A Family Adventure in Paris – Part 2 – Air France Business Class (777)

Having agreed to go and established the week that we wanted to travel, I set out to find business class award seats to Paris.  Air France now offers A380 service between JFK and CDG (among other aircraft types).  Thanks perhaps to the size of the business class cabin on these big birds, I find routes with 380 service often have far better business class award availability.

Indeed, we were able to find four seats in business each way on non-stops, in low miles awards, for exactly the days we wanted to travel.  We even had a choice of non-stop flights in one direction!  I redeemed 400,000 Delta SkyMiles for the tickets (4x100,000).  While many lament the value of SkyMiles, I’ve been able to get significant value out of them repeatedly.  The price that Air France was charging for business seats was approximately $5,800 at our time of booking, placing the value of our redemption at roughly 5.5 cents per mile (once the small allowance for taxes is factored in).  Considering how easy it is to accrue Delta miles, valuations like these do make me scratch my head when I hear people put them down.  Such divergent views are what makes a market.

Air France operates from Terminal 1 at JFK.  Check in was smooth and prompt, as was security.  Traveling with kids, we were directed to the single lane without the body scanners.

Though still relatively new, the airport – and particularly the lounges – are starting to show their age.  Though the furniture is a bit threadbare, AF still runs a decent lounge by US standards.  Hot soup, very tasty rolls, meats, cheeses and other treats were available.

Air France Lounge at JFK / T1

Our flight to Paris was on a 777.  AF’s business class uses angled lie-flat seats.  While they’re not my favorite, and I find it leads to a cramped cabin feel, I prefer these seats to the staggered lie-flats with the small foot-wells (a la DL).

We got the customary looks from other passengers as our family took our seats in the business cabin.  Those nasty/worrisome looks were for naught, as our kids slept almost the entire flight.

The flight attendant serving our area of the plane was particularly attentive to the children, and several times came by to offer if there was anything special that we needed, even before we left the gate.  We had dinner before we set out to the airport, so we all declined the evening meal service.  I did make arrangements with the flight attendant for breakfast before arrival.

Within about 10 minutes of takeoff, all of our seats were fully reclined and the kids and my wife were sound asleep.  I, too fell asleep, and slept till the coast of England.

Slept the entire way!

Breakfast was very pleasant, with some chopped fruit, a small chocolate croissant and yogurt.  A hot meal was not offered, though I find their rich continental breakfast quite satisfying.

Small but satisfying breakfast

We unfortunately ended up at a remote stand at CDG, so ended up needed to take a bus.  Prior to letting us out, they escorted the three passengers who were in first class off of the plane and into a small van.

The queue for immigration for foreigners was fairly long, and only served by two agents.  There was a queue labeled “Access 1,” but I wasn’t sure if we’d be eligible and there was no posted eligibility criteria.  I learned on the way home that we could have used that channel, which would have avoided a decent wait.  Air France should inform its business (and first) class customers that they can use this priority channel.

I arranged a small van through Carey Limousine to take us to the hotel.  This was expensive (when compared to the private van we took on the way back to the airport), but I didn’t want any uncertainty regarding our ground transportation upon arrival.

I was aware that there is an Air France bus that operates non-stop service from CDG literally to the front door of my hotel (there is an AF ticket office in the building across the street).  I didn’t want to fuss with a bus, either, upon arrival.

While certainly nothing over the top, we (a) had four seats together in business class on a non-stop flight to our destination, (b) slept nearly all the way and (c) were well looked after by the cabin staff.  For a points traveler heading out and about with kids in tow, this is about as good as we could reasonably ask for.