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A New Year's Trip to London - Air France La Premiere Part I

A New Year's Trip to London - Air France La Premiere Part I

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Old Jan 6, 15, 6:50 pm
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A New Year's Trip to London - Air France La Premiere Part I

I'm not sure if it’s a budding tradition or not, but the past few years over the holiday season I have taken advantage of special fare offerings for premium cabin travel between the U.S. and Europe. Virgin Upper Class two years ago, and Swiss/Lufthansa first class last year. This time around, I thought it would be fun to try Air France’s La Premiere from New York to CDG to Heathrow. I built in significant layovers in Paris in order to enjoy the lounge there. Since there aren’t too many trip reports on first class on AF, I decided to do one for this trip. Credit to those who regularly do these because it's a lot of work. One thing I learned – I’m terrible at taking pictures of menus. Even when I try after the flight has ended. Tant pis.

Task 1 was to get from Boston to New York.

Happily, no need for these guys:



Logan was nicely decorated and pretty quiet including the Delta Sky Club.







Particularly the business center.



Some of the upgraded food offerings.







Here's my ride:



Dwarfed by this bad boy to come later:



It was a beautiful afternoon for flying, enjoying an upgrade to first class as a Delta gold preferred member. I'd get there faster than this guy:



Terrific views of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and a sunset. One cool plane too.









Although I was in first, I wasn’t in the same class as the guy who got to ride in this:



He had the driver take his picture in front the Porsche. Good for him.

I made my way through some bizarre hamster-like tunnels and into and through a crowded Terminal 2 at JFK, out the front door and across the way to Terminal 1. No need for the SkyTrain which was nice. I went to the La Premiere check in desk and they really didn’t seem to believe me when I said I was travelling in first. They reluctantly (at least that was my take) took my passport and then acknowledged that I was in the right place. The agent (who turned out to be quite affable and professional) then escorted me to the front of the security line – no TSA Pre-Check in this terminal and it really wasn’t all that crowded – only one party ahead of me in the preferred traveler line. Got through security quickly, and my escort guided be to the Air France Lounge and upstairs to the first class section. As you can see below, it was a nice space. There were two attendants there, but then they disappeared. In what would be a consistent theme in both New York and Paris, it was really unclear whether things were self-service or I was to wait for an attendant to help me. At one point, a business class passenger (loudly speaking on the phone) came into the room; he was quickly ushered out. I had about 2 hours in the lounge – the first 45 minutes to myself (which was awesome), a lady joined for the next 30 and then a family of 3 for the balance.

Here are some pictures of the first class section, the offerings and the menu.













Expecting a full meal on the plane, I decided to go light with some soup and the lobster salad. Both were terrific. A little Sancerre to go along.







I ended up going out to the business class section to get some ice and took some photos of the rest of the upstairs of the lounge. I did not make it downstairs.











The three groups of La Premiere passengers were then escorted to our A380. I commented to my new escort that there’s an odd selection of airlines in JFK T1 – Air France, Lufthansa, JAL and Korean. He said Air France was moving in there and invited all kinds of airlines to join them. Those were the ones that came along and they “own” the terminal. Having the escorts was certainly no necessary, but it was nice and civilized for sure. I was introduced to the cabin crew and shown to 3L.

This was only my second time on the whale – the first being in economy on SQ from HKG to SIN – and I was excited. And, it really lived up to expectations. We were 6 out of 9 in first for this flight, and I was the last to board so not too many cabin pictures.





Good storage space.





As expected, the TV is really small and the remote is antiquated. But, it was the height of modern design compared to what I had on the 777-300 on the way back.



Here are the amenities. Two thumbs up on the quality of the pajamas.



And on to the meals.











Lovely amuse bouche:



With the Krug (which was everything it should be):





I had to skip the appetizer and go straight to the lovely asparagus soup and then the filet (did not love the potatoes). I had the St Emilion and it was great.





Nothing over-cooked here.



Then finishing off the rest.





https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-3...0/DSC_0079.JPG

Watched a movie and then tried to rest. The seat was comfortable for sleeping but the cabin was quite warm so I did not sleep much or well.

Service was really very lovely. I was visited a number of time by at least four members of the cabin crew, thanked for my business, offered assistance and generally given love. There was a primary attendant working the cabin, and she delivered all the meals. Really hustling to get folks fed and off to sleep. A credit to the airline.

Given how much I had already eaten, I skipped breakfast and planned to nosh in the La Premiere lounge in any event. We landed early, and the excitement continued. I was greeted by name at the door to the plane, whisked to an elevator and down to a waiting BMW.

My driver/attendant Sue was awesome and helped me throughout the ground experience at CDG. She even pulled over and let me take a picture of the plane.





