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Review: Air France's Economy Class Experience

Tarmac at Charles de Gaulle with Air France aircraft
Paris Charles de Gaulle is the Air France's main hub.

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Are you considering a short economy flight with Air France? Our review underscores the airline's strengths for budget-conscious travellers. Air France provides enticing deals, comfortable Airbus aircraft, and complimentary refreshments in economy class. However, the variety of in-flight entertainment options was somewhat limited. For a comprehensive breakdown of our experience with Air France, delve into the full review.

Air France

The national airline of France is known as Air France. It is a part of the Air France-KLM Group and is a member of the Skyteam Alliance. Air France was established in 1933 and is currently a major player in the global aviation industry.

Despite its age of over 90 years, Air France has maintained its reputation as a reputable brand with a rich history. The airline continues to provide complimentary onboard service, but over time, there has been a decline in the quality of this service. The lowest ticket classes no longer include checked luggage and an additional fee is required for many services. In other aspects, however, the airline adheres to a traditional business model and does not operate as a low-cost airline.

Air France has two main hubs: Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY).

Luggage Policy

The most affordable economy class tickets from Air France do not cover checked luggage costs. However, these can be purchased for an extra fee.

According to the current guidelines, every passenger can bring regular-sized hand luggage and a personal item, as long as their combined weight does not exceed 12 kilograms. Additional hand luggage is allowed for higher ticket classes, and the conditions for checked luggage are also improved. Up to 12k g hand luggage is one of the reasons why we chose Air France.

Airbus A319 at CDG
Short-haul aircraft like this Airbus A319 are small so you may be asked to check-in your hand luggage into the hold.

Our Air France Experiences

In this review, we'll share our experiences with two Air France journeys. We travelled from Helsinki to Lisbon a few years back with a transfer at the Paris de Gaulle Airport. This year, we travelled from Madrid to Helsinki, again connecting in Charles de Gaulle. While we haven't noticed any significant changes in the service level over the years, we focus more on our most recent trip in this review.

Bookings

We booked our Air France trips through online travel agencies (OTA). We compared flight prices on Skyscanner and found that OTAs offered lower prices. It is good to understand that booking via a third party includes risks but the prices are usually a little cheaper. Online travel agencies tend to sell unnecessary extra services. Luckily, Skyscanner allows you to choose whether to book directly from the airline or via an agency.

After the bookings, we installed the Air France app on our phones. It is possible to add bookings to the app even though you have booked flights elsewhere.

From Helsinki to Lisbon in 2020

In February 2020, we journeyed from Helsinki to Lisbon by passing through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. The initial part of the trip was marketed by Air France, however, it was carried out by Finnair. The second part of the trip, from Paris to Lisbon, was conducted by Air France.

The leg from Paris to Lisbon was operated by an Airbus A318. This particular model is the briefest edition of the Airbus A320 series. With only 80 planes produced, it was a unique experience to board this thrilling aircraft model.

The cabin of Air France Airbus A318
The cabin of an Airbus aircraft A318 is short.

The aeroplane, although aged, was well-maintained. Boarding was swift through a gate and the flight departed promptly. It also arrived in Lisbon on schedule as planned.

Airbus A318 in Lisbon Airport
We arrived in Lisbon on time. Our Airbus A318 didn't have a gate but we had a bus ride to the terminal

Flight from Madrid to Helsinki in 2024

In March 2024, we flew from Madrid to Helsinki with Air France. We boarded our first leg at Madrid's Barajas Airport, eager to begin our journey back home. Our excitement, however, was tempered by a boarding process. Air France had divided passengers into five boarding Zones, with Zone 1 taking priority. We, unfortunately, found ourselves in Zone 5, the last to board.

The slow boarding meant a frustrating wait, further extended by the requirement for the last passengers to check in their hand luggage. Thankfully, due to the slow processes, we were allowed to keep our carry-on bags with us to expedite the boarding. To compound the issue, our flight departed a full hour behind schedule. The captain, however, kept us informed of the situation and offered sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

Despite the captain's best efforts and positive attitude, the delay proved too much. We missed our connecting flight to Helsinki at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Here's where Air France shone. Their user-friendly app allowed us to rebook our flights ourselves from two schedule options free of charge. It was already late in Paris, so the delay meant an unexpected overnight stay in Paris. Air France's WhatsApp customer service authorized us to book a hotel stay ourselves and cover other necessary expenses incurred due to the missed connection.

