Constructive Criticism of La Premiere

Old Nov 28, 16, 6:50 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Programs: BA GGL, FB Platinum, Delta Nothing, HHonors Diamond, IAG Gold Ambassador, Ritz Silver, SPG Gold
Posts: 100
Constructive Criticism of La Premiere

I'm a recent convert to AF after years of declining standards from OneWorld airlines, and have done a few paid P returns from CDG-JFK over the past couple of months, all on the 777-300.

Overall, I'm a happy customer, and will be back over and over assuming all remains the same with the product.

That said, in the spirit of what seems to be AF's genuine interest in providing a world-class product, here are a few thoughts along the way...

The ground experience is virtually flawless. One minor nitpick: When flying alone, ensuring each passenger has a separate car for the transfers would add to the exclusive feel of the product.

The hard product on the 777 is exceptional. I was wary of the curtain concept before trying it, and am deeply impressed at how spacious it remains while being private and very functional.

The service has also been faultless on all sectors. I've had crews just as good on other carriers, but not so consistently.

Please get rid of the little crackers at the seat before takeoff. These feel decidedly non-premium.

Having invested so much in so many places, I'm surprised they can't manage a proper caviar service. For an airline which doesn't hesitate to serve Cristal onboard, this seems like a no-brainer, and would round out the indulgence factor. Indeed, having a few extra tins would really create a wow.

While the food in the lounge is out of this world for airport fare, I find the menus onboard sparse in general in terms of variety, and the quality of catering ex-CDG is surprisingly average, (it seems consistently higher ex-JFK, except for the cheese.) Don't get me wrong....it's a solid offering, decent quality and plenty of food.....but it doesn't quite live up to the rest of the experience. More choice would be welcome.

The wine quality is very good, though back in my heavy drinking days I would have been a little irritated at Bombay Sapphire in this setting. And being a French airline, please load a good vintage Calvados for heaven's sake!

The arrivals experience at JFK is probably the best offered by any airline in the USA. They are brilliant, and seem to have the run of the airport.

Unfortunately, the departure and connection experiences inbound let them down badly. A tarmac transfer coordinated with Delta if necessary when connecting on the same itinerary should be standard. The check-in and escort are well done, however.

That said, the lowest point of the entire experience is the JFK lounge. It's a hole; even the odd and tiny private F area. The catering is good, though not special in any way. Unfortunately it is let down badly by poorly trained service staff who speak little English and no French. Unlike the polish at CDG, this is low-end American diner service. It's not a nice way to start the journey home, and surprising that standards are so low for their premiere outstation. The lounge itself is not inviting, and the F area feels like a kids playroom, not a first class lounge.

A buggy could be provided for the transfer from lounge to gate, as it always seems a bit of a walk.

Finally, the menus ex-JFK, though of a high quality, are again extremely limited.

All this said, the ground services make this easily the best product on the route, and from the EU to the USA overall. But while AF might be tempted to settle for that, the investment required to blow the competition hopelessly out of the water seems a pittance when considering what they are already putting into the product. I'll give it a 93/100, but would love to see them be as flawless as I think they very well could.
FrenchMerican is offline  
Old Nov 28, 16, 7:12 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: New York, NY
Programs: DL DM, National Executive, SPG Gold, Global Entry, NEXUS
Posts: 260
Awesome! Really looking forward to my first P experience on AF... and great to hear that it's not just hype, despite some room to improve.

What's the arrivals experience like at JFK? I haven't really heard much about it.
alee0729 is offline  
Old Nov 28, 16, 8:30 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Programs: BA GGL, FB Platinum, Delta Nothing, HHonors Diamond, IAG Gold Ambassador, Ritz Silver, SPG Gold
Posts: 100
JFK arrivals is brilliant.

You will be met at the door and escorted into the immigration hall. You'll be placed at the front of the line for the machines if needed, and then escorted to the front of the line if you need to see an officer. They will then escort you to baggage claim if needed and handle your bags for you, and take you to the front at customs. If you have a driver, they will coordinate the handoff with him, and if you need them to they even are able to get you to the front of the general taxi queue outside.

Just top notch.

