Encore une fois! The last time my colleague, the Flying Dutchman, told me we probably wouldn’t be returning to Dubai for a while, I figured that would probably not be the case. I hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon though. My last trip to Dubai was only in January 2022. So this is a bit of a déjà vue, really. But then again, Air France’s La Première is always nice for a review.
And so this trip report begins with me stepping off the Roissyval at the terminus station at Terminal 2F. From what I can tell, traffic levels at Charles de Gaulle seem to be recovering nicely from the pandemic, the place is certainly very busy.
I walk from the Roissyval station to Terminal 2E, which is home to the non-Schengen flights for Air France and their SkyTeam partners. The La Première check-in is located at the far end of the terminal. When I arrive, there is only one couple with their cat checking in. Otherwise, the place is deserted. Anne takes my suitcase off me and asks me if I’d like anything to drink. She brings me a cold Perrier while she completes all the necessary check-in formalities. She tells me to take my time with the drink. I should just let her know when I’m ready to go airside. And that more or less sets the tone for my La Première experience.
Getting airside is cumbersome with so many people, so it’s even more convenient to have your own Air France escort to help you briskly bypass all the long queues for immigration and security. She even helps me to take out my laptop and liquids; and to replace everything once we’re through security.
The lounge is very busy. The entrance has been decorated specifically to mark the occasion of the Cannes film festival. There’s even a red carpet laid out in front of the lift as you arrive in the lounge.
Anne asks me what I would like to do first, while I’m in the lounge. I tell her a bit of lunch wouldn’t be bad. So she guides me to one of the single tables and hails for a waiter to attend to me. While we wait, she tells me she can highly recommend the coquillettes jambon et trufes. Only once she has made sure that I have been handed over to the lounge staff does she bid me good bye and wish me a good flight.
As usual, there are traces of the little flying seahorse everywhere. Had I already mentioned how much I like the Air France branding?
Sweet baby Jesus! This dish is just divine. It’s so sumptuous and delicious. It’s small pasta with cooked ham, pieces of cheese and a buttery black truffle sauce. And it really is so, so good!
For dessert I go with the Baba au Rhum, which certainly doesn’t disappoint. First, the waiter brings the bottle of rum.
The Baba is served in this lovely silver dish. The waiter cuts the Baba in half in front of me, drowns it in the rum and then puts a generous dollop of cream on top of it.
And then after the meal I have an espresso.
I then move to the lounge area and read until my driver comes to pick me up to take me to the aircraft.
At 13h00 a friendly young man comes to pick me up. He takes my passport and hand luggage off me and guides me to the lift down to the ground floor. There’s a brief stop for the police to check my vaccine status, and then we’re off. I take a seat in the back of the sleek black BMW and enjoy the view outside.
I’m the first passenger to arrive in La Première. Apparently, all four seats are taken, so I’m quite lucky to have managed to secure 1A – my favourite seat.
The cabin crew welcome me on board, and David comes to introduce himself to me. He’ll be doing the service in La Première. Already at my seat is a tray with Evian and a refreshing towel; a Covid travel kit with one mask, hand sanitizer gel and a sanitizing towel; and the newly designed La Première vanity kit. Slippers and a red blanked are already in the ottoman, and shortly after, the crew bring me the pyjamas in case I want to change.
The crew are friendly and attentive. Eventually we end up stuck on the aircraft for nearly two hours. First, some passengers needed to be offloaded because they didn’t have the correct travel documents, then there appeared to be some hydraulic failure with the breaks, and then we missed our slot. Throughout our wait on the ground, the crew pass through the cabin regularly, topping up drinks and making sure passengers are comfortable. Even the captain comes out of the cockpit several times to keep passengers in the La Première cabin updated about the flight’s status.
The meal service is just one of the many highlights of any journey in La Première, and this flight is no exception.
After our first hour on the ground, the crew serve the appetizer to pass the time. With the caviar there’s also a small ramekin of warm cashews and berries.
Appetizer: Caviar quenelle with a lime and vodka whipped cream.
Eventually we take off with a delay of two hours. We depart to the West, flying straight past Le Bourget and the city of Paris to our left.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew spring into action and start setting my table for a late lunch.
Soup: Chilled cucumber soup with aniseed and fresh goat’s cheese.
This is excellent and very refreshing. The combination of the goat’s cheese with the cucumber goes very well together to create a nicely balanced taste.
Starter: Honey and ponzu langoustines with celeriac salad, green apple and wasabi jelly.
I just love the presentation of this dish. The langoustines are flavourful and chunky, and the wasabi jelly gives the dish a nice hint of spice.
Main course: Rolled filets of sole with a tomato and verbena jus, served on Swiss chard ravioles.
This is another excellent dish. It is served with the sauce on the side and the taste is truly magnificent. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow Air France always manage to not completely ruin the taste of fish on a plane. The rolls are chewy and moist.
Salad: To conclude the first part of the meal, I have a salad of mixed leaves with smoked salmon and asparagus. The photo was taken during a brief moment of turbulence, hence the blur…
By this time, we’re already cruising over the Eastern Mediterranean, and the views are spectacular.
Cheese: Camembert, Cantal, Bleu d’Auvergne, Maroilles, and Crottin de Chavignoles. What can I say, French cheese…
Dessert: Blackcurrant and violet fresh cheese finger on a fine biscuit layer.
By the time dessert comes around, I’m already quite full. David laughs when I tell him so, but confess that my curiosity is compelling me to have something just the same. So eventually, he suggests I just try the blackcurrant cheesecake finger. And I really must say it is very good. The taste of cassis is exquisite and delicate and the biscuit is buttery rich.
To end the meal, I have some mint tea, which is served with a small box of three chocolates from the Maison du Chocolat. But I’ll save those for later.
David makes up my bed for the remainder of the flight. The meal service takes about two hours, so there are still four hours to go to Dubai. He asks me if he should wake me for the pre-arrival snack, but I tell him there’s no way I could eat anything more. Except maybe for that small box of chocolates…
The bedding is comfortable. A memory foam mattress is put on top of the seat to make it more comfortable. It looks a lot nicer when I return to my seat after David has finished making up the bed. But I sit down before I remember to take a picutre. My apologies!
We land in Dubai with two hours delay. It’s gone midnight. The airport is quiet, as many operators have moved their service to the new airport temporarily while the second runway is resurfaced. A rep from Merhaba ground services is there to pick up the La Première passengers. As we step off the plane, the cabin crew point out our names to the agent, who then escorts us to the train and then, once we reach the main terminal, to the dedicated Merhaba immigration counter.
And that ends yet another epic Air France La Première experience. What impresses me most about Air France is the consistency of their service delivery. Sometimes, you have a great experience on a flight. But then the next time you try it, you find it significantly diminished in comparisson to what your memory suggested. But that is not the case here. Whether its their service on the ground or in the air, Air France is reliably consistent. As far as I can tell, currently their’s is the best First Class product currently available on the market. And in a month’s time I’ll have the chance to test that theory ‘scientifically’.