Compensation voucher
Air France issued us automatically a 15-euro voucher per passenger for missing the flight connection due to the airline's previous flight being late on arrival.

We could have let also Air France make all the necessary bookings. Air France's hub at Paris de Gaulle was well-equipped for such situations. Rerouting kiosks were readily available, offering alternative rebooking options.

The next day's flight, though departing 20 minutes late, arrived in Helsinki right on schedule.

Both the flights, Madrid to Paris and Paris to Helsinki, were operated by Airbus models – an A321 for the first leg and an A320 for the latter. While the planes were clean and well-maintained, they weren't exactly brand new. Economy class offered enough legroom for a comfortable journey. The cabins featured also a business class section (though on this trip, we enjoyed the comfort of the economy). A minor drawback was the lack of in-flight magazines, but the overall experience was pleasant. Complimentary cold snacks and drinks were provided and there was also Wi-Fi available.

Economy class cabin of Air France A320
Airbus A320 of Air France flew us from Paris to Helsinki.

Throughout the journey, Air France utilized gates at all the airports we passed through. Thankfully, boarding at CDG was a much more streamlined experience compared to the slow process in Madrid. Charles de Gaulle felt a nicer place to connect than before.

Wi-Fi and Entertainment Onboard

Our experiences suggest that Air France does not offer in-flight magazines or entertainment systems on short-haul economy flights. However, Wi-Fi was available on every leg.

The airline provided a free messaging plan, allowing us to use WhatsApp or other messaging apps during the flights. While we were able to do simple web browsing with this plan, the speed was quite slow. For activities requiring more bandwidth, such as streaming or downloading content, paid Wi-Fi plans were available for purchase.

Rating

The following rating is based on our overall Air France experiences emphasizing our most recent flights.

First Impression

The boarding processes at Paris de Gaulle were well-organized and the ground staff were friendly. On all of our flights with Air France, the cabin crew were accommodating and pleasant. The pilots provided an informative speech during the cruising phase maintaining a friendly tone.

In 2020, flight attendants were giving out hand sanitizing towels as passengers were getting on the plane. In 2024, hand disinfection wipes were provided as passengers got into the plane.

Meal in 2020
In 2020, the meal in the economy class (pic) was similar to the meal in 2024.

Cabin

We have flown on a variety of flights operated by Air France's Airbus models, including the A318, A319, A320, and A321. As the smallest of the family, the A318 had only a single, somewhat shaky toilet (at least in our experience) tucked away in the back. Other types had more toilets.

cabin of Airbus A320 of Air France
Our rebooked flight from Paris to Helsinki was half empty.

All of these aeroplane models we flew with Air France had also a business class. The economy class felt spacious enough. While not brand new, all the planes were well-maintained and clean, creating a comfortable environment for short-haul journeys. The slim seats and overall cabin cleanliness in all the Airbuses we flew on contributed to a feeling of more space than their actual size might suggest.

Onboard Service

Even on short-haul routes, Air France continues to offer complimentary onboard service. During our flights, the flight attendants provided coke, sprite, water, beer, wine, and surprisingly delicious coffee and tea. Additionally, muffins/sandwiches were included as well. The crew did not make announcements about the service so it was difficult know to if it was free.

Juice and snacks
Air France served complimentary snacks and drinks in the economy class.

Information screens were not available. The only form of entertainment was a thick onboard magazine. For travellers of all kinds, USB charging sockets in the Airbus A318 aircraft proved to be convenient.

USB sockets in Airbus A318
Only Airbus A318 aircraft had USB sockets for charging.

Wi-Fi

We were pleasantly surprised to find that Air France's short-haul aircraft offered free Wi-Fi, even if it was limited to messaging apps. The connection was slow but it worked efficiently for our needs. Even slow-paced web browsing was possible even though the plan was meant only for messaging. We didn't need to upgrade to a paid plan on this particular flight, but it's good to know the options are available for those who require them.

Using the Wi-Fi was simple. We needed to turn on Wi-Fi on our devices and search for Air France's network. Once connected, we were presented with three Wi-Fi options:

  • Free Message Plan: This plan allows you to use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to stay connected with friends and family throughout your flight.
  • Surf Plan (€10): This option is ideal for checking emails, news updates, or social media.
  • Stream Plan (€20): The Stream Plan offers a faster connection suitable for streaming movies, music, or browsing with richer content.
Wi-Fi plans
Air France offered Message, Surf and Stream Wi-Fi plans.
Payment screen
They could be paid with major payment cards.

