Yet again, for the second time, this was originally going to be a review of the regular economy experience, but the plan changed. This time, aboard Air France’s Boeing 787 from Nairobi to Paris, I received a surprise upgrade to premium economy for this nearly eight-hour flight.
The airport experience
I arrived at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at about 6:30 am on a Monday. This, apparently, is total prime-time for flying. There were long line-ups for security getting into the terminal, huge line-ups for checking-in to various Kenya Airways flights, long line-ups at customs, and then the biggest line-ups were found at pre-flight security heading towards the gates.
The ID and document checks for this flight were fairly rigorous. One check happened at the line-up for the check-in desks. Another document check took place at the gate area. Also at the gate area was a staff member equipped with swabs and an explosives-trace-detection machine.
With all of these ‘hurdles’, I didn’t really have time to enjoy any of the lounges I had access to. Waiting in our sectioned-off gate area, I was called to a desk. From there, my seat was upgraded from Economy to Premium Economy. Shortly after, boarding took place.
First impressions and seating
I had a rather strong negative ‘thesis’ for my Air France 777 premium economy review. The core of it was that the seats were uncomfortable and that regular economy might be better. With the knowledge that this would be a relatively new 787, I had hopes that the seat problem would be fixed.
For reference, this flight was on a 787 with registration F-HRBE. It’s a 1.8-year-old plane, according to AirFleets.
To my initial disappointment, the seats looked the same: shell seats that slide forward for “reclining”. At least, I thought, this would be a daytime flight and sleep wasn’t part of the plan. But I bravely pressed ahead…
I got myself settled in and felt very comfortable in the upright position (I’m six feet tall). Legroom was not an issue, and unlike the 777 experience, the legs of the chair in front were not in my foot space.
Here are some of the features of the premium economy seat with photos below:
- Premium headsets hardwired into the seat (doubles as a theft-prevention measure I’d guess)
- Personal, flexible reading lights
- One USB outlet
- A full international power outlet down below
- Small bottles of Evian water
- Spring-loaded coat hook knob that goes flush with the seat and pops out as needed
- Large, large seatback trays for meals that also support your laptop
- A large, bright, fast and responsive IFE screen
- And finally, a seat-bottom that slides forward for you to “recline” without disturbing the person behind you (like you would in economy)
The moment of truth was when I pressed the recline button to see if it was just as bad as my AF 777 experience. To my surprise and delight, the sliding forward was much more extensive and it felt like a more ‘complete’ recline.
There is still a lack of head/neck recline but it’s certainly not as bad. I actually was able to sleep a little this time!
Before take-off, we were also treated to an amenities kit. They’re starting to pile up for me (first world problems!) but I felt it was my duty to take one to review it. The kit was a turquoise pouch made of a foamy fabric.
Laid out (photo below), the kit includes:
- Socks and eye-mask
- Mini-toothbrush with mini-toothpaste
- And headphone covers for the in-flight headset
I was surprised that these headphone covers came in the amenities kit. Not everyone takes one and I certainly didn’t know these things existed.
Overall I thought this kit was really basic – especially when compared to the old Joon kit I got on my Air France 777 premium economy flight. That kit included a shoehorn and comb (not that people need those things). I’m not saying basic is bad – but flying one month apart, you can see an inconsistency in the product.
Food and beverage
Air France has a reputation for good food. Again, I feel like they didn’t disappoint. Today’s main meal was a choice between sauteed chicken with quinoa and lentils or perch fillet with rice. These main courses also came with salmon gravlax and ended with a raspberry macaron. The full menu is below.
Here is the sequence for food and beverage service during the flight:
1. Small breakfast:
The breakfast was nothing more than a small, cold croissant with plain yogurt and orange juice. With the croissant being as cold as it was, it wasn’t all that enjoyable.
Coffee, tea and hot chocolate were offered as part of this service. I went with the hot chocolate which was great.
2. (Ultra) Small snack:
A few hours after breakfast came the ‘snack’. This was simply a very small packet of pretzel sticks and an offer of a beverage. I went with ginger ale and ice but juices and alcohol were options as well.
3. The main meal: Lunch
With just under two hours remaining in the flight, our main meal was served. As mentioned above, I went with the fish and rice. You can also see the salmon, bread roll, butter and cheese, and the large macaron. Peace Fuze brand iced tea was my drink of choice this time.
Cutlery was a heavier duty plastic – not stainless steel.
I found the meal to be delicious and enjoyed all parts of it! The salmon gravlax with a lemon wedge was the highlight for me…. but the macaron was also really good!
Other aspects of the flight
1. In-flight WiFi
This was quite a treat for me, as I had only experienced in-flight WiFi only one other time, on an Air Canada flight a couple of years ago. We were given a voucher to trial the service, which was new at the time.
On this flight, I was pleased to learn that there was a free option which offered basic connectivity for messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. There is also an 8 euro option for one hour and 18 euros for internet on the entire flight.
As you can see from the phone screenshots above, there were some issues. I found that the internet worked about 65% of the time. This wasn’t too bad for a 7.8-hour flight and I was able to continue a few conversations on WhatsApp.
However, if I had paid for the better service and had important business to take care of, this would be unacceptable. Maybe the experience was different for those who paid?
2. (Really) Dusty vents
I don’t know how many people notice this. And I don’t know how often it’s a thing. But I just happened to look up towards the vents on the side during this flight. I saw large build-ups of dust and dirt on the vents. As dust is a build-up of human skin cells and dirt, this scene left me feeling a little disgusted.
I assume it’s not feasible to wipe this down after every flight but I really hope this gets done once in a while!
In conclusion, I enjoyed this flight. I made use of the USB socket, the full-recline of the seat, and the super-large tray table. I watched a little bit of in-flight entertainment programming too. The selection was fantastic! The service was excellent, with zero complaints about the staff.
My only critiques here would be the grimy looking, dust-covered air vents and the intermittent WiFi. Oh – and there is no lavatory in this cabin. Therefore, you will need to ‘un-button’ a curtain and go forward into business class or back into economy for the toilet.
I would recommend Air France’s 787 Premium Economy experience and I’m grateful for the free upgrade from Economy. It’s nice to see my SkyTeam/Flying Blue loyalty and status recognized. Thanks, Air France!