One of the main reasons I flew to Dublin solo was that I had a mess of Delta Air miles to use. Enough for one round trip ticket, but not enough for two. I flew free and Eric stayed in KL. I was able to use those Delta miles on an Air France flight.
I have not flown Air France since 1999. I had no idea what to expect flying Air France, but assumed it had to be better than most American airlines. And, a few interesting things happened to me on the flights. It is possible that they seemed interesting because I was flying solo, and any interaction with another human being during the trip seemed noteworthy to me. Or, I just want to convince myself that I can be interestng even without the husband in tow.
Air France Economy to Paris
I scored a bulkhead seat by checking in online before the flight, but it was so empty I promptly gave it up for an entire row of three seats all to myself. I figured with my sinus infection and the compressed nerve in my back (due to too many crazy backbends) it was worth it. Even without the extra two seats, the economy class seats on the 777 were comfortable, with a decent amount of leg room. After years with United, this was refreshing.
When dinner came, I declined the free booze, considering how I felt. But, by the time they got to my row they only had the fish left. Nothing else. I have seen Airplane! one too many times and have learned to not trust fish on airplanes. Something about it sitting around for too long, and it always smells fishy. I pleaded with the French flight attendant – is there anything else? I informed her I eat everything, except for airplane fish.
She took pity, and made me a deal. If she could find something else for me to eat, would I mind filling out a review card to inform Air France about how nasty the fish onboard was. I agreed, telling her that I am travel blogger anyway. She worked some magic and scored me one left over chicken dish from first class. I fell in love with her immediately. I filled out my form, gave it to her, and went to bed. I slept for a good 8 hours of the 13 hour flight, probably better than any other coach experience. Thus far, I had been happy with Air France, even with the food selection snafu.
Air France Business Class to Singapore
As I mentioned before, when I was trying to leave Dublin two days early, I called Delta to see about changing my ticket. At first it seemed pretty impossible, with no coach seats available. But, they managed to find me a business class seat for that night. I did not get my hopes up as I assumed the last minute change would cost me a fortune. But, Linda, the agent, helped me to make the switch for 20,000 miles and $150. She waited patiently on the telephone while I bought an additional 8,000 miles, costing $280.
Linda took pity for me because I told her I was sick. She could tell from my voice, and the coughing. She took sympathy and waived the $150 change fee. That meant my one way business class ticket cost me $280. Well spent money indeed. Linda thought it would be a good idea for me to get a little pampered in the business class cabin. I agreed. Thus far I had been thrilled with Air France’s service.
The Air France lounge in Paris was pleasant enough, with plenty of champagne and cheese, both of which I enjoyed despite my illness. I had been taking some sort of Irish decongestant to avoid sinus pressure in the air. It made me drowsy, but I did not care. I had a five hour layover, and made the most of it. At one point, Air France lounge staff came around with trays of champagne, orange juice, and fresh fruit. I realized I was too tired to drink any more champagne. What was wrong with me?
Three for three, I was entirely pleased with each of these experiences. Economy to Paris, changing my ticket, and the Air France lounge in Paris.
Then, I boarded the slightly older 777, and took my bulkhead business class seat. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. A disappointing amenity kit, a disappointing selection of amenities in the restroom, and a disappointing seat. The bulkhead seat did not have any room for even a tiny bit of storage, other than two spots in the side of the seat, which promptly became blocked when I moved my seat.
I was expecting phenomenal service, after the bar had been set during my economy experience heading west. And, one again, I was disappointed. The flight attendants were not rude, they just were not friendly. They seemed annoyed at having to serve me. Maybe it was because they felt I did not “belong” with the other business class customers, all blowing my nose and stuff. One woman was thoroughly annoyed when I asked her for a hot tea, with my scratchy voice filled with phlegm.
The meal was also, unfortunately, disappointing. The first course was served: a cold slice of fois gras, with a cold salmon timbale. Perhaps my palate was not as sophisticated as I thought, or was it just strange cuisine in the air.
The choices for dinner included a pan-seared tenderloin of beef, a lightly spiced sautéed chicken, a risotto with cepe mushrooms, and a shrimp dish. By the time they got to my row of business class, they had run out of meal selections. Again. So, I was stuck with the palatable, but strange looking shrimp, orange, and potato – the dish was almost fluorescent in its shade of orange and green. It was created by some fancy French chef, with some fancy French name, who has apparently won some fancy French food awards. Maybe I am not fancy enough to appreciate the extreme balsamic vinegar taste. At least it wasn’t a stinky airplane fish. I enjoyed the selection of cheese and the trio of desserts along with a freshly brewed illy espresso.
I managed to get some sleep, watched a movie, and everything was fine. I wrote. I read. I blew my nose about a hundred times. When it came time for breakfast, again they were out of the other choices. I am not entirely sure why they even gave us a menu if there were no choices. The breakfast was decent, and probably the one I would have picked anyway – a Moroccan-style pear pie with caramel, berry compote, and baby pear. It was tasty, but still annoying that there was no choice.
So, Air France, one for two on service experience. Perhaps those economy flight attendants should be working business class. And zero for three on meal choices. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate the number of each entree. Regardless, I was happy to be home.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.