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Saturday 13 June 2015

Flying on Air France's Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Class

Welcome to my Trip Report on Air France's Boeing 777-300ER!

Photo: Jjss


I originally booked this ticket for March earlier this year (2015) but because I have plans, I changed it to May, paid around S$32 for it. The one-way ticket is from Jakarta to Singapore and it cost me only around S$80 as it was a promotional fare for its re-inaugural of CGK-SIN route. This is my 3rd time flying with this airline. My first two times were also on this routing SIN-CGK-SIN, flew it for the Boeing 777 in the early 2000s. At that time, the Boeing 777-200ER was quite new and I was desperate to fly on it. Air France offered a cheap return from SIN-CGK-SIN at that time, and I chose it ahead of Qantas' Boeing 747SP on the same route, can you believe what a blunder I make? Anyway, a few months before the airline made the official announcement about making the SIN-CGK-SIN route comeback, there were rumours spreading around and to the delight of the local aviation community, the rumour was true and a lot of us made plans to try out the airline's in-flight products. You can also sample the airline's premium class at a lower fare compared to the long haul (CDG-SIN-CDG sectors) 

Air France's Boeing 777-200ER F-GSPF is my very first Boeing 777 ride! Photos credit to the photographers on airliners.net and jetphotos.net.

On the day of departure

The day before I received an email from Air France and there was an offer upgrade for Premium Economy and Business Class. Premium Economy was at S$72 while Business Class was at $168 and this is for CGK-SIN sector. After considering this deal for a while, I decided to upgrade myself to Premium Economy, don't see the need to experience the Business Class, besides I need to add more P.E experience to my flight logbook. So once that was decided, I did the booking and got my assigned 26A, the last row of Premium Economy Class.

What is Premium Economy? 

Premium Economy is a combination of Business and Economy Class, its a class between both classes. Since the products of both are quite apart, some airlines decided to introduce this class to bridge the gap between both and making it more affordable for normal passengers. Of course, you can use mileage points to upgrade yourself to this class, but that depends on the ticket you purchase. 

My original seat was supposed to be 46L. I didn't know my aircraft was fitted with the new cabin products, otherwise, I might have stick to Economy Class.

I picked seat 26A, this option was available after I paid the upgrade fees.

The flight was in the evening and my check-out time was at noon. I decided to head to Terminal 3 of Jakarta Airport and hang around there until the check-in counters open. I took the shuttle bus from the hotel there and the ride took around 25 minutes. 

Jakarta Airport hasn't undergone many changes since the 1990s and I am bemused with how outdated the terminal 1 and 2 are still in, nothing much seemed to be done to improve the infrastructure of the airport. Recently, Garuda Indonesia has announced flights to AMS on the Boeing 777-300ER has to stopover in Singapore before continuing the journey to Europe because the runway can't handle the heavy load of the aircraft - this pretty much sums up everything about the folks over there. I don't want to come down too hard for them, but that's the fact. I dislike Terminal 1 and 2 a lot apart from some interesting cafes, both terminals need to be upgraded to catch up with its neighbouring countries, making it more passenger-friendly. 

Here are some photos of terminal 3 - it is a recently built building so it looks much newer than the older two terminals. 

 For visitors, you are allowed to see your friend off, but you have to use a different entrance. Once your friend has settled her/his check-in, you can meet him or her here. 

 I had my lunch there, sirloin steak at Harrie's Cafe.

A cold drink at Starbucks after that.

I managed to get some work done while using the airport's WiFi. The connection wasn't very good as it kept disconnecting.

Soon, it was time. I took the Airport Free Shuttle bus service to terminal 2. The traffic at Jakarta during peak hours is terrible, so if your flight is somewhere around that time, do come earlier than usual. I heard of many travellers missing their flights because of this issue. 

Here are some photos were taken at Terminal 2's departure hall. 

Air France/ KLM Check-in counters. I checked in at a KLM's counter. Airport Tax of 150,000 Rupiah was collected from me since my ticket was booked before April 2015. The airfare of the tickets booked after this period would have the airport tax included.

I was originally queueing up at the baggage drop-off counter, but luckily the staff in pink called me over. 

The queue was quite long for both flights. 

My boarding pass was issued and here you have it, the premium economy class which means I get the Sky Priority, board together with the Business, First Class and Gold members of the frequent flyer program. 

While waiting for my turn at the check-in counter, I did a check on flightradar24, and Air France's F-GSQG was taking me home. 

After checking in, I went back to the land side and headed to A& W restaurant for some nice waffle and root beer. Unfortunately, the waffle was not available until 20 minutes later. As I didn't want to wait for it, I ordered a glass of root beer float instead.

After enjoying this glass, I headed back to the departure hall and off to the immigration. It took around 10 minutes to clear and I was at the airside. Made my way to the gate, as there was WiFi available, I decided to sit around near the gate area to check my stuff. 

Heading to my gate at D7.

The air side has some interesting shops to explore. 

At this point, I was really excited. After looking at the photos on the internet, I was looking forward to experiencing it.

