Air France La Première is one of those elusive first-class products, extremely hard to book on points or downright expensive, regardless of the route. I’ve had my eye on it for many years (who doesn’t), but it was never a viable option… until an error fare presented itself during the latter part of 2020. So naturally, I booked it, and although Air France kept cancelling my $750 La Premiere ticket to New York, each time, I managed to reinstate it over the phone. This went on for about a year, at which point it looked unlikely I’d ever be able to leave the prison state that was WA. The travel deadline loomed, and in the end, I never got to take the flight.
In this post:
How I booked Air France La Première
Fast forward to a few months ago, I found a rather attractive business class fare out of Sweden to Singapore (via Paris, of course) for just AU$ 2,200 return!
One of the few ways one can sample the exquisite experience that is Air France La Première is by upgrading your business class ticket to first class via a paid cash upgrade. The rules of the game are simple: you need to be ticketed in business (award tickets are fine), and seats in first need to be available. Bang on 36 hours pre-departure, you can then proceed with the online check-in procedure, at which stage the upgrade option is presented to you. That said, as you can see above the upgrade menu also showed an option to upgrade using points for 231,100 Flying Blue miles and I have no status with Flying Blue…
Air France La Première only operates on a handful of routes, and upgrade prices vary. To keep track of costs, you can check out this forum thread on FlyerTalk. For my flight from Paris to Singapore, the price was EUR 1849. It was a steep cost to upgrade, but of course, I had to bite the bullet to see what the fuss was all about!
The only other option to book is to be FlyingBlue Platinum and fork out an outrageous amount of points if award space is released.
Come D-day, I was very much looking forward to what was promising to be a unique travel experience. Since I was departing from Stockholm, it meant I would get the full ground experience Air France offers its guests at the pointy end.
Air France La Première Ground Experience
The Air France La Première ground service is renowned as one of the best (if not THE best) in the world when it comes to first class. It’s safe to say this is 100% accurate, but I digress.
Upon landing in Paris, I could already see the shiny black BMW parked at the bottom of the jet bridge. Even the flight attendants on my short hop to Paris were briefed and informed me in a thick French accent, “You’ll be escorted, Mr Debeer.”
Waiting on the jet bridge was my wonderful host, Christine. “Mr Debeer,” she said, “today I’m your host, and you don’t need to worry about anything. I will take care of you until you’re back on board. Anything you need, just ask, and I’ll make it happen.” After all, my boarding pass and passport were both surrendered into the care of Christine. I don’t even recall seeing a border agent!
While we headed down to the car, I explained to Christine that I needed to get an export stamp for some goods I purchased. In Stockholm, they only had one customs office in a completely different terminal, so I figured the La Première team could probably make it happen.
“No problem,” she said. “Let me make some calls and see what we can do.”
As we drove to the lounge, Christine offered to do a few “laps” of the airport so we could see some more planes. Of course, I obliged.
We got chatting, and Christine explained she’d been with Air France for over 32 years and worked in most aspects of the company on the ground.
Air France First Class Lounge Paris
Arriving at the lounge, we took an elevator up from the tarmac without bumping into a single soul at the often-crowded Charles de Gaulle airport.
While my host went off to inquire about the customs stamp, I settled in for some lunch after purposely skipping the meal on board the inbound flight.
For most of my time in the lounge, I remained the only passenger. Apparently, things are busier in the morning when all the flights to LAX, JFK, and MEX leave Paris.
I started things off with some Spanish jamón, followed by a green pea velouté, and for the main course, I couldn’t go past the roast chicken. Stuffed with olives and served with green asparagus and potato gnocchi.
As it turns out, a whole roasted chicken was wheeled to my table on a cart, after which I could choose the portion of my liking.
Everything was spot on, except for the chicken, which was slightly overcooked — and I feel bad writing this, considering everything else was completely flawless.
The wine list in the lounge certainly isn’t as “blingy” as what you’d find onboard the likes of Emirates, but the Louis Roederer 2016 rosé on offer certainly wasn’t a bad choice, and the waiter also recommended I try the Chateau Trotte Vieille 2011 so for review purposes I tried a glass as well.
While walking around the lounge, I met the spa attendant (yes, of course, there’s a spa in the lounge!) who proactively offered me a 30-minute Sisley Paris facial treatment, and who am I to say no?
The La Première Lounge itself is elegant but certainly won’t win any design awards. The lounge is pretty spacious and has a variety of seating areas, with the dining room being at the centre of it all. There’s a small whiskey bar tucked to the side, and the main dining area has a display of snacks and an elaborate selection of mineral waters which one can sample.
Towards the spa, you’ll find a rest area with lounging chairs and probably the fanciest airport toilets you’ll find, as well as shower suites stocked with Sisley amenities.
Meanwhile, Christine had made some calls and told me I’d have to go out of the airport (since we were already in the international section), but not to worry, she’d walk me out and back in the fast way.
Off we went, skipping every crowded line imaginable, opening lines where no lines previously existed. As if by magic, we were out of the airport in 5-10 minutes (which, if you’re familiar with Paris, is pretty impressive).
On the way back, I got to check out how passengers checking in at CDG would experience the security clearance, which of course, was a breeze.
If only travel could be like this all the time!
We decided that leaving at 8 PM would be suitable as the lighting would be optimal to snap some plane pictures on the way to our Boeing 777-300ER.