It is good to understand that aircraft's Wi-Fi is never as fast as networks on the ground.

Payment for Wi-Fi access could be made through various methods, including major credit cards, Flying Blue miles, or pre-purchased vouchers. The system also provided a handy coverage map to let users know if Wi-Fi is available on the whole route.

Coverage map
The Wi-Fi system showed an internet coverage map, a helpful tool to see if the service works on your route.

Cost of Tickets

While Air France isn't a budget airline, with well-compensated staff, they are known for offering competitive fares and promotions alongside a comfortable travel experience. In our own experience, we've consistently found good deals when flying with them. Air France is known for its high-quality service, but full-price tickets can be on the steeper side. Luckily, they frequently offer deals and promotions that can make the price much more attractive. We recommend keeping an eye out for these offers to get the best value for your money.

Missed Flight Compensation

As previously mentioned, we missed our original flight from Paris to Helsinki which was a consequence of a previous flight from Madrid to Paris being late and a tight connection time. We managed to book ourselves to the next available flight through Air France's app. Since the cause of the missed connection was in the control of the airline, they are liable to compensate affected passengers including us. For the night accommodation, we were given two options, whether to book the hotel ourselves or stay at the suggested hotel. Taking into consideration that we need to fly midday the following day, we preferred to book a stay at a hotel conveniently located at the airport. This also means eliminating additional expenses for transport between the hotel and the airport. As soon as we got back to Helsinki, we filed a compensation claim to Air France. We had to fill up their form only and an acknowledgement receipt was sent back to us that our claim was received. In EU law, the concerned airline should reply in the latest of 3 weeks that they are handling the claim. Interestingly, they gave us an update a day before this 3-week maturity period.

As of now, we have not received any resolution regarding our request for a refund. Once the process is concluded, we will post an update with a comprehensive overview of the timeline and steps involved.

According to EU Reg 261, airlines are required to compensate passengers if they miss their connecting flight and arrive at their final destination with a delay exceeding 3 hours, provided the flights were booked together and the delay wasn't due to extraordinary circumstances.

Rating

Air France earns a 4-star rating out of 5 from us based on our short-haul economy class experiences. The flight schedules were convenient, and the airline impressively handled our missed connection on the flight from Madrid to Helsinki. Onboard services included complimentary snacks and drinks, with no pressure to purchase anything further. A user-friendly app proved helpful for managing our rebooking.

Coffee, bread, sweet
Also, coffee and tea were available.

It's important to note that the slow boarding process in Madrid was unexpected and certainly detracted from the overall experience.

Airbus A319 by Air France
Air France operates mainly with the Airbus A32x family in Europe.
Terminal of Charles de Gaulle
Don't be fooled by the rumours, Paris's main airport is quite comfortable.

Bottom Line

Air France offered us comfortable and convenient travel experiences for short-haul journeys in economy class. While some full-price tickets can be expensive, Air France frequently runs promotions to make them more affordable. Passengers benefit from complimentary onboard service with snacks and drinks, along with a user-friendly app for managing bookings.

There are some areas for improvement. For example, limited announcements about the services onboard led to confusion on our trips. Additionally, the slow boarding process experienced in Madrid was frustrating. Overall, we rated Air France 4 out of 5 stars for short-haul economy class travel.

Have you travelled with Air France? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

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Destination: France

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Comments (2)

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Worse experience ever ! Bought flights from Atl to CDG & CDG to DUBAI . From CDG to DUBAI after 12 hours lay over got to the airport and they said they had no seats. Even though I have my purchases confirmation and I arrived in the morning from ATL they didn’t have any info and I couldn’t board . I have 3 little girls cold , and hungry and the crew were extremely RUDE they showed no care which it’s amazing .. I was there hours standing at a window while finally some lady came and tried to put us on the next flight the next day and since I was so upset because my girls were exhausted I asked if I was supposed to sleep with them on the floor then she went and got a hotel for us .. this has been the worse nightmare ever , rude employees. no compassion or respect . I am still stuck in France still and I know when I got back to the airport will be something else .. they are discriminatory toward American citizens .. I don’t think I will ever recommend ever again .. so dissatisfied . The 5 of us stuck all our reservation at risk in Dubai and they don’t care at all

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I like AF. efficient and professional airline in the "full service" class. provide business class passengers everything possible and do it well. I often fly with them even on leisure flights across Europe.