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Flight Review: Bernie Tests La Premiere. Air France, You Ready?

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Flight Review: Bernie Tests La Premiere. Air France, You Ready?

Flight Review: Bernie Tests La Premiere. Air France, You Ready?
January 14
10:08 2019

But this time, I flew it. So you know it’s going to be a Comedy of Muses.


I started my morning, early, in Seattle excited to head to Los Angeles. After a year of not being in Israel, my blood kubeh level had become so low I couldn’t even tell you if Mordoch or Azure was the better restaurant for Mizrahi food in the Shuk. Sad times.

Mordoch wins on Salatim and Bamya. Photo: Bernie Leighton
Azure wins on Kubeh
Photo: Bernie Leighton

I was going to Israel again. As always, staying in the same hotel the Simpsons did. This was going to be awesome!

Except, I wasn’t.

The Wide World of Horrible Delay Handling


Rather than being called, or rebooked, I received an electronic letter saying that I had not been rebooked onto the evening flight, AF69.

Despite being full fare P, despite being Delta Diamond. Was I offered to be rebooked on another airline? No. All I got was, “sorry.”

I told them I was in Seattle, I’d be happy to go in J on their flight out of SEA – which had space. “Oh, we can’t rebook you out of other cities.” Okay. Sure buddy. “Sorry.”

Yes, Air France will be sorry. I don’t know EU261 well – but that was an overnight delay. That was an overnight delay without sufficient compensation. No, 20,000 miles and 900 dollars is not sufficient. Do you know how much a P fare costs, Air France? Of course you do – you sold that to me.

Now I know things, like making a profit and leaving on time, are not really the most important parts of being quintessentially French. Thing is, I am in awe.

If they can do this to me, a writer and high-status paid F flyer – what are they doing to everyone else? No, seriously? I was displeased. You would be too.

Due to Air France’s bizarre schedule, that was two days lost in Israel. At least, at least, I wasn’t going to miss the Air Show.

So here’s the thing. That’s the abhorrent. Lots of people question my nearly undying loyalty to Air France as it is. They love their, horrifying, sister airline. Weird European egalitarians. Now, abhorrent or not.

That’s all the bad. Shall we get to the amazing?

No really, this is La Premiere in every sense


In the words of Homer Simpson, “here no one calls me a fat jerk! I’m a Gourmand!”

Let’s go.

It’s an aging seat design, but it is hard to describe how comfortable it is. Photo: Bernie Leighton

One starts their flight in La Premiere by being gifted a pair of exceptionally comfortable pajamas that bare a fascinating resemblance to Soviet-Era Naval “Tropichka.”

Now, for those of you that follow me, you know I am a 66-year-old that only looks so young as the result of GRU experimentation. So because of that fact, I can’t say this doesn’t endear me.

I, then, made my way to the change room. Yes, a change room. If you want to fly on an Air France A380 with a change room – you have until 2020. After that, the remaining A380 fleet will become 4F, with said F on the top deck. I imagine they will reconfigure the lav situation as well

The Air France La Premiere Amenity Kit and Pyjama sack. Also, a fine apple product of mine that snuck into the shot. Photo: Bernie Leighton

The one drawback of a 9F A380 with a change room is that it only has one lavatory, and it’s not very big. Mostly because of the change room taking away the eleganza. Maybe a good thing. Toilets are kind of dull. Still, one lav – 9 pax… Not premium enough.

Things that befuddle me: a room with no sink, yet lots of mouthwash. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Love the change room, though. Gave me a chance to put on my Tropichka.

Upon returning to my seat, it was time for champagne. I thought Air France served an, okay, Tattinger. Nope. Edition 166 Krug. Oh. My. G-d.

Gorgeous champagne flute, Air France. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Now, in general I prefer Rosé champagne. Except Krug. Krug’s a winner. Edition 166 Krug is a fantastic vintage, too. Apple notes, subtly sweet. Dry at the right time. Tart. Not too much kick. Really highlighted the flavors of the nuts and dried fruit.

I do have a distinct feeling the Air France culinary team selects the pre-departure snack to go well with the champagne on offer.

Now, originally, I had been booked in 1A. But Air France had two A380s down for MX. One in Abuja, and one in Shanghai.

They also should have known the one in CDG that got stuck was going to be out for a minute. It was clear they had to have known days before that my flight would be canceled.

There were many options to rebook me… SFO? IAH? AF69! I’m not bitter, though. This time, I was in 3A. In a full cabin.

Image Courtesy of Airbus

Lots has been said about how the curtain is better. They’re not wrong. Apparently the 77W lamp is pretty cute, too. The screen is bigger too, but we’ll get to why it no longer matters in a few seconds.

I was worried that there would be a lack of privacy. I’m not one for seeing people when I fly. Really not. If I’m paying that kind of money, it’s just me and the crew.

Weirdly, maybe because of how I angled the seat. That’s what the seat felt like on the A380. Divine isolation.

I can only imagine how much better it’d be with the curtain and only three other pax.

Helps that Air France changed their headphones from Bose, to Denon. Not sure when, but it had to be pretty recently. They’re good!

Unfortunately, and this is not a problem unique to Air France, only two good movies came out in the past two years; “Death of Stalin” which is Anti-Soviet propaganda, but when viewed with the proper eye can be hilarious. The other is “Super Troopers 2”

What were my IFE Choices?