Of course, a few extra laps of the airport were in order, this time in a brand-new Porsche. We took the elevator up to the private La Première jet bridge. “This is all yours,” Christine explained, no doubt she meant “You don’t have to share the same walkway as those savages in business.”
Once on board, I was greeted by the cabin manager and the attendant who’d be looking after me for the 12 hours and 50 minutes ride to Singapore.
While Christine went off to personally make sure my luggage was loaded, I settled into my spacious and, dare I say, “chic” first-class seat.
The Air France La Première Cabin
The first-class cabin on Air France consists of 4 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. These aren’t the newest seats (like Singapore Airlines A380, the biggest seats, or the most opulent seats like the Emirates “Game Changer”) in the sky, but something about the interior just feels classy. For privacy, each seat can be partitioned by a semi-translucent curtain, perfect for sleeping. When the curtains are up, it feels like a private cabana. The curtains are kept in place by a clever magnet system which makes it super easy to close them.
Solo travellers will want to select the window seats as there’s no middle curtain which would mean that sharing the middle seat with a stranger would be less than ideal. Luckily, I was the only passenger in first class on this flight, so I had free range over all the seats!
There are small privacy dividers that can be raised between the middle seats, so not all hope is lost there if you want some privacy. Seats are a generous 58cm wide, which offers plenty of comfort for lounging and sleeping via the seat controls.
Air France La Première On Board Dining
When it comes to storage, the crew stored my bags up front while the ottoman in front doubles as a shoe storage box, fittingly finished in red upholstery.
The ottoman itself also doubles as an extra seat and has its own seatbelt, which makes dining together possible with a generously sized table.
While overall, the cabin is rather sleek, it’s definitely on the older side but very well kept — a bit like Japan Airlines’ first-class cabin.
You won’t find any air vents on this B777-300ER, but the crew did come and ask me how I would like the cabin temperature; we all agreed cold would be best!
Sipping my Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2006 vintage Champagne, I perused the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, which seemed responsive and snappy, with plenty of content to consume. Hardwired noise cancelling Denom headphones are provided, alternatively there’s a standard headphone jack if you want to use your own.
At this point, the flight attendant offered me a choice of amenity kits, either red or beige. The kit was the most luxurious I’ve seen in a long time, fully stocked with Sisley products — a welcome amenity considering the poor air quality of a B777-300ER.
As the sun started to set over Paris, we took off in an easterly direction while I settled in for an extensive dining experience.
Since I was the only person onboard La Première, the crew offered to bring out all the starters on the menu. “They are only small,” the attendant explained, but luckily I was here for the full experience.
We started things off with French Sturia caviar paired with vodka and lime whipped cream, followed by some rather delicious white asparagus with ravigote style sauce (it’s a delicacy where I’m from),
duck foie gras, and a hearty leek and potato soup. Pfew!
As if that wasn’t enough, I then sampled the main dish, which was a lamb rack. Still tasty but slightly overcooked — hard to avoid on an aeroplane.
I was then offered cheese but declined and decided to go for something sweet. At the recommendation of the flight attendant, I tried the vanilla-style pastry, which didn’t appear on the menu.
After wining and dining my way through the menu, we had just crossed the Black Sea, and sleep was calling. The crew made up one of the most comfortable aircraft beds I’ve experienced, in the middle seat. Air France makes a point of advertising that it uses “Sofitel bedding” in first class, and I must say the quality did not disappoint. The bed had an extra thick memory foam mattress topper and high-quality linen sheets. In bed mode, the setup stretches to over 2m in light and 77cm in with for unobstructed sleep.
The whole setup came complete with a token red blanket, some chocolates and cookies, as well as a bottle of Evian and a note from the crew, wishing me a good night. Talk about details!
And yes, of course, there were pyjamas! Very nice ones actually, which I plan to keep, but I just find that any airline pyjama that is unwashed is not quite as comfortable, so these days I come prepared with a pair of comfy shorts and a T-shirt.
After a solid 6 hours of sleep, I woke up to find the crew had set up my other seat for breakfast. I had hoped to be wowed by the breakfast experience a bit more, but the options on offer were crepes or scrambled eggs. I opted for the crepes, and while they were completely acceptable, it didn’t feel quite as on-point as the dining experience.
That said, I normally don’t eat breakfast, so it wasn’t a huge loss. On the other hand, what does matter is the coffee and the espresso onboard Air France La Première was absolutely outstanding. With only a solid 40 minutes left of the flight, I got dressed while feeling rested and refreshed.
While most first-class experiences end as soon as you step outside the aircraft doors, this isn’t the case for Air France La Première guests. Even in overseas ports, first-class passengers get escorted from the plane to a buggy and driven to customs. Once through, the ground crew is on hand to pick up your luggage (yes, my bag was first off the belt) before walking you to your preferred mode of transport. Even in its home port of Singapore, Singapore Airlines fails to offer such a service to its first-class passengers!
Air France La Première – In Conclusion
Overall, I thought Air France La Première really hit the mark. Sure, one might argue that their lounge is a bit boring, and the seats in their first-class cabin aren’t all that private and don’t really compete with the likes of Singapore Suites, Emirates, or Etihad. But what Air France excels at is the soft product. Everything was thought out and without a hassle. A personal host literally “babies” you from the ground to the plane in the most frictionless way possible. These are the things that make all the difference. Air France magically managed to eliminate all the stresses that come with a busy modern airport and turned the whole trip into an effortless luxury experience full of genuine service from people who seemed to be passionate about their job. I’m a fan.