Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG

I think was probably the first time I have ever been excited about flying a small single aisle regional aircraft – the Airbus A318. For those that are unfamiliar with this quirky little aircraft, the A318 is the smallest member of the A320 family and is used mostly for short and medium haul routes. Air France operates just 18 of them on various intra-European routes like the short hop between Amsterdam (AMS) and Paris (CDG). And to make things even more exciting, I ended up being the only person in the business class cabin for the first time ever!

As I mentioned before, I booked this flight a mere 4 hours prior to departure. That meant that my options were not great for award tickets. While I could have paid ~$145 for a direct flight on TAP Portugal between Amsterdam (AMS) and Lisbon (LIS), when I saw that Air France was operating an A318 between Amsterdam and Paris (CDG), I opted to use my Delta SkyMiles for an award ticket. The award ticket cost me 25,000 SkyMiles + ~$45 in taxes and fees. Now, I will be the first to admit that this was a horrible redemption given the cost of a direct paid ticket. But, Delta used to be my primary airline so I have a ton of SkyMiles and flying TAP (an airline in the Star Alliance where I hold no elite status) would have meant no lounge reviews in Amsterdam. When I added in the ability to cross flying on an A318 off of my list, I figured why not.

Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW

After a few final Heinekens in the Royal Crown Lounge, I headed towards the gate which was a quick 5 minute walk. The lines were already forming for the flight, though I initially noticed that no one was in the Sky Priority lane where business class and SkyTeam elites board. I thought nothing of it and figured it was just too early for the frequent travelers to be at the gate.

Air France 1741
Amsterdam (AMS) to Paris (CDG)
Depart:  2:40 PM
Arrive:  3:55 PM
Duration:  1 hour, 15 minutes
Aircraft:  Airbus A318
Seat:  2F

Boarding ended up being delayed for 10 minutes due to a late inbound aircraft. When boarding finally commenced about 20 minutes prior to departure, I was still the only person in the Sky Priority lane. As I proceeded down the jet bridge, there was a small trolley with a selection of various French, Dutch and English newspapers.

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I boarded through door 1L and turned right into the business class cabin.

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As is typical for inta-European business class, the seat was identical to a standard economy class seat, with the exception that the middle seat is blocked off for a bit of added space.

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The business class cabin is divided from the economy class cabin by a moveable divider. This allows the airlines to adjust the size of the business class cabin to fit the size of the fare class loads for any given flight.

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One thing I immediately noticed upon boarding was that all of the overhead bins in the business class cabin were closed. While I thought that was a bit strange at first, it then dawned on me that this was done to make sure that business class passengers had overhead bin space available in the cabin – a feature I quite like and appreciate as someone who never checks a bag.

I quickly stowed my carry-on and took my seat – 2F – which was a window seat. Row 2 on the A/C side of the aircraft seemed to have limited leg room as compared to the rest of the cabin, so if you are on the taller side, I would advise avoiding these seats.

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In contrast, seats D/F in row 1 seemed to have the most leg room out of all of the seats in the cabin – though only by a very narrow margin (keep in mind I am 6’5″). It is also worth noting that if you take seats 2 A/C or 1 D/F, your tray table is in the armrest, which makes the seats a bit narrower.

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Waiting at my seat was a bright red pillow bearing the Air France logo that became flatter than a door nail the moment you touched it. Since this was only an hour flight though, that really did not matter much.

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The seats were Recaro slimline seats, which I normally find perfectly fine, but the legroom in the seat itself was rather lacking. Seatguru says these seats feature 32″ of pitch, though I think it was a bit closer to 30″-31″.

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Thankfully, with the empty middle seat, the lack of leg room was not an issue (though I can imagine it would be in the main cabin when the middle seat is occupied).

One feature I really like about the Recaro slimline seats is that they feature a flip down cupholder in the seat back. That way you can secure your beverage without having your tray table in your lap.

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Although the aircraft was clean and felt newer, there were already pieces coming apart.

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Again, this was a short flight, so it was not a huge deal. Really it was more so surprising as the entire cabin felt nearly new.

One thing to note about the Recaro slimline seats on the A318 is that they offer very little padding and do not recline. For short flights, that really is not a huge issue, but this aircraft is sometimes operated on medium haul routes where a lack of recline can make a big difference.

After settling into my seat, the Captain came on the PA to announce our quick flying time of 50 minutes and to inform us that they were just finishing up loading the checked baggage and that we would have an on-time departure. As seems to be the norm in Europe, there was no pre-departure beverage offered. Despite the delayed boarding time, the door closed ahead of schedule and we had an on-time departure.

After a quick taxi we were airborne. It was a bit overcast and hazy out during our climb out, so the views were not especially good.

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About 5 minutes after we were airborne, the friendly flight attendant came by and asked if I wanted something to eat. It was at this point that I realized that I was the only person in the cabin! In all my years of flying, I have never had an entire cabin to myself. It was actually quite awesome to experience and made me feel almost like I was on a private jet!

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As I had only grabbed a quick snack in the Royal Crown Lounge, I was quite hungry and asked for the snack. The snack was served all on one tray with a menu that read as follows:

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The snack was definitely light, but everything was very tasty and fresh. I am not sure why European business class catering is so much better than American, but this blew domestic U.S. airline catering out of the water. And that was especially true of the desserts which were, as you would expect from a French airline, incredible.

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I opted to pair my snack with a Heineken and a water.

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I quickly finished the light snack and about 10 minutes after that we started our choppy descent into Paris (CDG). It was cloudy and overcast in France as well, so the views on approach were a bit dreary.

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We landed 15 minutes ahead of schedule and began our long taxi towards the gate. Our taxi took us past some French national aircraft, as well as a Concorde that is on display.

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I really wish I would have had the opportunity to fly the Concorde, but it was retired before I really got into the travel hacking game. Maybe one day I will get to fly on one, though I really think that Concorde’s days have unfortunately passed for good despite some groups trying to revive the aircraft for novelty flights.

After about a 15 minute taxi, we reached our gate where I quickly deplaned and headed towards the Air France Salon Lounge for my layover.

Final Thoughts

Being an aviation nerd, this flight to me was worth it alone just to be able to cross the A318 off of my list of aircraft I want to fly on. Being the only person in the business class cabin for the first time in all of my travels, plus the surprisingly tasty snack and great service just made this flight that much better. Would I recommend the average non-av geek take this redemption? Probably not. But for me, it was Delta SkyMiles well spent!

What are your thoughts on Air France’s intra-European business class product?

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