Air France has been operating for over 80 years. It is the national carrier for France and a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group, making it one of the world’s largest airlines. It was a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance, which now also includes Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Tarom and Vietnam Airlines.
We used to travel on Air France a lot when working in France in the late 1990s and were happy with both their business and economy fare categories, although we found their customer service to be patchy, depending on the assigned cabin crew.
We return for the first time in five years and this time our test is a return journey from Paris to Munich in economy. We had not remembered to check-in online and had forgotten how confusing Charles de Gaulle Airport can be. We used the self-service kiosks, but had to ask for help as to how these worked. We travel extensively, so not a good sign for others. The gate was crowded, had insufficient seating and no English language newspapers available.
Our Airbus A321 seemed quite new. This was a relief as a colleague flew to the United States with Air France and complained that his seat was so old that it still had an ashtray fitted into the arm rest. No such worries for us. However, our seat felt incredibly narrow, even by short-haul standards. We are considered slim, but still felt uncomfortable. We were glad it was a short flight with no delays.
Having looked at their promotional video on the Air France website, we were expecting a little more Parisian chic to the look and feel of the aircraft and the uniforms of the crew. Both were nice enough, but we felt that it fell short of the marketing promises. The flight attendants on our flight were, for want of a better phrase, very Gallic. Nothing happened quickly and those not used to French customer service may find this frustrating. Some passengers complained of rudeness and there were a lot of sighs and shrugs when requesting additional services. We did not experience this on our flight, although it has been an issue on previous ones. Some of this is down to cultural differences and expectations, and some may be down to poor training. However, we found our crew to be helpful, courteous and engaging. It helps if you speak French, but our overall impression was surprise at the service being better than we remembered.
Food and drink continue to be complimentary in all classes of travel. Once the trolley service was underway, we were reminded that the catering service on Air France remains a superior one. It is one of the only, if not the only, airline that offers champagne to its economy passengers, and the quality of all wines and spirits is high. It also offers a range of digestifs post-dinner in all classes, which is a nice touch. Food on our short hop was just a sandwich, but the bread was good and we enjoyed it.
There is no in-flight entertainment on short-haul flights and no English language newspapers or magazines available on the flight.
We would certainly travel with Air France again and, together with British Airways and Lufthansa, it is one of our top three airlines to travel with in Europe. However, if you are after a more Americanised version of customer service, or are a larger passenger, it may not be the airline for you.Write a Review
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