I should also add that regarding the lounge at JFK, by comparison, the BA Concorde Room is leagues nicer. The bathrooms at the AF lounge are atrocious.
FrenchMerican is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 8:07 am
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMandarin Oriental Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Seat 1A, Juice pretty much everywhere, Mucci des Coins Exotiques
Posts: 31,434
Originally Posted by FrenchMerican View Post
While the food in the lounge is out of this world for airport fare, I find the menus onboard sparse in general in terms of variety, and the quality of catering ex-CDG is surprisingly average, (it seems consistently higher ex-JFK, except for the cheese.) Don't get me wrong....it's a solid offering, decent quality and plenty of food.....but it doesn't quite live up to the rest of the experience. More choice would be welcome.
Try flying to or from Japan.

The wine quality is very good, though back in my heavy drinking days I would have been a little irritated at Bombay Sapphire in this setting. And being a French airline, please load a good vintage Calvados for heaven's sake!
I expect you can find a good Armagnac on any AF flight, even if you don't see it on the menu. Perhaps they would have to go back to business class to grab a bottle, but it should be there somewhere on the plane.

The arrivals experience at JFK is probably the best offered by any airline in the USA. They are brilliant, and seem to have the run of the airport.
Have you tried IAD? AF is pretty good there too for arrivals.

Unfortunately, the departure and connection experiences inbound let them down badly. A tarmac transfer coordinated with Delta if necessary when connecting on the same itinerary should be standard. The check-in and escort are well done, however.
I agree, but I expect that AF is prevented from doing an inter-terminal tarmac transfer due to JFK overcrowding. What they could do is meet you at your DL arrival gate and provide an escort. At least that would work if there are only one or two transfers happening at a time. If there happened to be more that would require a significant outstation staff increase. And it seems that they want French nationals performing the escort service. So that further restricts hiring.

That said, the lowest point of the entire experience is the JFK lounge. It's a hole; even the odd and tiny private F area. The catering is good, though not special in any way. Unfortunately it is let down badly by poorly trained service staff who speak little English and no French. Unlike the polish at CDG, this is low-end American diner service. It's not a nice way to start the journey home, and surprising that standards are so low for their premiere outstation. The lounge itself is not inviting, and the F area feels like a kids playroom, not a first class lounge.
I agree that there is no wow factor in the JFK P lounge. But when I was there the staff spoke perfect English and the service was fine. And as you say the food is good. I'm just there to have a meal before sleeping on the flight to Paris.

Finally, the menus ex-JFK, though of a high quality, are again extremely limited.
There are only 4 seats on most of these flights so I guess that's why. And for the late flights most people don't want to eat on the plane. It's best to try and sleep as much as possible.

As you say, criticism is good. Especially when you acknowledge the good.
stimpy is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 9:59 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: NYC
Posts: 99
Only having 4 seats on these flights should be why they could push for inter-terminal transfers, if the reason they can't at the moment is overcrowding.

And, sure, the lounge may be functional but most people flying F probably want more than functional. They could do well to improve it, at least to the level of other airlines F lounges at JFK.
rfrn is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 11:50 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: East Anglia UK
Programs: BA-S UA LH-Sen KLM/AF-Plat.
Posts: 1,252
Originally Posted by stimpy View Post


Have you tried IAD? AF is pretty good there too for arrivals.
Last time I was at IAD the AF staff let us into the terminal building from the private shuttle bus and disappeared into the crowd leaving us to join the back of all the queues. She met us again at the carousel.

Were we unlucky?
lloydah is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 11:53 am
  #7  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMandarin Oriental Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Seat 1A, Juice pretty much everywhere, Mucci des Coins Exotiques
Posts: 31,434
Originally Posted by lloydah View Post
Last time I was at IAD the AF staff let us into the terminal building from the private shuttle bus and disappeared into the crowd leaving us to join the back of all the queues. She met us again at the carousel.

