When jetting about Europe with Air France, there’s a good chance you’ll step aboard one of the airline’s many Airbus A320 aircraft, fitted with both a business class cabin and economy seating further back.
But as is de rigueur in Europe, merely having a business class cabin doesn’t mean an airline actually has business class seats, as Australian Business Traveller highlights in this review of a recent Air France Airbus A320 business class flight from Venice to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.
- Frequent flyer program: Air France Flying Blue, but you can opt to earn miles and status in any SkyTeam scheme including Alitalia Millemiglia and Delta SkyMiles – which provide Virgin Australia lounge access to top-tier flyers – or in programs closer to home such as Korean Air Skypass and GarudaMiles.
- Priority check-in, security clearance, boarding, baggage delivery: Yes to all – keep your eyes peeled for the SkyPriority signage at the airport.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags (64kg), plus a further 32kg bag for SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus frequent flyers.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags plus one accessory (such as a camera carried separately) at a combined total weight of up to 18kg.
At Venice’s Marco Polo Airport, the newly-opened Casa Alitalia lounge awaits for Air France business class guests and other eligible frequent flyers, tucked away on the second floor of the terminal and down a small corridor:
Once inside, you’ll find tarmac views and natural light joined by alcoholic drinks throughout the day, machine-made espresso coffee, a selection of pastries, snacks and light bites and an overall vibe that’s homelier than your typical airport space.
(In Italian, ‘casa’ means ‘house’ or ‘home’, keeping this lounge befitting its name.)
Wireless Internet is also available at the click of a button, while AC power outlets help keep your gadgets recharged. Just remember to pack your European power adaptor as international-style power ports aren’t found here, nor are USB jacks.
Take your seat and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been downgraded to economy, but as with most airlines across Europe, business class on short Air France flights sees passengers assigned to what would otherwise be economy seats: just with an empty middle seat in each group and a curtain behind.
That vacant seat provides extra elbow room at meal times and can be a great place to rest your reading material, handbag or laptop when not in use – except during take-off and landing, of course – although Air France doesn’t provide a cocktail table here: it’s quite literally just an empty seat:
Legroom and knee space are also more akin to economy than business class, so keep your fingers crossed that the passenger in front doesn’t recline:
Further above, a standard tray table complete with what would be a handy beverage holder…
… but when put to the test, proves far too wide for the Champagne glasses served in business class:
(Further cementing its position as an economy seat, we tested the same with a coffee cup from the economy cabin and found it to fit perfectly.)
More functional are hooks for your jacket or coat, which you’d be smart to hang in the space between passengers to preserve the little legroom you have.
Just be aware that if the passenger in the window seat needs to access the aisle, this is only possible by unhooking any coats in the same row.
AC and USB power isn’t available here, so be sure to recharge in the lounge before your flight.
Here begins the actual inflight business class experience, with comprehensive meals served appropriate to the time of day and the length of your flight – a significant difference to the snacks offered further back in economy.
On our journey, that saw a full meal tray delivered with fruit and a financier cake on the side, a main plate with a smoked salmon spread and a hummus blini, a plum-flavoured Sabayon above, a cheese-infused bread bite, chocolates, and beverages of your choosing with the expected tea and coffee available, along with Champagne Palmer (NV):
There’s also a printed menu in both English in French, just in case you lose track:
Entertainment & Service
Back to the economy-like experience: your inflight entertainment choices are whatever you’ve brought with you as there are no inflight entertainment screens, nor is any content available via a wireless streaming service as is typical in Australia.
Cabin crew on today’s flight are friendly without being overly so and deliver meals and beverages promptly. There’s no drama if you can’t speak French, as many inflight announcements are repeated in English: a language usually understood when ordering refreshments also.
Overall, the business class experience on Air France’s shorter flights certainly doesn’t rival what you’d find on longer routes, but for a two-hour hop, it’s a still pleasant way to fly: especially so if you can nab a discounted upgrade from a less-pricey economy fare.
Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense, purchasing a business class upgrade for €89 during online check-in.