Was very cool to cruise around CDG. We wound up at a small parking area. Went through a minor security check to an elevator that popped me into a very nearly empty lounge. Sue got me a spa appointment and then what followed was about four hours of snoozing, movie watching, shower, champagne, duty free shopping (for champagne), lunch and a facial. They were leanly staffed given the off day, but it was again very unclear what was self-service and what one of the staff would do for me – drinks, showers etc. So, I pretty much elected to help myself. Here are some photos of the experience:



















Let's have a bit of lunch; Alain Ducasse is the restraunter for the lounge and it showed:







This scallop dish was just perfect



At the end of my stay, Sue walked me to the departure gate (too close for a drive), and I took the uneventful flight to Heathrow. She offered to lead me all the way on board, but I told her that was unnecessary. Standard European business class seating, and I declined the offered beverage and meal. Easy trek through immigration and baggage claim and I was off to Heathrow Express. With the exception of a soccer match at Loftus Road, most of the time in London was spent with friends at their house or a variety of pubs. This was a good one:

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Old Jan 6, 15, 6:52 pm
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Part II

On the return, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect were down for upgrades so took the tube from central London out to Terminal 4. Seems kinda funny to take the Tube after springing for first class but I can be oddly cheap in different areas. A painless ride got me to the airport 2+ hours before my flight – I was unable to check in online so wanted to get there early to make sure no issues. There were not. I declined the offer of an escort through security. It was relatively quick, and I was at the large and nice SkyTeam lounge within 10 minutes. The lounge was slow (but not so quiet as a 4 year old was allowed to run amuck) but offered the opportunity for a light breakfast ahead of the gourmet meals to come.







Relaxation room:



On another thread, I asked if there was a separate part of the SkyTeam lounge for first class passengers. There is indeed a VIP room but apparently too VIP for me or anyone else on a Saturday morning.




Again, short flight from London back to Paris in a standard business class configuration. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the plane door by my new attendant who was again fantastic. When I stopped to take a picture of the car, she apologized for it not being a BMW. “It’s just a Renault.”



She was chatty and charming, and we repeated the trip through mini-security and up into the lounge right at noon. Bam! -- it was crowded. Almost unrecognizable from earlier in the week – lots of kids too. Most of the tables were taken and my quiet side room was not quiet at all.

I headed to the relaxation area – which I had to myself. Again, had a lovely 5 hours or so – reading, champagne, duty free shopping (champagne again), a massage, a shower and a terrific lunch. The lounge eventually cleared out of almost everyone by 2:00 and returned to a nice relaxing spot. Throughout though, I never could get my arms around whether I could pour champagne for myself or not. Service was also spotty at the restaurant. Sue was there and remembered me and helped out with some things even though I wasn’t officially one of her charges.

Some of the buffet offerings in the lounge:









Same menu as before and same amazing quality. I went for the ravioli and the venison from the special menu. The latter was amazing.





I had a new escort this time who took me down to the promised BMW and the delayed flight.



She freaked out a little when I tried to get onto the tarmac to take a picture of my plane. But I was able to get this one:



as well as this one from the back seat



Up to the aircraft and to my seat at 1L in a completely full cabin. I was offered a drink but feeling maybe one fourth in the bag so declined. Probably should have gotten something because we were at the gate for a good 90 minutes before takeoff.

While the seat was similar to what I had on the outbound flight, things seemed a little run down and the TV and remote were basically what you would have in 1984. Seriously.




They had a new celebrity chef for January, and I don’t think it was quite as good as M. Boulud. Some weird combinations and odd that there was no beef, pork or other non-chicken offering. Identical wine list.









The caviar was lovely if small:



But, Houston we have a serious problem. Anyone detect something wrong with my glass of Krug? Setting aside that it was served alongside the Pommard in an odd bit of timing (see service comment below):



Okay, the glass was wrong but where are the bubbles? It was flat as a board. And how was I the only one who noticed. I sent it back. Much better:



The salmon was good but not as good as the balik on Swiss



I'm not a huge lentis fan (and they look vaguely disgusting here) but the langoustine was well prepared.



The cheese was top notch.



I had some sorbet but forgot to take a photo.

Skipped the second meals and just napped and watched movies for the rest.

The on board service was just not at the same level as my outbound flight. I don’t think the two flight attendants were really experienced at serving a La Premiere cabin. Forgot things I ordered. Wrong glasses used. Lacked the warmth of the outbound crew. But, they were the opposite of lazy. Very professional, repeatedly cleaned the restroom and set it up for next use, responded immediately if I pressed the call button. During meal service, the purser came to the rescue to help facilitate the service. The two gentlemen were just having trouble getting it done smoothly.

After the delay, we landed into awful weather at JFK about two hours late. That put me in after my scheduled departure on a Delta flight back home (which was on a separate reservation so not a great prospect). But, the Delta flight ended up leaving over four (!) hours late so I was okay. I was surprised that an escort was there to greet me as I came off the plane but then I lost him. I breezed through immigration via Global Entry and was the first one at baggage claim.

My escort was there with a family of three that was in La Premiere. The attendant and I laughed that we got separated – he expected me to wait for him but I was in full on go mode. My bag came out – but certainly not first – and he led me to the transfer desk. They were unable to check me into the Delta flight, but I said goodbye to my escort and headed off to Terminal 2. Things went smoothly there, and I spent probably 2.5 hours hanging out the bar in the SkyClub drinking vodka tonics, charging devices, watching football and chatting with other delayed passengers. Pretty sure I was the least upset person around with the delays. It was quiet, and I was glad they kept it open for us stragglers.





A very bumpy flight back to Boston and I was home by 2:30 am. It was a 25 hour trip door to door (which was pretty close to my 31 hour trip from Singapore to Boston earlier this year). All in all, though, it was worth it. Great fare for a tremendous ground service experience, very good food and reasonably good hard product. If I were to do it again, I would stick to the new La Premiere being rolled out or go with the A380. So, cheers to Air France.

[IMG][/IMG]

Highlights:

All of the ground service professionals on the ground at CDG

Sharing the CDG La Premiere lounge on outbound with maybe 8 other people throughout my stay

The Krug – when it wasn’t flat

Beautiful, large cabin in the A380

Pretty much all of the food – particularly in the lounge in Paris. Will be hard to measure up to the soup I had in Swiss first last year, but the venison may very well have done it.

Nice PJs

Excellent massage on the way home; I fell asleep for part of it.

Lowlights:

Krug-Gate

Facial – first one; cold and won’t do that again.

As I typed this, I came to realize that maybe the food on the way home was pretty disappointing.

What felt like an over-crowded cabin on the way back; I believe there were only 4 paid first passengers and rest were op ups

The entertainment system on the 777-300.

A four hour delay out of JFK on the way home

Long wait for checked bag back in Boston

Not being able to accrue MQDs or MQMs on Delta since couldn’t book first through them; cemented my dumping of Delta. All miles were credited to Alaska.

Rainy weather at all travel locations on the way home so no good plane spotting photos
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Old Jan 7, 15, 12:21 am
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Nice TR, thanks for sharing and fun to read though!
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Old Jan 7, 15, 9:10 am
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Nice work, I am curious about your check-in experience and why they did not think you belonged there?
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Old Jan 7, 15, 10:41 am
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Nice report! I think the menu on board is unacceptable. Only one first course (!!!) and this one with Foi Gras, which even many people who generally eat meat (I don`t, so only main course for me!!!) don`t eat.

P.S. This crackers.... No, I don`t get in love with AF

Last edited by offerendum; Jan 7, 15 at 10:47 am
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Old Jan 7, 15, 11:12 am
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Originally Posted by popoemt View Post
Nice work, I am curious about your check-in experience and why they did not think you belonged there?
Thanks.

I am too; it's not like I was dressed like a slob but likely did have a baseball cap on. It may have been that I was just there a bit earlier than the typical passenger? Or maybe I was mumbling a little?

Ultimately no big deal - just a bit awkward.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 12:43 pm
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Enjoyed reading that thanks
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Old Jan 7, 15, 2:31 pm
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Thanks for sharing! Food looks excellent!
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Old Jan 7, 15, 3:17 pm
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Fantastic. Thanks for posting. Glad the French still offer French specialities...
I am not a fan of Pate de foie gras, but can understand why they offer it.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 4:36 pm
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Thanks for posting your report. I enjoyed reading it and also the photos. And you almost caught our house in you photo of Cape Cod, almost, but not quite!
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Old Jan 7, 15, 4:43 pm
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Great report and many thanks
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Old Jan 8, 15, 1:39 am
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That is brilliant. Wine list is top notch! Food looks stellar also. Makes we want to try La Premiere badly, even though I have sworn to avoid AF (safety concern).
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Old Jan 27, 15, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by halfcape View Post
Thanks for posting your report. I enjoyed reading it and also the photos. And you almost caught our house in you photo of Cape Cod, almost, but not quite!
That's funny. It was a spectacular view of the Cape.
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Old Jan 27, 15, 9:36 pm
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Great report, my kind of world wind trip. What football match did you see?
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Old Jan 28, 15, 5:10 pm
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Originally Posted by hickmantitle View Post
Great report, my kind of world wind trip. What football match did you see?
QPR-Swansea (the latter tying it up in extra time to send the home crowd home unhappy-ish).
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