Were we unlucky?
Yes, unlucky and unloved! I was escorted all the way through, although I entered during a slow period without big lines. Obviously I beat all the rest of AF's A380's worth of pax using the private van.
stimpy is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 12:09 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: East Anglia UK
Programs: BA-S UA LH-Sen KLM/AF-Plat.
Posts: 1,252
Originally Posted by stimpy View Post
Yes, unlucky and unloved! I was escorted all the way through, although I entered during a slow period without big lines. Obviously I beat all the rest of AF's A380's worth of pax using the private van.
Perhaps, then, this could be addressed in future, going again in the New Year. These types of inconsistencies would make a one off flight seem less good than it could normally be and lose a customer.
lloydah is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 11:50 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Programs: Eurostar Carte Blanche, SBB-CFF-FFS GA-AG, SNCF Grand Voyageur LeClub
Posts: 6,270
Thank you FrenchMerican, what a thoughtful post

Whilst I share your overall enthusiasm, and whilst I am personally somewhat indifferent about some of the observations (just things that I don't care that much about, such as having a car for myself or the brand of gin) I subscribe to many of the proposals that you make.

My P experience with Air France is on different destinations than you (JFK only once, and that was arriving there. Other than that mostly GRU, also BEY and SFO on the old-style A380) and I am a less frequent guest than you (eight legs this year), but still I'd like to add some observations/ideas for improvement.

Ground service in CDG is top notch as you said. Outstations something should be done for transfers to/from other flights in general (not just alliance partners). For instance, connecting to DL at JFK I skipped the escort servive because I was told that bascially I'd be on my own once I left T1, so I left it at that and walked faster than she would have and used Global Entry, which makes queue-jumping unnecessary. THere are positive examples: in GRU for instance, I was once picked up by an escort from Terminal 1 and she rode with me in a taxi to Terminal 3. My arrival was on Azul, not an AF or Skyteam partner at all. Similarly, at some airports other airlines organize escort services for you even when arriving on a different ticket. Air France should do the same for their P passengers.

Continuing on ground services: not overwhelming at outstations, with JFK being a positive albeit not outstanding exception thanks to the P section of the lounge. Line cutting at immigration and security works well in some places (USA on departure is a positive experience) but in the other places I've arrived they didn't offer it. On departure often there is no cutting of lines at security or passport control, and then lounges often range from mediocre (GRU) to really underwhelming (BEY). In some AF-opreated lounges they have private rooms which are nice (BOS). Something could be done on the ground, and my experience from LH and LX shows that more is possible.

For ground services at mediumhaul outstations: Air France tries to offer some special attention for instance at places like GVA or ZRH, but I found that rather to be a nuisance than a help. I was stressed and pushed to arrive at the gate super early by some over-panicking ground agent, which would have meant sitting around and waiting for the plane to land, dock, disembark, get cleaned, before boarding starts. I rather go to one of the nice airport cafes or to a lounge and then turn up when the plane really does board.

On board catering: yep, not much choice, and quality not on same levels as others (Lufthansa or Swiss in First, Qatar in Business).

Last wish/proposal: WiFi on board. It does make a difference to me. Some travelers are against it, arguing that flying is for them a moment where they don't want to be reached. To me those are cases of people who can't manage their connectivity in general: if they feel that having a network connection means that they *have* to respond to calls/mails, then that is something that will make their life horrible not just in the air but also on the ground. I rather prefer having the choice to connect or not respond whenever I want and do the things that I want. On a 10 or 12 hour flight I can very well see myself doing some work for 2 or 3 hours rather than arrive at destination with my inbox exploding and me having to deal with it after a long flight and jet lag. Also, since airlines do invest into making time fly by, it is only logical to offer some past-times that rely on connectivity. On recent flights I have planned my holiday by browsing through web pages, downloading travel guides, emailing with tour operators, etc. Or Live TV: I have watched one of the US presidential debates on a flight between California and Germany. Air France should invest into that for their long haul fleet (I believe they actually are).
San Gottardo is offline  
Old Nov 30, 16, 8:24 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NYC
Posts: 23,381
Originally Posted by FrenchMerican View Post
Having invested so much in so many places, I'm surprised they can't manage a proper caviar service. For an airline which doesn't hesitate to serve Cristal onboard, this seems like a no-brainer, and would round out the indulgence factor. Indeed, having a few extra tins would really create a wow.
They have truffles though, at least, right? PLEASE TELL ME THEY HAVE TRUFFLES!

