I think I’ve now done it, yes I’ve ticked the box for flying long haul in every class of air travel. My feat was completed when I flew Premium Economy with Air France from Paris to Santiago. Wow, nearly 14 hours of flying to find out how comfortable this experience really is. Here is my Air France Premium Economy review.
Air France Premium Economy Review
I’d had experiences of Premium Economy before but they had always been short haul. Maybe a 1-2 hour flight around Europe or Asia but nothing to classify as an overnighter like this.
Approaching the flight I was kind of intrigued, excited and fearful. As someone who flies most months I’ve become accustomed to each form of air travel. I’ve been privileged to fly Business Class for many long haul trips.
In the earlier years of travels (between 2000 and 2001) I had a lot of experience of long haul travel in economy class. Whilst my memories had faded a little they had not faded enough. In recent years I’ve still had the occasional experience.
Now with an air ticket closer in price to a Business Class than economy ticket I wanted to know how “premium” this AirFrance Premium Economy was going to be.
Prior to checking in online I researched via seat guru which seats were recommended as the best seats in the cabin for my flight. Row 14 kept popping up as having the best seats. I’d been pre-allocated to row 16. Each time I logged into the Air France website row 14 was not available. So I had to make do with row 16. I was happy to keep my window seat as that is my preferred option for long haul.
The boarding process at Paris Charles De Gaulle was certainly crowded. This was a big aircraft with hundreds of passengers. Thankfully due to my frequent flyer status I was able to join the Sky Priority lane and board first with the Business Class and First Class customers.
Arriving at my seat I was able to see the seat layout as it really is. The layout appeared to be a 2-4-2 format. This is as opposed to the 3-4-3 on economy so it was an immediate plus.
I’m glad I wasn’t stuck in the middle of the row of 4 section!
The passenger in the seat beside mine was already in situ so we had to lead a merry dance so I could sit down.
First impression was that we were okay in the overhead storage bins for luggage space. It was apparent though that the aisle way was particularly narrow. Something I experienced again in the squeeze to walk my way down to the toilet.
The seat was admittedly reasonable in width. I could sit comfortable without the squeeze of armrests against my hips.
Premium economy with Air France provided me with foot room which was more than adequate for my size. There was even a tow bar like footrest you could lever up and down. Once I tried to sleep I actually found this footrest off putting so I folded it away.
The recline of the seat although more than economy was in my mind not fantastic. There was no seating immediately behind me in the cabin area yet I felt more thrown upright than inclined. Air France Premium Economy seats have 2 control buttons on the arm rest. One seems to be for the back rest and the other was more related to the seat incline. Rather than leaning all the way back, the seat from underneath you slid forward a few inches. This was effectively sliding into all that lovely leg room I had.
The headrest was movable yet I would have preferred more height if I’m honest.
I was on a late Air France flight, close to midnight when we took off. So I was going to try to sleep virtually straight away if I could. As a result I didn’t see what meal was served but I heard the customary “chicken” mentioned in conversation around me. On my return flight I discovered that there was a chicken with rice dish or a pasta dish with tomato sauce. I opted for the chicken with rice dish which was relatively tasty. It was also a relief that the chicken in premium economy with Air France was not too dry or cold.
Prior to dinner a snack was also served of light bites and a drink.
Trying to sleep was always going to be a test for me to see if Premium Economy is a worthwhile cost.
First off I appreciate having some comfort over my elbows. Even flying Business Class with some airlines can leave you feeling hemmed in with arm rests pushing against your elbows. Not here.
The width of the seat did make it difficult to turn on your side, so resting on my left side (a natural sleeping position for me) wasn’t really going to happen.
I was also experimenting with my new J-Pillow as well as the provided airline pillow. Neither truly gave me the full comfort I craved although this was more to do with seat incline. Admittedly though the J-Pillow did help me to avoid neck ache which is a massive plus.
I found the seat back to be very firm. It was like it was curving into my back a little as opposed to my body sinking into the seat.
Something else I noticed was also an influencer on sleep. Overhead there were the usual reading lights but none of these twisting air filters. At first I found the cabin very warm and stuffy. Always guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable. This continued for maybe an hour into the flight.
Eventually I did managed to get to sleep. It was patchy but then again my sleeping patterns on planes often are.
We hit some spells of turbulence so that was never going to be helpful.
What are the features of a seat in Premium Economy with Air France
As described the seat has reasonable width and a little bit more incline than an economy class seat.
There was a touch screen TV in front of me which appeared to have the full and extensive range of films and entertainment you’d find in Business Class. This was accompanied with the Air France branded noise cancelling headphones. These were actually Sennheiser so not quite as exclusive as the Bose headphones I used during my Air France First Class Review. (If nothing else this is good for drowning out the annoying habits of fellow passengers.)
Located directly underneath the TV screen was the foldable tray table. This actually doubled out to provide a fairly reasonable work space. Perfect for my Macbook Air as I type this sentence.
Computer users and other electronic devices are well served as there are power point sockets to the side of the seat. I was also grateful that unlike a lot of airlines, these sockets also allow UK 3 pin plugs to connect directly without an adaptor.
At the end of the flight we were even given a passing gift, a little tube of goodies. Thanks for flying Air France Premium Economy. Well it is not quite the box of chocolates I received in First Class but the gesture is appreciated.
The question you are all asking
Yes probably the most important thing to consider when you are sat in a window seat:- how easy is it to get out of your seat and go to the toilet? Well if truth be told not very easy.
When I first sensed the call of nature the passenger beside me was asleep. I wasn’t in a rush so I could wait anyway. I did assess the route out to the aisle and to be honest there wasn’t one.
Once the passenger awoke I politely gestured that I needed to go. It actually took a little bit of time for him to get out of his seat and I out of mine. Then the narrow aisle way made it tricky to manoeuvre down. Probably a good idea not to drink too much on this flight!
What to see more of Air France Premium Economy?
Of course you do! Just spend a few minutes and watch my snazzy (and slightly humourous) review video here:-
Final impressions of Air France Premium Economy
My experience of Air France Premium Economy was certainly a long haul trial experience, nearly 14 hours each way. I found the seat to be of benefit with sufficient elbow room and reasonable space for my feet.
Clearly the very limited seat incline appeared to be offering little more than economy class seats. Probably a bigger cause of discomfort for me was the seat itself which left me feeling a slight pain in the small of my back. Certainly not a nice experience for that long a time on a plane.
If you are sat in the window seat or middle row then it is equal to economy in the battle to get to the toilet, for which there is almost guaranteed to be a queue.
Food offerings, whilst limited were more than acceptable. I was however delighted with the in-flight on demand entertainment system which is really crucial for such a long haul trip. Complimentary “premium” bottled water was by the seat as well as a little storage area.
I would agree this is a step up from economy class travel but is only worthwhile once priced slightly above economy class and not close to a Business Class ticket.