Review: Air France premium economy class

Air France Premium Economy

We were looking for a comfortable and affordable way to fly to Japan.

After some research online we settled for Air France premium economy, a cabin that apparently offers more space, privacy and amenities than economy, but without the hefty price tag of business class.

So how was our experience of flying Air France Premium Economy from Paris to Tokyo and back?

What did we think of the seats, food, service, entertainment and such?

What can you expect when booking Air France premium economy tickets?

Let’s find out!

Video

We made a video of our 2 Air France premium economy flights between Paris and Tokyo, and back.

You can watch it here:

Air France Premium Economy tickets

We booked Air France premium economy return tickets for 2 people from Paris to Tokyo and back to Paris and paid 2,170 euro (2330 USD), with 2 hand luggages and 1 accessory per person included but no checked baggage.

Our Thalys train rides to Paris and back to Brussels were also included in that price.

Seat selection had to be paid for separately, for an additional cost of 59 euros (64 USD) per person and per seat, which amounted to an extra 236 euros (254 USD) on top of our total ticket price.

Our Air France premium economy tickets come with Sky Priority, which gave us priority checkin, security fast lane and boarding, however no business lounge access in Paris CDG (unless you pay a 75 euros (80 USD) or 15,000 miles fee per person).

Free lounge access is only granted for business class passengers, Flying Blue Gold, Platinum or SkyTeam Elite Plus members, not for Air France premium economy passengers.

Air France Premium Economy

Premium economy seats

Our flight number is AF272, an Airbus A350-900.

The premium economy class cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration.

When we selected our seats online, we booked the last unoccupied row of 2 seats near the window. All the seats in the middle were taken, and practically every single aisle seat as well, leaving only the window seats unoccupied. Even though the prices for seat selection are quite high, it is the only way to make sure you can sit together if you travel with someone.

Air France Premium Economy features a fixed shell seat that reclines within its own space, without encroaching on the passenger behind you. The seat is 19 inches wide and has a pitch of 40 inches, which means more legroom than economy (31 inches) but less than business class (55 inches).

The seat also has an adjustable headrest, footrest and legrest, as well as a personal reading lamp, a power outlet, a USB port, a noise-reducing headset and a small bottle of Evian water. The seat is equipped with a wide touchscreen that offers various entertainment options.

Air France Premium Economy
Air France Premium Economy

The spacious seat is designed to provide more comfort and privacy than economy, but some passengers still may find it hard or uncomfortable.

The fixed shell design also limits the recline angle to 20 degrees, which may not be enough for sleeping. The seat is best suited for those who value space and quiet over cushioning and lie-flat beds.

What we did like about Air France premium economy was the width of the seats and the extra leg room.

Also the fact that as a couple you can enjoy the 2 window seats without having someone else sitting next to you, as in economy class.

Overall the seats and cabin had a nice design. The small cabin with 32 premium economy seats is separate from economy class, and that gives it a more private feel.

Air France Premium Economy
Air France Premium Economy

Amenity kit

Once you get to your seat, a pillow and blanket are already waiting for you.

After take off, refreshing hand wipes and blue and white striped amenity kits are handed out.

They contain a wooden toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, thin black socks and an eye mask.

Just the basics.

Air France Premium Economy

Food

After take off in both flights, we receive one glass of good Heidsieck & C° Monopole champagne.

No bag of nuts or crackers to go with it straight away, we do find crackers on our dinner tray when meal service stops by half an hour later.

Would have been nice to have them handed out together with that glass of champagne though.

Air France Premium Economy

Our flight is at 2:30pm, Air France Premium Economy offers a hot meal service that includes an appetizer, a main course, cheese, butter, bread, dessert and beverages.

During the flight, small sweet and savory snacks, soft drinks, coffee and tea are available in the galley. Around mid-flight, you can also get instant noodles. In premium economy the flight attendants stopped by twice with small bites such as cheese sandwiches, cookies and crackers – which were underwhelming, very small portions and tasteless quality.

Another meal service is offered right before landing.

The menu and choice of food varies depending on the flight duration and destination.

The food in Premium Economy is similar to what you get in Economy, but with more choices and better presentation. The food in Business Class is superior in quality and variety, and includes champagne and fine wines.

Paris CDG to Haneda, Tokyo

There are 4 rows of seats, we are sitting in row 3.