The arrivals experience at JFK is probably the best offered by any airline in the USA. They are brilliant, and seem to have the run of the airport.
This is also good to hear (and as mentioned, I think for the first time). But as someone else said, with Global Entry it just doesn't really seem that...necessary. As long as my bag comes out first on the carousel (or fourth). That is always the hold-up for me at JFK.

And interesting that you later mention cutting the taxi line. I can't imagine how that works! Cutting in front of a bunch of cranky New Yorkers who just arrived from overseas?!? They must have an in with the dispatcher and can more discreetly get you into a cab away from the front of the queue.
ijgordon is offline  
Old Dec 1, 16, 4:12 am
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Programs: BA GGL, FB Platinum, Delta Nothing, HHonors Diamond, IAG Gold Ambassador, Ritz Silver, SPG Gold
Posts: 100
Originally Posted by ijgordon View Post
They have truffles though, at least, right? PLEASE TELL ME THEY HAVE TRUFFLES!

This is also good to hear (and as mentioned, I think for the first time). But as someone else said, with Global Entry it just doesn't really seem that...necessary. As long as my bag comes out first on the carousel (or fourth). That is always the hold-up for me at JFK.

And interesting that you later mention cutting the taxi line. I can't imagine how that works! Cutting in front of a bunch of cranky New Yorkers who just arrived from overseas?!? They must have an in with the dispatcher and can more discreetly get you into a cab away from the front of the queue.
Sadly, the onboard "truffles" are of the thick, hard, flavorless variety that I have experienced on BA and elsewhere, which serve strictly to disappoint. First world problems, yes, but again, if you can spring for Cristal, surely loading a black truffle on each flight to be shaved sear-side wouldn't be that extravagant.

The taxi powers were amazing and not discreet. I often stay at the JFK Hilton when overnighting between flights or having a breakfast meeting before going onward, and feel silly paying for an executive car for the 5 minute ride, so I use taxis at JFK frequently. I was really shocked that the agent just brazenly walked up to the dispatcher, said a few words out of earshot, then the dispatcher held the queue of about 40 people while I was deposited in the next taxi and my bags were seen to. Brilliant, and they refused a tip.
FrenchMerican is offline  
Old Dec 1, 16, 9:52 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 47
Agreed on all points. I find the ground service with AF La Premiere to be the reason I keep booking again and again.

Having a representative help you every step of the way from check-in, security, lounge, boarding and then the reverse is great. I am always impress at CDG the ability they have to avoid customs lines.


-Pat
Pdstahl is offline  
Old Dec 2, 16, 6:12 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Paris, France
Programs: Flying Blue (LTPE) Le Club AccorHotels (Gold)
Posts: 1,454
Originally Posted by ijgordon View Post
They have truffles though, at least, right? PLEASE TELL ME THEY HAVE TRUFFLES! ...
yesterday AF257 from SIN

"tartare de saumon fumé et noix de Saint-Jacques, oeufs de saumon et agrumes"

Name:  IMG_0310.jpg
Views: 4732
Size:  312.9 KB

delicious

For truffle, at P lounge in CDG, you may eat "Elbow pasta with ham and black truffle"...

no photo because I ate the famous "Cookpot of seasonal vegetables, crushed tops"

with a marvelous Riesling:
Attached Images   

Last edited by delanotre; Dec 2, 16 at 6:31 am
delanotre is offline  
Old Dec 2, 16, 7:46 am
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist & Ambassador, British Airways Executive Club
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: London
Posts: 16,749
I wish I had these problems when travelling on BA
HaikoW, mhy, gypsyjaney and 1 others like this.
Calchas is offline  
Old Dec 2, 16, 7:48 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMandarin Oriental Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Seat 1A, Juice pretty much everywhere, Mucci des Coins Exotiques
Posts: 31,434
Originally Posted by Calchas View Post
I wish I had these problems when travelling on BA
Indeed. I have a BA F trip coming up where I will experience almost none of the above. Then again it only cost about $2000.
stimpy is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread