June 27, 2015

Beirut-Paris: The Air France Business Experience

I want to express my minute-to-minute enjoyment during my trip from Beirut to Paris… I want to express the enjoyment I had with every single service offered on onboard AirFrance, especially after I learned that I would be one of the first to try their new refurbished Business cabin, that offers unique innovative cocoon seats on the Paris-New York route. 

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09:50am and I was already on the plane. The Airbus A340-300 fitted with a business class, premium economy and economy classes was ready to welcome passengers. I'm not a newbie on AirFrance and their business class is an experience I have tried before. The large seat, the welcome drink, the welcome refreshment kit and newly the slippers and socks; as well as new set of linen, which I previously reviewed.

Take-off was scheduled at 10:30am but I wanted to spend sometime discovering this wide and relaxed well-lit space. The business class has a blue carpet and is fitted with rows of six seats, two on each side and two in the middle. Wide seats with leather armrest, each decorated with a large pillow colored in light blue and brown, a light blue cover and a relaxation kit. The general feel of the cabin is relaxing with minimal colors and chaos.

Welcome aboard... The staff is amazing! I love them in Business Class, how they greet you, how they smile and make sure to satisfy all your demands. The ways they phrase their sentences cant but make you feel good. For example, instead of asking you to put your phone off, the hostess simply inquires if the phone is on airplane mode and doesn't shout at you to put it away.  

A drink? You can't but say yes because it's well described to make your mouth water. Champagne or strawberry and kiwi juice welcome you onboard their plane, while the security movie starts playing.  

"AirFrance is in the air" is AirFrance’s new tag line used in all marketing tools and movies. This year, the security movie has been changed to meet the digital era with a funkier touch and a trendier feel.

Let the fun begin... I was so excited to try today's suggestions.

To make things clear before proceeding, I like plane food when it's good. Some just bash it instinctively without even trying to taste it, but I'm surely not one of them. A meal prepared by a Michelin starred chef can't but be appreciated along side a nice selection of Mezze from our local kitchens.

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The refreshing kit:

  • Toothbrush
  • Colgate mouthwash
  • Colgate toothpaste
  • Clarins cream
  • Lip balm
  • Eye cover for sleeping
  • Earplugs
  • Hair comb
  • Shoe fitter
  • An Evian water bottle on the side

The best thing about traveling business class is having a continuous electricity plug. My computer didn't turn off for a second while my phone was being charged all the way.

Hostesses passed with hot towels, the menu followed while the crew was preparing drinks and aperitifs. 

Smoked salmon on spoon was the amuse-bouche offered with mon-village mini twist butter cookies that are exceptionally crunchy with a hint of salt. With that I chose to have Chateauneuf du Pape, Les Closiers red wine, 2013 Ogier. 

Crisp aromas erupt from this wine with a remarkable texture, a full-bodied wine that feels light and aromatic with floral and red fruits notes leaving a long lasting after note. Add to that the butter biscuits that were excellent. I believe this salmon bite could have been a bit more creative.

The menu:

  • Jean Marie Massaud, the man behind the business class new tableware.
  • A welcome note from AirFrance.
  • A long beverage list of which The Glenlivet 12, Porto wines and cognac.
  • Lunch with an amuse-bouche, appetizers and salads.
  • Three choices of main course and a day's special dish.
  • Cheese and desserts.

Lunch suggestion:

  • Smoked salmon to start.
  • Marinated shrimp, marinated salmon, hummus, baba ghanouj and grape leaves.
  • Filet de boeuf, mushroom sauce, roasted potatoes, turned zucchini and carrots.
  • Poached salmon win fish velouté sauce, choice gnocchi, spring onions and grilled eggplant, turned carrots and zucchini.
  • Spinach polenta, benchmark sauce.
  • Chicken cordon blue with spinach, garlic sauce, grilled tomatoes.
  • A special selection of cheese.
  • Desserts trio of strawberry kiwi tasty, chocolate macaron, Lebanese style baklava.
  • Sorbet and fresh fruit salad.

The wine list prepared by Paolo Basso, 203 best sommelier with Thierry Desseauve and Michel Bettane authors of the guide Bettane and Desseauve des vins de France:

  • Champagne Ayala Brut majeur.
  • Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay, Pouilly Fuisse 2013, Louis Latour.
  • Cotes de Provence Rose, Cinsault, Grenache le Caprice de Clementine 2014.
  • Vallee du Rhone Rouge, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Chateauneuf du Pape, les Closiers, 2013
  • Bordeaux Rouge, Haut Medoc 2009, Chateau Maurac, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.

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A culinary experience just started:

  • Red or white wine, white or multi cereal bread, still or sparkling water, balsamic or basil sauce... Every question makes you feel like you’re sitting in a starred restaurant.
  • A great plate landed in front of me with the new design of AirFrance filled with a piece of square bread plate, a salad bowl and the main rectangular meal. The white napkin in tide with a blue nod while sat and pepper poorer are made of design red plastic you feel like taking home. Water and wine is served in thin glass cups you enjoy drinking in.
  • One side has the oriental touch and the other a European one. One roll of stuffed grapevine leads, hummus and eggplant salad next to a slice of smoked salmon lay on two shrimps decorated with wild oregano. With the multi cereal bread served warm, lunch started - Fresh shrimps, good quality and non-oily smoked salmon and an oriental selection really prepared to perfection. Few Lebanese restaurants prepare such hummus or vine leaf and baba ghanouj is mixed with crunchy-diced bell pepper while the salad is a selection of fresh greens.
  • While enjoying my meal, the large screen playing in front of me offers a large selection of movies including all the latest blockbusters. Today's choice was a movie is called Focus.
  • I can’t eat garlic and didn’t feel like eating meat so I chose to have the salmon with fish velouté and the gnocchi. A tender large piece of salmon served in a round plate with soft gnocchi on the side and well grilled vegetables. I enjoyed it although I would have preferred it to be juicier. 

I tried three wines as the meal finished; the rose, which is fresh with a boost of summer, the white and its spring notes and some red wine. I love tasting wines onboard AirFrance, the professionalism they have behind their selection are superb.

Best for last as they say. Yum! Desserts are the best part of this meal. 

  • Fluffy yet lightly crunchy chocolate macaron, with an intense chocolate taste and no unpleasant sweetness, is very tasty.
  • Flaky baklava with just the right amount of sugar syrup
  • Fruit tart is crispy with a juicy heart
  • Mango sorbet is a bit sweet for my buds but one can't deny its goodness
  • Fruits include pineapple carpaccio, orange and blood orange

How amazing the experience has been so far… to top it all off, we were served a cup of coffee with a piece of Valrhona chocolate.  I enjoyed my movie all relaxed for the rest of the flight.

I was so excited for more. The experience onboard the new plane where more choices are made available. The experience so far resembles that of a fine dining restaurant. The staff onboard is professional, cool, always smiling and constantly making sure that every traveler is happy.  

Just when I thought the experience could not get better, a basket of chocolates circulated among us, including the best of what France has to offer including La Duree, Fauchon and Les Chocolates de Pauline.

I have written several reviews already about AirFrance and I can’t seem to be having enough of it yet.  Some may argue that service via Arab airlines is better, maybe, but they wouldn’t have the finesse the French offer.

Categories: Airlines Travel




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