Date: January 2019
Origin: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2E
Destination: Singapore Changi, Terminal 1
Seat: 1A – window on the port side
Flight time: 12 hours 10 minutes
TRANSFER IN CDG 2
The driver takes me to Terminal 2E, which is where the First Class lounge is located. He explains that afterwards, he’ll also be escorting me to the aircraft when the time comes.
Along the way, the driver chats pleasantly about this and that. Funnily enough, his curiosity gets the better of him and he cannot help but ask how my experience so far compares to the First Class product of other carriers.
LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
Once we arrive at the terminal, he takes my passport and boarding pass and tells me he’ll return them once the police have checked them. After that, he leads me upstairs and gives me a brief explanation of where everything is in the lounge.
There are a few passengers in the lounge, but I would not go so far as to say it’s crowded. Quite the contrary. The lounge is large and the way it is laid out, there is plenty of room for passengers to disperse.
The lounge is well equipped with everything the travel-weary passenger may seek or desire to relax and revive from the labours of modern air travel. There are large showers with toiletries, a dedicated dining area, a relaxation area and a small spa.
But apart from all that, the lounge is very elegantly appointed and both the facility and the staff have a lot of style about them. The lounge is not flashy, but it’s definitely comfortable.
Around forty minutes before departure, my driver comes to pick me up and drive me to the waiting aircraft. Theoretically, I could have walked. But to be honest, I figured that if we took the car, that might give me a better chance of taking a picture of the aircraft carrying me to Singapore tonight.
As I step aboard the plane, the driver welcomes me aboard and introduces me to the First Class flight attendant, who is already expecting me. The driver then bids me good bye and wishes me a pleasant journey.
I then make the right turn into the cabin and I’m really speechless. Of course, I’d already seen pictures of the new First Class cabin, but seeing it for real is something else. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the design of Air France’s First Class cabin, both in terms of the comfort and functionality of the seat, but also with regard to branding.
The little seahorse, Air France’s trademark, is omnipresent in the cabin. You will find it on the lamp, pillows, pyjamas, slippers, etc.
But I think what surprises me the most, is the mint condition of the cabin. Either this is a fairly new aircraft, or Air France just takes excellent care of its fleet.
In the take-off and landing position, the seat doesn’t offer much privacy. However, there is a screen that can be raised around the back and side of the seat. In addition, there are curtains that can be drawn and which provide a lot of privacy and darkness.
The seat has an ottoman, which could also be used for a second passenger to join for the meal, for example. Below the ottoman is enough storage space for a large laptop bag, the slippers and a blanket.
In the sum of all thing, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience the First Class product of quite a few of the world’s leading airlines. But the Air France hardware is definitely my new favourite.
The First Class cabin is served by a very charming and very professional middle-aged lady. I really cannot express how good she is at her job. I know it probably sounds like a horrible stereotype to say this, but she’s just so very French in the best possible way. Her manners are impeccable and her attention to detail is flawless. For example, it strikes me during the meal service that whenever she brings a new dish, she always makes sure the seahorse logo on the crockery is the right way up. I know this may sound like a small and unimportant thing, but I still think it’s a nice feature that enhances the First Class experience.
While we’re still on the ground, the crew bring me my pyjamas and a vanity kit and check to make sure I’m comfortably settled in my seat for the next twelve hours. With that out of the way, I am offered and subsequently brought a glass of the Krug Champagne and a small ramekin of mixed nuts and dried fruit. The menus are not handed out until after take-off.
The amenity kit contains the usual collection of mostly useless items. There is no toothbrush or toothpaste in the kit, but these are available in the lavatory, where there is also mouthwash.
The pyjamas come in a nice felt folder. They have a nice, comfortable cut. The cabin crew will ask you what size you would prefer. I’m 184 cm tall and the size L fits me perfectly.
Slippers are also provided and can be found in the drawer underneath the ottoman.
The meal service is definitely one of the highlights of the Air France First Class experience. The table is set up nicely, with a choice of either balsamic olive oil or tomato infused olive oil and a choice of both salted and unsalted butter. Throughout the meal, the crew replenish the bread and drinks. For each dish, a new set of cutlery is provided.
And I must say, in terms of the quantity and quality of the food, it’s excellent:
Caviar with a crêpe and sturgeon cream.
Cream of chicory soup.
Made to order – it contains chicory, mushrooms, smoked haddock and beets.