“Game Night,” A movie so dry it made me weep for Jason Bateman’s career.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Disney killed Star Wars.

And some Melissa McCarthy Movie about a divorcee going back to college and having intercourse with her ex-husband’s new wife’s son. Woo. Edgy!

We’ll get to the alcohol selection in a minute, but sadly – even being one heck of a twisty Sea Mammal (Y’all know my radio callsign is Porpoise, right?) did not improve the… content of the films.

I should mention, the IFE screen is pathetically small. But when the movies are that bad, does resolution really matter? No. It’s just something to do because you’re drinking Krug 166 and don’t really want to go back to writing your books.

I feel that as Hollywood drifts towards a generic mean to please the ratings chasing Americans and their Chinese investors – IFE will grow less important and good quality internet will become even more of a thing. What I’m saying is that I want to be able to get trashed and watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on my laptop. I’m classy.

Speaking of, Air France doesn’t have WiFi yet. I know they plan to install it – but that didn’t help me!

Eh well, back to drinking. Now, the Qantas First lounge that Air France uses in Los Angeles had Beluga. Just as an aside, if anyone ever tells you there’s a Pesach Beluga, they’re lying. Russian law does not allow for Potato Vodka. Sorry, not sorry. Guess it’s Portland Potato at next year’s Seder.

Or, umm, actually back to take off. I got ahead of myself.

We made our way towards 24R. After LH departed for FRA – we were next. AF65 SUPER Cleared for takeoff.

43 seconds later, and on only the second GP7200 powered A380 I’ve ever flown on – we were airborne. It’s freaky quiet on the main deck ahead of the engines. A350 quiet.

Still, being behind the LH SUPER, it did feel like we caught a tiny bit of a wake. The A380 is a fantastically quiet aircraft – but I find that it handles turbulence in a gracious manner like no other.

Unfortunately, that’s not a compliment. It rocks like a boat. Boats serve one purpose. Observing aquatic mammals from their decks. Done.

We were out of the chop and up to 33,000 in no time. So began our nine hour and thirty three minute cruise to Charles de Gaulle.

Lunchtime!

Does Bernie switch from Champagne to wine? Does he go back on the vodka like the secret vatnik trash he is? Stay reading to find out!

One more champagne, but this time – I was amused. Consisting of three canapés . There was a grilled aubergine mousse, a smoked salmon and pineapple, and finally a chorizo and date thing. All of them were truly outstanding and left me rather in awe.

Amusing, that’s for sure. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Now yes, every good Russian knows to drink hard liquor and not change booze – otherwise you get weird drunk, or puke. Except, this is Air France La Premiere. You have to. So I threw caution to the wind after said Amuse.

The two reds on board are from my two favorite French Vineyards. You either have a choice between the 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Guigal or, on my flight, a 2006 Pauillac Grand Cru Classé Lynch Bages.

They’re two, amazing, reds covering both the Rhône and Bordeaux.

They both have legs, and know how to use them. I couldn’t pick, so I had a glass of both.

A pre-wine snap of the parsnip purée. Photo: Bernie Leighton

From the amuse, it was time for a lovely Parsnip purée.

This is not airplane food, this is not even premium cabin airplane food. This is just “good food.” It’s a rarity. I don’t even know how to rate the catering relative to other airlines in F. This was solid gastronomy.

Next up was a salad of beetroot and freekeh.

A delicious selection of beetroot. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Again, not commercial airplane food. This is getting into above and beyond private jet catering. The attention to detail in the plating was fantastic.

On to the steak.

A, nearly, flawless hunk of meat. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Cook: Flawless

Usually airplane steaks, even in F, are more akin to eating Zebu. Tough and, somehow, more gamey than Taurine cattle. Nope. This was stellar. The sauce was stellar. Only complaint is that there may have been a smidge too much of poivre.

Dessert: Tiramisu. Amazing, but the dessert(s) I had on my return from CDG were so legendary I cannot legally discuss them on a website for all ages.

Did I mention I had a lot of wine? Photo: Bernie Leighton

That was… Utterly mind blowing. And I was Twistin’ with a capital T. I had a rough year, it was time to ball out. And by that, I mean go to bed.

Would I prefer a curtain or a door? Absolutely, is this amazing: yup! Photo: Bernie Leighton

The extremely attentive and knowledgeable cabin crew set up the mattress whilst I was brushing my teeth.

Goodness me, that’s a hell of a mattress. This is very solid bedding. Very… verry… soli… Zzzzzzz

I was awoken 90 minutes before arrival for a lovely waffle with fruit compote.

Still confused by the lack of syrup, but still delicious. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Verdict: Air France la Premiere is an experience unlike any other.

I was expecting to be a little bemused by the fading elegance of the seat. You know, I am the most pretentious writer on the Airways staff: bar none.

I’m a veritable Archie McNally. I don’t go so far as to pour myself a small marque every night, but I am close.

So I tell you this with no ego, Air France is Worth it.

Just maybe build a little padding into your schedule.

When I landed in CDG – I was greeted by a woman with an iPad that said “Leighton.”

The Salon, however, is so amazing it needs its own article.

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About Author

Bernie Leighton

Bernie Leighton

Aviation media is the only career where you can be in Papua New Guinea one day, and then go to Bangladesh the next; for no reason than to fly on rare airlines, rarer aircraft, and visit new countries. I write about aviation. I mostly love Russian planes. I'm a Trivia geek who flies helicopters and loves meat.

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