class cabins aren’t going to be as good as they should be.

I think Air France has squeezed in too many seats and I think that the seats being employed are not going to be comfortable enough to keep passengers happy for flights of over 6 hours.

Yes, clearly I’m just speculating at this point and I may well be proven wrong but I’ll be looking out for the first trip reviews with interest – right now this is not an aircraft I’d be happy booking if I wasn’t booking Business Class.