Review: Air France A320 Business Class (MAD-CDG)

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This was my first flight on Air France in years (I’m not even sure I remember the last time I flew with the airline), it was my first flight in Air France’s short-haul Business Class cabin and my first flight in an Air France A320. That’s a lot of “firsts”. Combine those facts with the fact that I’d just flown in to Madrid on an Iberia A320 and you’ll see why I was interested to see what Air France would offer.

Pre-Boarding

I arrived at the gate a little later than I had intended to (I lost track of the time while working in the lounge) so I wasn’t first in line to board and there were already a lot of people at the gate.

Shortly after I got into the priority line one of the gate agents made an announcement reminding passengers of the carry-on allowances and the dimensions that carry-on bags have to adhere to if they’re to be allowed into the cabin.

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We’ve all head these kind of announcements before and they mostly have no effect whatsoever….but in this case the Air France agents were clearly going to make sure that passengers were complying.

I watched as a gate agent pulled passengers out of the Economy Class line, had them measure their bags using the sizer provided at the gate and then, one by one, check the bags that didn’t comply into the hold.

The priority line escaped scrutiny but no one in the Economy Class was spared the sizer if their bags looked even remotely close to being too large. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen non-LCC gate agents being so strict…it was great!

On Board

Once onboard things on the A320 looked very familiar.

The Air France A320 is set out in a 3-3 layout where all six seats are used in Economy Class…..

air-france-a320-economy-class-14Air France A320 Business Class

…and the middle seats are left blocked/unoccupied in Business Class:

air-france-a320-business-class-13Air France A320 Business Class

The seats in row 1 have fixed armrests while those in the other rows have movable armrests.

air-france-a320-business-class-15Air France A320 Business Class

The only amenity in sight were the cushions that were already on the seat when we boarded.

air-france-a320-business-class-17Air France A320 Business Class

SeatGuru claims that Air France offers 32″ of seat pitch and 18″ of seat width in its A320 Business Class cabin…but I’m not sure those figures are accurate.

The seat width could well have been 18″ an there seemed to be plenty of room but I’m not convinced there’s 32″ of seat pitch (leg room) in this cabin.

air-france-a320-business-class-16Air France A320 Business Class

I’ve compared the photo above to similar photos I’ve taken on British Airways’ A320s which have just 30″ of seat pitch and I can’t see too much difference.

air-france-a320-business-class-31 Air France A320 Business Class

That looks closer to 30″ of seat pitch than 32″ to my eye……next time I’ll take my tape measure!

As on this flight I didn’t have a member of cabin crew making up rules and saying that photos were forbidden I carried on looking around to see what was on offer.

The tray table was pretty standard…..

air-france-a320-business-class-18Air France A320 Business Class

….but it did have a cup holder that you don’t often see….

air-france-a320-business-class-21Air France A320 Business Class

…and a small coat hook to one side:

air-france-a320-business-class-25Air France A320 Business Class

That was pretty much it for the seat and the area around it.

All in all the Air France A320 had a pretty standard Business Class cabin (for European airlines).

Boarding was pretty quick (probably because around half the passengers had been told they had to gate check their bags!) but the Purser still had time to come around with drinks and the menu for the short flight to Paris.

air-france-a320-business-class-42Air France A320 Business Class

The one thing that stood out for me right from the beginning was how friendly and polite the Purser was. For most of the flight he was the only crew member working the front cabin (he had help when the food was being served) but he still made time to regularly check that all passengers were ok.

Lunch was served about 2o minutes after we took off……

air-france-a320-business-class-34Air France A320 Business Class

…and while the sandwich was just “ok” (nothing special)….

air-france-a320-business-class-36Air France A320 Business Class

…the desserts and coffee were good and the toffee candy didn’t break my teeth 🙂

air-france-a320-business-class-38Air France A320 Business Class

The flight between Madrid and Paris is scheduled to take around 2 hours but, in reality, we were only in the air for a little over an hour and a half….so it’s not exactly a long journey. Nevertheless the Purser did a great job of refilling drinks and coming around with more coffee/tea on a regular basis and he gave off an air of someone who actually wanted to do a good job.

On top of that, and around 20 minutes before we were due to land, the Purser came up to me and asked if I had a connecting flight (I did) and then checked his iPad to give me my connecting gate information.

The connection wasn’t going to be too tight but I was clearly not going to have time to take things easy at CDG so the Purser then set about making sure I knew exactly where I had to go once the aircraft door opened.

Verdict

The Air France A320 Business Class cabin is no better than you’ll find on a number of other European airlines….but the service I received and the attention the whole cabin was given was better than I’ve seen on a short-haul flight in years.

Clearly this was just one flight so it’s hard to say if this level of service is the norm or if I just got lucky….but it was great to experience.

Nothing makes a flight go better than a cabin crew who appear to want to do their jobs as well as possible and who appear to enjoy helping their passengers have a good flight and a pleasant trip overall. In this instance that’s exactly what I got from Air France and I couldn’t have asked for more.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Air France before I arrived at Madrid airport but, from the check-in agents to the gate agents to the crew on board I found the service to be excellent and it left me wanting more. I don’t say that very often…let alone after a short-haul flight.

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