Krug on Air France

But SAS remains my overall favorite Euro business experience

5 August 2019

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

Tis the summer holiday season, and in a recent trip I flew with Air France Business Class to and back from the United States. It was interesting to compare the airplanes: on my way over, it was in a Boeing 777, which had an appealing 1-3-1 row seat configuration, so when traveling solo, you can get both an aisle and window seat at once, which is what I chose. The plane is comfortable although the table area was to my right, so seeing out the window was more of a stretch.

The service was very good, and I enjoyed the wines, which included a Louis Jadot Santenay 2017 red that was tasty enough. The Deutz NV bubbly was fun to drink, as well, and it went well with both the nuts (served cold), the beet mousse and a cheese crumble (tasty) and the excellent ending with cheeses. The main course – “pan fried shrimp with a butternut squash puree” – was kind of average.

IMG_9401

Appetizing enough

SAS remains the standard for top business class in Europe

This brings me to the more competitively priced experience that I had on the Airbus A330 with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) a few years back, which I prefer, and for several reasons. You can read more about that here.

Even though the A330 is a smaller plane, several things made the trip more appealing than business on Air France.

First of all, SAS offers free wifi. Not just messaging, but also emails and such. While some airlines like Delta – also a good experience transatlantic on business class – offer free messaging via on board wifi access, others, like Lufthansa, only enable on board wifi for a price. Air France had no wifi, even for a price. I did see some great movies at least!

Second, the window/aisle seat was configured better as you had a closer access to the window and the lie back function was fully 180 degrees (on Air France it is not quite flat).

Third, SAS includes a self-serve bar open throughout the flight, so if you want a coffee, wine or a snack, you get up and serve yourself.

Fourth, the food was better on SAS than on Air France. Starting with the warm nuts served. SAS included foods that were authentic to Scandinavian cuisine, making the ride special, while Air France was more general. Also, SAS staff would come through the aisle dressed in white chef outfits, and each dish visually displayed on a cart for business passengers.

Finally, as said above, the transatlantic flight with SAS was more competitively priced: about €2,400 roundtrip business class, while Air France was closer to €2,600. Both are nice business price tags, and the SAS flight was not non-stop, as it included a layover in Copenhagen.

In terms of business lounges, Air France gets the edge, with more choice.

The Krug Experience

The way back on Air France – see video above – was with the mammoth Airbus A380, which included not only a business class area, but also a first class (SAS flights are only business class). So, as with a flight I had taken on Lufthansa business last year, there were better wines to try from first class. The configuration was no longer 1-3-1, but this time I was traveling with a companion, which made it fun to travel together in a two person row.

And I have to say, Air France proposed the best Champagne I can recall ever enjoying in flight. While Lufthansa served the 2006 Dom Perignon, I felt that the non vintage Krug Champagne was better. Very precise yet so opulent. Such vivid and focused flavors. Distinct lime and lemon. It blew the Deutz NV, served in business class, out of the water. 

The flight was smooth and service excellent, and it was a treat by the staff to let me try other wines from the first class cabin, which included an excellent, dark fruit driven and smooth Château Canon Premier Grand Cru Classé 2012 (Saint Emilion), one of my favorite Saint Emilion wines, and a bright yet spicy Dauvergne Ranvier Côte-Rôtie 2015.

I also appreciated the Louis Jadot Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2015, which was on the richer side of Chardonnay, but just delicious. Note to readers: I will be tasting a series of Pernand-Vergelesses wines in early autumn in Burgundy, so be sure to expect some comparative tasting notes on what I think is a thoroughly underrated white wine appellation from Burgundy.

Alas, the big let down for the return flight was the business class food. I mean, really, the “poulet sauce foie gras” sounded very promising but it was hardly better than the picture below. The gratin de pomme de terre was lacking in any finesse and the chicken was dry and utterly boring. I have had better meals in economy class with Lufthansa, where at least the chicken was not dry.

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Dry chicken, average au gratin

That is really a mark against Air France, especially considering expectations from the smartly presented menu. At least the lobster tail for the start was tasty, and went well with the Krug, so it was not all so bad, but – really – Air France could do better.

To wrap up, my top transatlantic flights on business class over the last five years:

  1. SAS: Frankfurt Airport to Dulles International (A330, via Copenhagen)
  2. Lufthansa: Frankfurt Airport to Dulles International (747-800, nonstop)
  3. Condor Airlines: Frankfurt Airport to San Diego (Boeing 767-300, nonstop)
  4. Delta Airlines: Frankfurt Airport to Los Angeles (Boeing 767-300, via Detroit)
  5. Air France: Paris to Dulles International (777, non stop, but a return with the A380)

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