Pan-fried scallops with potato rose and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Chicken breast glazed in a rare pepper and citrus honey, with caramelised pineapple and mango and vegetable sticks.
Selection of gourmet cheese
Beaufort, Pérail and Langres.
Blueberry tarte by Lenôtre, served with two scoops of gingerbread sorbet.
I stick to Perrier with the meal, and for dessert I have a mint tea, which is served with a box Michel Cluizel chocolates.
The meal is excellent, and with every new dish that she brings out, the flight attendant makes a point of explaining to me what I’m eating and what the dish includes. By the time the service finishes, I’m totally full and completely and utterly impressed. I think, if I compare this service to the Garuda First Class experience for example, the Air France service just seems a lot more polished. Furthermore, because all the dishes have a very European or French touch, the crew just come across as being very authentic in their explanations of what the food is.
I actually manage to get about five hours of sleep. When I wake up, we’re still about three hours out of Singapore. As soon as the flight attendant notices I’m awake, she comes to ask me if there’s anything I need. So I request a cup of coffee and ask her to remove the bedclothes while I change back into my clothes.
About two hours out of Singapore, I decide it’s time for breakfast, which the flight attendant thinks is a brilliant idea.
The breakfast is quite extensive, and all the dishes are brought more or less at once, instead of having them served as different courses. My breakfast consists of
Coffee and orange juice
A small bowl of grapefruit and orange.
Served with granola.
A selection of pastries and bread
I have a small bun and a brioche, served with butter and jam.
Choice of hot dish
I go with the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and a mushroom sauce.
Everything tastes excellent and the presentation of the hot meal, which is served with the lid still on the dish, is just so elegant.
Once the meal is over, the flight attendant clears my table and we have a nice little chat about flying and travelling until it’s time for her to start preparing the First Class cabin for landing.
We land at 16h30 local time, five minutes ahead of schedule. It’s either just been raining or it’s just really very humid outside because the ground is wet.
Air France serves Terminal 1 at Singapore Changi airport. The doors open, and there’s already a young lady expecting me to guide me through immigration. The flight attendant bids me good bye and hands me over to the ground crew. And with that, my La Première experience comes to an end.
To get into town, I will be taking the MRT. The MRT departs from Terminal 2, so I first need to take the Skytrain from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. The Skytrain is a complimentary service.
Purchasing a ticket for the MRT is not as straightforward as one might assume in Singapore. A single ticket into town will cost you SGD2.80. However, you can only purchase a single ticket if you buy it at the machine and only if you pay in cash. If you’re not paying in cash, you need to go to the counter, but there you can’t only purchase a single ticket. So instead, I buy a two-days card for SGD10 plus SGD16. The SGD10 are a deposit that is refunded when you bring the card back…
Only the green line runs into town from the airport. At the second stop, which is Tanah Merah, passengers alight and connect to another green line train heading into the city from the opposite platform.
This experience with Air France’s La Première has impressed me. First of all, I think the overall quality of the product is very high and also very consistent. From the car they sent to pick me up in Winterthur, to the very elegant experience in the lounge in Paris and the beautifully appointed cabin and amenities aboard the aircraft, clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design of the product. Not only of the cabin and seat, but also of the ancillary products.
I think Air France’s interpretation of the First Class seat with the curtain is brilliant – because it offers a level of privacy that most other carriers simply cannot match. Even with Garuda for example, where you have a fully enclosed suite, you are not completely concealed from view because the doors of the suite do not reach all the way to the ceiling.
I also just love the branding of the First Class product with the little seahorse, which is omnipresent in the lounge and in the cabin and promotes this sense of consistency of the experience and in the product.
And finally, there is the professionalism of the staff, who have all clearly been trained well for their roles working with the First Class product. The maître de on the flight from Zürich to Paris went out of her way to provide as much of a First Class experience, even on a short sector of 50 minutes. Then the driver, who managed to make pleasant conversation but without being either tedious or prying and who had excellent manners.
And finally, last but certainly not least, there is the fabulous, splendid and simply formidable flight attendant working the First Class cabin. I think she did a really outstanding job. I know I already mentioned this above, but her attention to detail and the fact that she made sure the seahorse logo was always the right way up says everything about her work ethics and the service standard she delivered.
It’s difficult to say from memory which First Class product I’ve enjoyed the most over the years. One thing’s for sure though, of the four European carriers that still offer a First Class product, to my mind Air France’s is definitely the best one.