Meal service stops by and we get to choose between pasta or fish. We both go for the fish meal, and the flight attendant tells us that these are the last 2 fish meals available. Once he reaches the last row, chicken apparently has been added to the list, people get to choose between chicken or pasta.

All meals are created by Frederic Simonin, a French one Michelin star chef.

A small card tells us what we are eating.

The cold appetizer salad is lemon and curd cheese cream, poached potatoes, fava beans and pickled pink radish. Tastes alright.

The fish is salmon with dill and lemon sauce, and orzo pasta.

A surprisingly tasty meal. We thought that the salmon would be dry, but this one is actually quite moist and not overcooked. The cream sauce is well seasoned, and that bit of lemon zest on top of the salmon is really nice. The pasta is creamy, soft but again not totally overcooked. We enjoyed this!

Also on our tray is Président butter and camembert, and bread, all very industrial.

Dessert is a Paris-Brest, a classic French choir pastry with cream filling and hazelnuts. Yum, nice.

Air France Premium Economy

Drinks are served with the meal.

You can choose from water, soft drinks, beer, juices, red and white wine.

The white wine we go for is a small bottle (187mls) of chardonnay, the red wine is a merlot. Luc asks for a second bottle to go with his meal, which the flight attendant gives to him straight away.

The wine is correct, not great but pleasant and just fine.

After our meals the cabin staff stops by to collect our empty trays and suggests a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Air France Premium Economy

On our 12 hours flight the choice and quality of sweet and savory snacks in between meal services wasn’t great at all, and we are actually looking forward to the pre landing meal.

Unfortunately here as well do we find quantity above quality.

A yogurt drink, orange juice, bread roll, strawberry marmalade, butter and mango tartare. One item is hot: the brioche bread roll with brie cheese and mustard which is bland and very chewy.

The mango tartare was sweet and delicious, and the coffee was good.

Overall not an exciting meal service, very disappointing. Not the level you expect from a world famous culinary big shot like France.

It is 12pm when we land at Haneda Airport, and we can’t wait to get a proper hot meal in Tokyo.

Air France Premium Economy

Narita, Japan to Paris CDG

Our Tokyo stay was great, our Oakwood Premier Tokyo hotel was amazing.

We had amazing meals 6 days on end.

Can we keep that rhythm going on our Air France premium economy flight back to Paris?

The answer is no.

Both meals were very disappointing.

After take off we get a glass of champagne, and the choice of hot meals is again fish or pasta.

Chef Frederic Simonin’s description of the meal sounds really promising though: fried scorpionfish, Tomoji-an sauce with ginger, rice and stewed vegetables.

The rice is OK, not overcooked. However the vegetables (carrot, spinach, turnip) are very bland, the 2 (!) bits of deep fried fish had no flavor, the sweet and sour sauce it was coated in was the only thing that was at least doing a small effort to stand out.

The appetizer salad of “vegetables, grains and soybeans” again lacked flavor.

Such a disappointing meal, but then surprisingly the pear tart for dessert was truly out of this world. Crispy and flaky shortcrust pastry, filled with a creamy filling and juicy sliced pear. An absolute show stopper.

Drinks are the same as on our inbound flight: water, soft drinks, beer, juices, red and white wine.

After our tray tables are cleared, Luc asks for another glass of white wine, which he promptly gets.

Air France Premium Economy

On our 14 hour flight the choice and quality of sweet and savory snacks in between meal services was again far from great.

Crackers, soggy cheese sandwiches, sweet treats, chocolate. Around mid-flight, instant noodles are again available.

Air France Premium Economy

We are not getting our hopes up for the pre landing meal.

Glad we didn’t.

Sweetened yogurt, apple juice, water, cake, Japanese carrot and burdock salad with sesame dressing (gobo salad), and a hot sandwich.

The salad is nice and crunchy, but that is about the only thing that we like here.

The hot katsu sandwich looks like a Japanese deep fried pork cutlet stuffed in some type of pita bread, with coleslaw and mayo we think. Greasy, soggy, and no flavor. Junk food.

What a letdown, again.

Air France Premium Economy

Service

Air France Premium Economy offers attentive and friendly service from the cabin crew.

They are always ready to assist you with any needs and requests, such as providing you with a comfort kit that includes a sleeping mask, a pair of socks, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

They also provide you with a bottle of water at your seat for your hydration, a soft fleece blanket and plush pillow for your comfort, and a hot towel before each meal service for your refreshment.

