The innovative feature of these seats is that they are fixed-shell, so no one is reclining back into your space, or onto your lap. On Air France’s 777’s, each seat is a mere 19 inches wide, and has a seat pitch of 38 inches. Guess those Frenchies really are skinny. The AF literature tells us the recline is 123 degrees, but we don’t understand how they came up with that calculation, so we’re just mentioning it as a rough (very rough) estimate. The seats also came with footrests, except for the bulkhead seats, which did have extra space, but nowhere to put our feet (instead, we used a bag to prop them up, which was really quite comfortable).
The personal seatback entertainment screens were impressively sized at 10.4 inches, and there were tons of entertainment options, from dozens of new release movies to not-so-new television shows, as well as games, music and documentaries. Many choices were available not only in French and English, but also several other languages.
The seats also featured adjustable reading lamps, extra-large tables both for meals and working, and personal universal outlets in each seat so we could plug in and recharge our appliances onboard, including our laptop and our BlackBerry at different points.
· Les Pros
On a packed flight to Paris, we definitely appreciated the extra space in Premium Voyageur—we didn’t feel crammed in with our neighbors like sardines, we had plenty of overhead space for our luggage, and we could recline and get comfortable without fear that we’d bother our neighbors to the front and back.
Believe it or not, the 19-inch seat width is about an inch or two above the industry standard, so it felt like sufficient room to average-sized us, and the armrests are extra wide, so you won’t get into a grudge match with a pushy neighbor.
We also got a handy little amenity kit that included: toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, eye mask, ear plugs, a sticker to let the flight attendants know not to wake us if we wanted to skip breakfast, and Clarins lotion and lip balm. We were also given a mini Evian bottle. Really mini. Like, a cup of water.
· Les Cons
Call us old-fashioned, but when we fly on Air France—the national carrier of a country renowned for its food and wine—we expect some good eats. Yes, even on an airplane. So we were sorely disappointed to discover that the food we got in Premium Voyageur was the same as the Economy class meals, and not only that, but the options were pretty bleak: some sort of unrecognizable shepherd’s pie-like parmentier, or mushy noodles.
Not only that, but the wines they served were La Vielle Ferme—bottles we can get at Trader Joe’s for about $5. To add insult to injury, we were even the last people on the plane served our meal since the attendants decided to start meal service at the back of the plane for some reason that still eludes us. Quel dommage!
One other note is that the seats really didn’t recline that much, and we didn’t feel much more rested than we have after flying Economy…which is to say, not at all.
Though the video screens were big, and the entertainment options decent, we were not huge fans of the headsets provided for us by the airline. They looked like they had been worn by about 1,000 people before us, and there was nothing the little ear pads provided in the amenity kit could do to change that. The sound quality also wasn’t so awesome, so we opted just to plug in our own earphones instead.
· La Conclusion
On a packed flight, we might be willing to spring for the extra width and leg room in Premium Voyageur, if only to avoid the pushing hoi polloi wedging into Economy, and especially on those long-haul flights to France from the west coast, or from France to Asia or South America. On the typical New York-Paris flight, though, we don’t think it’s worth the extra money.
Roundtrip fares in Premium Voyageur from New York to Paris start at around $1,400, and from LAX-CDG, they run around $1,750.
Full disclosure: Eric Rosen was bumped up to Premium Voyageur thanks to Air France, but all photos and opinions here are his own.