Before Qantas' partnership with Emirates in 2013, flying to Paris via Singapore on Qantas and Air France was a popular route since you didn't have to connect via London. Now, the revived Qantas-Air France codeshare partnership brings this option back for business travellers heading to the City of Lights.
The agreement allows Qantas passengers to book their combined Qantas and Air France journey on a single ticket, which means through-checked baggage and access to Air France lounges if flying in business class or holding a Qantas Platinum One, Platinum or Gold card.
With a QF flight number on Air France’s Singapore-Paris or Hong Kong-Paris flights, you’ll also be able to earn a full serve of Qantas points and status credits on those Asia-to-Europe legs. Keep in mind though that Air France flights won't be able to be booked using your Qantas frequent flyer points, nor will you be able to request a points-based upgrade on them.
Still, with those extra incentives available it makes an interesting proposition and one that we had to try out. Join Australian Business Traveller as we run you through what you can expect from your flight with Air France from Singapore to Paris on the Boeing 777-300ER in business class.
Air France doesn’t offer a dedicated lounge facility at Singapore, instead sharing a dnata lounge in Changi’s Terminal 1 with a bevy of other airlines.
The lounge itself is well-sized, but because it serves so many airlines and allows paid access to all travellers, it’s usually quite busy and crowded.
There’s a cocktail bar that serves drinks in the evening, which works out well for our AF257 flight departing at 10:35pm.
There’s also the usual assortment of self-serve hot foods and snacks, but nothing that stands out in particular. Working spaces offer charging facilities, and there are also showers available.
If you’ve booked your ticket as a Qantas codeshare flight, we suggest you head to the far superior Qantas Lounge.
Air France flight AF257 runs daily, departing Singapore at 10.35pm to arrive at Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 6am the following day, for a total flight time of around 13 hours. (The return flight on AF256 leaves Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 8.50pm, arriving into Singapore at 3.45pm the following day.)
Air France boards business, premium economy and economy passengers together, with the front entrance strictly reserved for the four potential La Premiere first class passengers. That means that if you like to leave the lounge as late as possible, you could be stuck behind a sizeable line of other passengers.
My flight departs on time and arrives into Paris-Charles De Gaulle around half an hour early, helping to beat some of the Paris rush hour traffic on the way to the hotel.
Air France’s most recent Business Class offering was first rolled out in 2014, but the French airline is still in the process of retrofitting its fleet with the new seats.
The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that shuttles between Singapore and Paris offers Air France's latest business class product, based on the same Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus seat also used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines.
Upon boarding you’ll find a coat hanger with your seat number on it waiting for you, which is promptly collected by the staff if you need to use it.
The cabin itself contrasts dark and light colours, with subtle red and blue accents to match Air France’s branding.
Air France’s leather-bound seats are cocooned in a white shell with plenty of privacy. Delivering a fully flat-bed experience with direct aisle access for every passenger thanks to the 1-2-1 cabin configuration, it’s a well put together seat that rivals the Gulf and Asian offerings.
Each passenger gets a seat-back 16-inch (41cm) high-definition screen partnered with a touchscreen controller, noise-cancelling headphones plus AC and USB ports. The Android-based entertainment system is fast and responsive.
There's also a divider screen if you're in the middle pair of seats and want some privacy from your seatmate.
A fixed side-table is on hand for drinks or snacks...
...while a large tray table folds out from underneath for meal service or if you want to setup your laptop for some work.
You’ll also find an impressive amount of storage in the side compartment:
Plenty of space for my SLR camera, noise-cancelling headphones and tablet, with room for more as well.
A slim storage area for in-flight magazines sits below the AC and USB points.
Simple seat controls are also attached to the side table, allowing you to adjust the seat for your preferred sitting position.
When it’s time for a snooze, the bed is dressed with a comfortable duvet and feather-down pillow. Your feet go into a large compartment, but there’s plenty of room even for a side-sleeper like me who turns from left to right in their sleep.
An amenities kit with products from Clarins is also provided.
Before take-off I'm offered a pre-departure drink, opting for the Deutz Brut Classic Champagne.
The late evening flight is wheels-up at 10:45pm, and soon after the dinner service begins.
I’m offered another drink and some mixed nuts to start off with – I stick with the Deutz Brut Classic Champagne, but there are plenty of other interesting wine options available.
You'll know you’re on an Air France flight when you open up the menu and see the beverages listed ahead of the dining options. There’s also a range of aperitifs and five digestifs, including cognac, armagnac, and chartreuse – clearly the French are serious about their pre and post-dinner drinks. Two options of white and red wine round out the offering
The first course is served within 50 minutes of take-off, and the three dishes provided are light, tasty and fresh.
To start off with I have crab rolls, prawn with a dome of coriander tabbouleh and a green salad, but there’s also a soup option if you prefer. Cheeses and bread accompany the starter.
For mains there are three choices:
- Beef fillet with a thyme sauce, Lyon-style potato, green beans and sautéed eringi mushroom
- Duck breast with Kong-Po sauce, E-Fu noodles, Chinese cabbage and carrots
- Ricotta and spinach ravioli in a pesto sauce
I opt for the beef fillet, which is slightly overcooked but still very tender. The potato and beans are delicious, and overall it’s a good meal.
To finish off there are gourmet cheeses and a selection of desserts available – including the hazelnut and praline cake, raspberry mousse and mini chocolate dome pictured below.
For those wanting to get to sleep quickly, there’s also an express option available that includes the appetiser, cheeses and desserts.
The full meal service is completed in 2 hours, which is incredible considering some airlines can take 3+ hours – but at the same time, it didn’t feel rushed.
If you feel peckish during the 13 hour flight, there’s a self-serve area that’s set up mid-flight, with snacks and drinks on offer.
There's also an additional buffet area with savoury items, desserts and fruits.
Snacks and small meals can also be delivered to your seat anytime after the first meal and 90 minutes before landing, including hot and cold snacks, Asian noodles, sandwiches and desserts.
Around the 8-hour mark I'm hungry again, so I ask one of the staff for a recommendation from the snacks menu - however I was basically told to make up my own mind so I opted for a Nasi Goreng, which was average tasting but filling enough to keep me satisfied.
Before landing at 6AM Paris time, breakfast is also served. There's a range of continental items, and a choice of either an omelette, pancakes or a cold meat platter. The omelette was light, fluffy and delicious – a true reminder that I’m on an Air France flight when so many other airlines seem to struggle with making a good omelette.
Entertainment & Service
The entertainment system offers a large selection of films, television and music – you’ll find the usual Hollywood blockbusters, but also an interesting range of French cinema. I watched the light-hearted French comedy L'enquête Corse, starring Jean Reno, but there was everything from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Game of Thrones available.
Service during the meal is attentive and friendly, but afterwards the stewards seem to disappear. Passengers have to ring the call button, rather than the staff proactively interacting with customers.
While there are a lot of options for getting to Europe from Australia or Singapore, the Air France route offers something different - from the service, to the food and the entertainment, it's a more unique experience than you'd typically get.
At the same time, you don't have to compromise on getting a good night's sleep as the business class product on the Air France 777-300ER is almost on par with what the Asian and Gulf airlines offer.
Our main gripe was with the lounge at Singapore, which didn't quite live up to the rest of the flight experience - and while the business class product itself is highly recommended, service could also be improved on-board.
Sid Raja travelled as a guest of Air France