Luxury in air travel becomes involuntary

Recently, on an Air France flight from Bogota (Colombia) to Paris (France), I flew business class. That is to say, I actually had bought a business class ticket. Why I mention this? Because over half of the Business Class cabin was filled after passengers upgraded, ”involuntarily” by Air France from Economy. The translation (explanation by cabin crew): flight was too full in economy, so people were upgraded to Business Class (price difference - business class, 3 times more expensive than economy)

Air France, Affaire (Business Class) on Airbus A340

At first I did not feel bothered by this ”democratic” approach by Air France, but after the first hour of flight two of the upgrades have been enjoying their new status too much. After many drinks (alcoholic), they became noisy, disturbing all passengers. Most of the paying passengers were very discreet Colombian nationals, some very smartly dressed and from the manner, extremely educated. They also felt the frustration but probably did not understand what was happening.

Although service was at its highest standards, with very professional cabin attendants, the actual experience of this business class was involuntary indeed – although relatively new (designed by some ergonomic specialists), the reclining seats were quire uncomfortable (not to full beds); poor quality of the blankets (even though made of wool, they looked and felt very old and used – they were cleaned so much, the labels have washed away); very poor quality ear plugs and eye covers; restroom in Business Class is identical to Economy – same size, same hand gel, the only perks being two cleaning lotions by Clarins); headphones were so used, they would hardly work.

When it comes to food, this was again an involuntary experience. The microwave overcooked dishes appeared of economy standard (same foil packaging and size as in economy class). The worst part was breakfast – the fruit salad and fruit ornaments on the plate look very pale (probably of the lowest quality). Suprisingly, in economy they were serving Italian icecream for the snack time, while in Business, they served some crackers and small chocolates.

The selection of wines was limited to two wines (some other airlines have 2 wines in economy), the cheapest Taittinger champaign – so cheap, that it cannot even be found in Tax Free or supermarkets. Flight attendants told me the champagne was not even included in the inflight duty free list.

Since my previous Business Class flight on Air France, the company also seems to have applied an involuntary policy on entertainment – do not imagine Air France provides neither mobile phone nor internet access, likes some of the airlines on transatlantic routes. Except one new release, all movies were old, some from 2010 and some from 2011. The selection of movies was very limited and so was that of TV series (one particular episode from several series).

Another perk some of you appreciate when flying business class is the lounge – this time, although new, the airport in Bogota seems not to have put in place a lounge – or maybe Air France did not know that (yet). On departure, economy and business boarded the same gate and on arrival in Paris, altough business passengers left on a separate door, there were no other premium services on arrival. Even more, for those on connecting flights, some business passengers were told they needed to be members of Flying Blue (Air France miles program) of an Elite level to benefit from priority security check and transit. Nothing of that sort!

Oliver Petcu