The service in Premium Economy is more personalized and courteous than in Economy, where the cabin crew may be busier and less available. The service in Business Class is more refined and elegant than in Premium Economy, where the cabin crew may address you by name and offer you more amenities.

Entertainment

Air France Premium Economy offers a wide range of entertainment options on your personal touchscreen. You can choose from a bunch of movies, TV series and documentaries, a couple of music albums, games, and it even has a wellness channel where you can get a few tips and tricks for ‘airplane yoga’.

You can also stay connected on most flights thanks to the wifi, however on our flight to Tokyo the connection didn’t work and wasn’t available.

The entertainment in Air France premium economy is similar to what you get in economy or business class. The only difference is the size of the screen (10 inches in premium economy versus 9 inches in economy or 16 inches in business class), and the quality of the headset (noise-reducing in premium economy versus standard in economy and Bose headphones in business class).

The touchscreen was very easy to navigate and use, we liked the large size and sharpness of the screen.

Classic movies that were available: Bullet Train, Oppenheimer, Barbie, The Menu, Mission Impossible, The Shining, Ratatouille, Titanic, Insomnia, The Equaliser 3, Willy Wonka, Emily, and a lot of French movies starring Gérard Depardieu.

Classic games are Sudoku, Tetris and Angry Birds to just name a few.

A nice selection to keep you occupied during the entire flight.

Air France Premium Economy

Lavatory

Air France premium economy doesn’t have its own dedicated lavatory reserved for passengers in this cabin only.

The lavatory is the same for economy passengers and it is exactly what you would expect of an economy lavatory.

The cleanliness was average, it has a sink with hot and cold water, soap dispenser, paper towels, mirror, waste bin, coat hook and toilet.

Service

Cabin staff was professional, helpful and attentive.

Again, just what you would expect.

Air France Premium Economy

What we liked about Air France Premium Economy

Air France Premium Economy offers some airport benefits that made our journey more convenient and enjoyable.

  • SkyPriority: You get priority access at every step of your journey, such as check-in, security, boarding, and baggage delivery. You also get priority access to the immigration and customs lanes at some airports.
  • Baggage: You can check in up to two baggage items weighing up to 23 kg/50 lb each for a fee. You can also bring up to two hand baggage and one accessory for a total weight of 12 kg/26.4 lb in the cabin.

The width of the seats, legroom and the feeling of more privacy in a small cabin is also something we really liked. Sitting in 2 seats next to each other without having to disturb or wake another passenger made it way easier to just get up and walk around for a couple of minutes to stretch our leg, or go to the bathroom more often than you otherwise would.

The recline wasn’t mind-blowing, but the seats were definitely much more enjoyable than economy seats.

What we disliked about Air France Premium Economy

That definitely is the food quality, and portion size.

We expected much more of a classic airline such as Air France.

France is known for its delicious classic cuisine, however Air France has lost its way and has clearly cut back on quality and portion sizes. The inflight snacks all looked and tasted very cheap.

Would we travel again with Air France Premium Economy?

We would definitely travel in premium economy again, but then with another airline.

The food on Air France Premium Economy was so disappointing. We have had lovely meals on airplanes before so it is possible. Apart from the salmon and pasta dish it really felt as if they were not even trying.

A 12 hour and 14 hour flight is long enough, and even longer if the food is not enjoyable. It felt as if Air France was trying to fill up and sooth its passengers with bread and cake.

Do we recommend Premium Economy?

If you ask us, premium economy is a good option for travelers who want more comfort and privacy than Economy, but don’t want to splurge on business class tickets. It offers more privacy and quieter space than in economy class, but (much) less cushioning and recline than business class.

Premium economy is not for everyone though.

Some passengers may find the seat hard or uncomfortable, or the recline angle insufficient for sleeping. Some passengers may also prefer a more flexible or dynamic seat design that allows more movement and adjustment. You should check the price difference between Economy and Premium Economy and decide for yourself if the difference is too high for the value you get.

Ultimately, it depends on your personal preference and budget.

If you value space and quiet over cushioning and lie-flat beds, and you are willing to pay a premium for it, then Air France Premium Economy may be worth it for you.

If you value cushioning and lie-flat beds over space and quiet, and you are willing to pay even more for it, then Air France Business Class is a better option for you.

If you value saving money over comfort and privacy, then Air France economy class is enough for you.

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