Saturday, 1 February 2014

Review: Air France Paris CDG-St Maarten Business Class

Last week, Air France-KLM invited a group of travel agents from various agencies on a short trip to St Maarten in the Dutch Antilles, and I was one of the fortunate ones who was asked to come. The purpose of the trip was to try out various aspects of the product - among other things the transfer process in Paris CDG, and the on-board product on both airlines.

This blog post is about the Paris-St Maarten flight. (the post on the return flight on KLM is here)

We were confirmed in Economy Class, but when the gate agent scanned my boarding pass, the machine went *beep*. That can mean a lot of things (in theory, it could mean "sorry, you're getting bumped from the flight") but on this case it was good news - they had upgraded me to Business Class. Yay!!

wheee, all excited :-)

The cabin has lie-flat seats in a "fixed shell" which of course means you're not leaning back into the space of the person sitting behind you, and it also gives a degree of privacy, so your seatmate won't notice it instantly if you happen to dribble a bit in your sleep...

I never really get around to using the inflight entertainment system much, but I did have a quick nose around to see what was on offer.  To be honest, I was not terribly impressed with the selection of movies - but I am not sure if that was because I don't pay much attention to new movies, or if they simply weren't to my taste.  There were a few new ones that I had heard about, and there seemed to be quite a lot of "old classics" that I didn't know.  They were grouped into themes as you can see (this is just a selection of the more recent movies that were on offer)

Had I not seen it twice already, I would definitely
have been tempted by The Intouchables. Or perhaps
The Great Gatsby (which I haven't seen but heard
great things about)

One thing that did surprise me a bit was the headphones. They seemed to me a bit "worn" and the amenity kit included a set of "muffs" for them - very hygienic, but somehow a less luxurious feeling.

Speaking of amenity kits: they contain the usual selection of socks, eye mask, ear plugs and tooth brush - and Air France gets top points for including a super moisturiser by Clarins.  I am such a sucker for well-known brands, and this one is really good.  Also, in the lavatories they have a full-size Clarins facial cleanser + skin tonic (PLUS cotton pads), so you can actually do a full cleanse-and-moisturise routine before you doze off. Interestingly, the cleanser went missing from one of the lavatories about half-way across the Atlantic, so I guess I am not the only one who likes Clarins ...

As we all know, in addition to a comfortable seat, the important thing about long-haul flights is the FOOD.

We were treated to the "standard" choice of orange juice or champagne as the flight was prepared for take-off.   There was also a small snack (and more champagne) before dinner, and hot face towels.


"Prawn and tomato terrine with lobster suce, duck and goose foie gras terrine, sautéed marinated cherry tomatoes, baby spinach"

 The prawn and tomato terrine (on the right) was not a favourite of mine - a bit bland, and it sort of fell to pieces every time my fork went near it.  But the salad was nothing short of amazing - airline salads can be a bit hit or miss, and this one was perfectly crisp and just the right mix of very interesting kinds of lettuce. No iceberg salad on Air France :-)  And then, the foie gras.... I know I'm getting on the wrong side of every animal rights activist, but OH MY GOD - it was good!  I could happily have eaten twice as much. Interesting mix of the duck and the goose, not too fatty actually, and especially the duck part was silky smooth. YUM!!

Main course:

Choice between "pan-seared leg of lamb with sage sauce, vegetable bâtonnets with olive oil and lemon, mashed potatoes with cumin seeds" - "snapper marianted in lemon and chili pepper, lemongrass cream sauce, creole-style sautéed zucchini, rice with lentils and chili pepper" - and "guinea hen with butternut squash and cèpe mushroom". The latter was a "special", created by 2013 winner of Bocuse d'Or Thibaut Ruggeri.

I chose the lamb, and was not disappointed.  It was "well done" (I prefer it slightly less done) but by no means dry. There was not a hint of "woolen sweater" as people will sometimes accuse lamb of, and the sauce was wonderfully rich.

Then came the cheeses: "petit chèvre, camembert, dried apricot". All quite good, but the bread was really dry - this surprised me, as Air France comes from the country of wonderful baguettes.

All in all, good food. Especially (sorry again) the foie gras.  And then the dessert - mea culpa: I fell asleep and didn't have any!!! It was chocolate cake and ice cream, and everyone said it was really good. Quelle disaster.

But I slept really well (good seat!) and when I woke up, we were here:

Before landing we were served a light meal of risotto with sweet potato, zucchini brunoise, and cream, plus organic yogurt and fruit salad.  My pictures are blurry because of a light turbulence, but the risotto was incredibly tasty.  Yum yum, again!

Overall verdict: extremely pleasant flight. Not terribly impressive inflight entertainment, but maybe that's just me. Great food, and generous servings of very good wine!  Very nice and friendly cabin staff. Brilliant products in amenity kits and lavatories :-)  And comfortable, sleep-inducing seat .....

And then we arrived at St Maarten, and the weather looked like this:

- a very welcome change from the snow and ice we had left behind in Denmark :-)

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