Air France A380 Business Class

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BACKGROUND

Last month saw the inaugural flight between Paris and Johannesburg of Air France’s second A380. The airline intended to use the A380 on this route three times a week, until this month, when it would be used daily. The A380 would replace the 11 flights per week between Johannesburg and Paris. Johannesburg is Air France’s second destination served by the A380. The first, New York, was launched in November last year.

CHECK-IN

Air France’s self-service check-in is quick and easy, and allows you to choose the seat you prefer, depending on availability. Once I had printed my boarding pass, I merely had to check my luggage in at the counter, which was a smooth process.

THE LOUNGE

My first impression of Air France’s lounge was excellent. It has a very modern and fresh look and feel, and the staff was clearly well prepared for the ‘special guests’ who were invited to experience this auspicious occasion. The food served was nothing special, but perhaps this was because of the meals planned for the flight. One hour free Wi-Fi is available for laptop users, which is slightly inconvenient for those who have longer connections or arrive early for their flights. Free Internet is, however, available in the business centre, equipped with computers. Showers are also available in the lounge.

BOARDING

Considering the number of passengers on this flight, I had reason to be concerned about long queues and delays. However, this was not the case. The system Air France has implemented ensured quick and efficient boarding. There are three bridges used so that first, business and economy passengers can simultaneously board the aircraft. The excitement of this flight was contagious, and most passengers only took their seats moments before the flight was ready to take off.

THE SEAT

The A380 has increased the number of business class seats to 80, located on the Upper Deck. There are rows of six seats, two on each side of the cabin and two in the centre, which eliminates the much-hated middle seat. I was impressed by the comfort of my window seat, and one of its most notable features is the additional side storage compartment where I could fit my camera, laptop, book and any other belongings I might need during the flight. The seat is two metres long, and is almost a lie-flat.

IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

The 15-inch (38cm) video screen is the biggest in the Air France fleet. The touch screen also makes it so much easier to navigate. I was torn between getting some sleep and watching some of the movies and programmes on offer. There is a USB socket for downloading certain content, and passengers can also communicate with others on the forum.

THE FLIGHT

The comfort offered by the A380 and the impeccable service from the cabin crew made it such a pleasure to fly. The flight was smooth and quiet – in fact this was the first time I have ever heard passengers snoring on a flight. The specially prepared menu offered superior quality French cuisine and a variety of beverages. The use of a sophisticated lighting system helps passengers adjust to the different time zones and also creates a relaxing ambience. The aircraft also features a gallery in the front of the Upper Deck where guests can stretch their legs. It features screens which display art, which is supposedly ‘cultural and learning’, but I don’t think this is the main purpose of this space – or at least it didn’t feel like it. There are six bars in total on the aircraft, with two in Affaires. Here drinks and snacks are available throughout the flight. The bars are a lot smaller than one would imagine, and are easy to miss if your eyes aren’t caught by the snazzy little lights behind them.

ARRIVAL

This was a surreal experience that will be hard to forget. As it was the first commercial A380 flight to land at OR Tambo International Airport, the arrival drew a large crowd, all waving and celebrating the landing. The landing was smooth and disembarking took no longer than any other flight. It also took the same amount of time to go through immigration, despite the increased number of passengers.

VERDICT

Air France has set the bar very high for any other airlines planning to use the A380 to South Africa. The flight was enjoyable and memorable for all the right reasons. I would highly recommend this to anyone, especially those who dislike the discomfort of flying. The A380 was definitely worth the wait! 

Contact:

airfrance.co.za

 

Chana Viljoen