The long passageway to the holding room. 

There are 2 sections at the gate, one is for Economy Class and the second is for Premium passengers including Premium Economy Class. 

My flight route: CGK-SIN

Miles: 546

Photos of my ride, F-GSQG

Airline: Air France
Date: 25th May 2015
Route: CGK-SIN
Terminal 2 
Flight: AF259
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: F-GSQG
Delivered: 23th December 2004
Aircraft leased from ILFC
Configuration: F8 C67 W28 Y200
Engines: 2 X GE90-115B
Line number: 500
Gate: D7
Seat: 26A 
Load: 5% in PE Class
Duration: 1 hrs 20 mins
Departure time: 1930
Push back: 1928
Arrival time: 2230 
Actual arrival: 2215
Departure runway: 07L 
Arrival runway: 20R 

Boarding was called shortly after, I was one of the first to board the aircraft, hoping to photograph the Business cabin while on my way to my seat and also the Economy Class seats as well. Stepping on board the aircraft, I was greeted by not so enthusiastic and friendly crew. The ladies were better, the male crew was kind of stuck up. Took some Business Class photos while on my way, here are the photos. Sorry for the poor quality, have to take them quickly as I didn't know whether this set of crew was ok with photography. 

Fortunately, no one stopped me. I have never tried the herringbone seats on the business class before, will do so when I fly with Hong Kong airlines in September 2015. Stay tuned for my trip report! 

First Class

The crew on this flight wasn't very friendly, so I decided not to ask for a visit to the First Class cabin. My friend, Raymond Ngu has taken some photos of it, here is a photo of the First Class.

Business Class

The 1-2-1 seating configuration in Business Class is very much preferred by business class travellers.

These seats are Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus which are also used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. Eventually, all the 777s will have the business updated to this. 

This seat is fully flat-bed which delivers comfort and the best thing of all, every passenger will get aisle access - no middle seat, no worries. 

A hanger and pillow are provided so if you have anything to hang, just hand it to the cabin crew who will put it in the closet. Don't forget to collect it after the flight, but usually, the crew will hand it to you.

The screen looks kind of small for Business Class. 

The French crew was looking on while I was snapping. 

The cheapest way of sampling the airline's Business Class is to fly on one of the airline's 5th freedom route or use your miles to upgrade.

The interior of the seat looks comfortable and cosy.

Overall, I find the Business Class very tempting to fly on. Air France has certainly invested a lot on these seats, not cheap but there is no choice since the competition, especially against the Middle East Carriers, is fierce. 

Economy Class Seats 

I was pleasantly surprised with the new Economy Class seats. Even though it is in an uncomfortable layout of 3-4-3, but it certainly looks good and only comfortable if the seats beside yours are vacant. Having a whole row for yourself would certainly be great for sleeping especially on long haul flights.

Black and Red certainly look great! Seats do look comfortable. 

The first row of Economy section, bulkhead seat. 

Using the Panasonic In-flight Entertainment System, the passengers will be well entertained throughout the flight with around 600 programmes.

I manage to snap some of these photos before the crowd came in. 

Seat pitch looks tight though

More passengers coming in and I had to make my way back to my seat.

Premium Economy cabin is in front of this cabin.

There are a number of 2-seaters on this aircraft, but you have pay to select these seats.

The IFE system is Gate-to-Gate, that means you can straight away use the system at the departure gate all the way to the arrival gate. You get interrupted while using the IFE system is during announcements and safety video being played.

The 3-4-3 configuration on the Boeing 777 is not popular among travellers, but among the airlines, I flew so far with this configuration, this has to be the nicest. After flying with KLM on the KUL-CGK, the cabin, not just Economy Class, Business Class simply blows KLM's old cabin products away. Even with the 3-3-3 on KLM's 777, these seats are much more comfortable with better IFE system too. So if you ask me to choose between this or KLM's 3-3-3 Y class? I guess I choose this, probably the 2-seater. Won't mind paying more for comfort. For my KLM's trip report, click here.

Just after I moved back to my seat, a cabin crew from another aisle saw me and gave me a smile and I returned the gesture. Before I knew it, he came to my seat and told me that I had to move back to my "original" seat as I was in a different cabin. Naturally, I wasn't happy. I explained to him that this was my seat and I showed him my boarding pass. He apologized and left. If I were him, I would have checked the passenger's list manifest instead of confronting the passenger. The other crew, especially at the rear, were not friendly. No eye-to-eye contact at all only during the meal part and even so, it was done hurriedly. 

Service on the KLM's flight was much better than this. 

Premium Economy 

2-4-2 configuration, that reminds you of the Airbus A330/A340's cabin configuration right? 

This seat below, the last row of the cabin is mine - seat 26A. The seat can be reclined, but not much.

Notice the green light in the photo below? That's where the power point is. 

2 bottles of water are provided in each seat, with a magazine below the tray.  

The legroom space is decent for a long haul flight, and the lack of 2 seats compared to Economy Class is pretty obvious. 

Do note the IFE box below the seat. 

Notice the seat belt? It made a beep sound whenever I tried adjusting it - quite annoying. 

The adjustable lamp, it is very common in business class seats. 

The Premium Economy section for this sector turned out only 2 passengers in this cabin, so it was like a playground for me! 

The view from my seat. 

Legroom space - pretty decent, but the IFE box can be a nuisance if you want to stretch your leg to your neighbour's space (if it is vacant).

The headset is located just beside your seat, pretty decent quality.

Economy and Premium Economy Class

Headrest - comfortable 

Few more shots of the Premium Cabin - what do you think? 

More photos of the Premium Economy seat

Drink holder

Business Class in front of this cabin.

Evian's water bottles 

Foldable Tray, you can also do your work on it with your laptop. 

The buttons to adjust your seat. 

Power point and USB ports are available. 

Safety card is located at the foot of the seat in front of you.

Black leather seat - I am a big fan of it.

 The legroom space of the aisle seat. 

An issue here, my leg keeps pushing those buttons! 

A bottle of Evian to keep me going!

I stored at the compartment below.

A few photos were taken at the toilet in the Y class - one of them was pretty spacious. 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

In-flight magazine

Disposal Bag

Safety card 

The fleet of Air France and its partners. No mention of KLM though.

The headset 

IFE System

Not a tech geek or anything, so my knowledge of this is limited. All I can tell you is how impressed I am with the IFE system. Responsive touch screen, user-friendly interface and a good amount of contents inside. Thumbs up! 

Welcome onboard Air France!

The main menu

The 'My Flight' menu is pretty detailed, very impressive. 

Turning on the flight map to check it out.

3D map and you can use your fingers to play around with it. 

Just departed from Jakarta, every detail you can think of is on the tracker.

Checking out the selection of films, you will be spoilt for choices. 

You can even chat with the passengers on board the aircraft! Comes in very handy especially you come across a pretty lady or good looking guy during the flight!

I decided to catch The Big Bang Theory since the flight was short.

Some parts of the safety video - it certainly caught my attention! 

My trip to Indonesia was about to come to an end. 

Very useful information especially for aviation enthusiasts.

The map even shows information on the destination, very useful for foreigners.

On the setting mode, there are a few options for you.

My favourite view: The pilot's view with details such as the speed and flight level. 

A few times it changed to the normal viewing mode which can be annoying.

Almost there! 

Places to visit in Singapore: Singapore Botanic Garden! 

What this In-flight entertainment is missing is the camera view, other than that its very impressive. 

In-flight service: 

This is probably the biggest disappointment of the flight, some of the crew were simply just arrogant, sad to say. I shouldn't elaborate more on that. When I was served my meal, the crew wasn't particularly friendly and when she came to clear the rubbish, I was still finishing out my last few bites. She stood and waited for me to do so before she moved on. I felt that she could come back later to clear (we had enough time to do so and I was one of the two passengers in the Premium Economy Class, so not difficult to find me) When I headed out of the aircraft, the crew were chatting among themselves. Yeah, I understand its the end of their working day, but please, be professional. What's so difficult about being nice to others? Basic courtesy is very much lacking. At least I wasn't stopped from taking photos, that's the consolation from the otherwise poor in-flight service experience from them. Short or long flight, impression counts. 

In-flight snack

The meal is the same as the Economy Class. Consists of dried turkey with vegetable, bread with cheese and custard cake. I requested for a Coke to come along with it, not too bad. 

Window shot photos

From take-off to landing, didn't a lot of photos since its dark most of the time.

Flying in smooth air towards Singapore

Landing at Changi Airport, the ride was too fast for my liking

My rating:

CGK Airport Experience: 5/10 (Terminal 3 is the saving grace)
Check-in counter service: 7/10
Seat comfort: 7/10 
Cabin interior: 10/10
Cabin cleanliness: 10/10
In-flight service: 1/10 
In-flight snack: 7/10
IFE system: 9/10
Punctuality: 10/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Overall rating: 76/100


Air France has gotten itself a winner in terms of cabin products, unfortunately, the in-flight service didn't match with it. Disappointing service from the crew especially from the males. As some of you know that I am quite particular in this area, I do a lot of observation. I have received feedback from friends that the crew they had were pretty good, so its all down to your luck. European and American airlines should look at its Asian counterparts on improving the in-flight service and treat every passenger equally whether they are from Bangladesh, China, U.S.A, Kenya or Japan. Everyone deserves to be treated equally. 

Overall, I find the Premium Economy Class seat comfortable enough for the long haul flights. is it the best product out there? I have no idea as I have only flown on EVA Air's Premium Economy (Elite Class). What I do not like about the seat is the legroom space for each seat is restricted to its own space if the seat beside yours is vacant. Do I recommend this airline? Yes especially if you get to fly on the new cabin, it is worth the try. 

Thank you for reading this trip report! 

Hope you enjoy the review. 


1 comment:

  1. Very Informative! Thanks alot. Im flying to CGK next month and have alr booked my economy seats. Will try to get a paid upgrade to J if its available. The seats looks awesome.