It was at the end of this past October that Air France celebrated the launch of its Airbus A350 service between Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). In fact, the aircraft itself is nearly brand new, coming from Airbus in September. I had the pleasure of flying this service from Toronto in economy class in early November. Here is my review of that experience.
Boarding the plane
The aircraft gate was located conveniently close to the Air France-KLM lounge at Pearson’s Terminal 3. Without fail, there were the early-birds and eager beavers standing in line and waiting before boarding was even announced. Everything got off to a late start as a snowstorm had rolled into the area, delaying most flights and canceling others. Knowing that I had to get some photos of the cabin with some empty seats for this review, I reluctantly got in line as well.
However, we were all forced to disperse as there were around a dozen elderly passengers needing to be rolled onboard via wheelchair. This took quite some time, despite the small army of airport staff going back and forth escorting passengers aboard.
Given the hectic vibe of the airport and crowd (due to the lengthy delays), it was difficult to fully take in the fact that I was on a 2-month old aircraft. The blue-LED lighting wasn’t the most inviting… but I imagine maybe it’s meant to have a calming effect on passengers?
Once seated I was able to assess things a little better. At almost six feet tall, the legroom seemed sufficient – but I definitely wouldn’t mind having just a little bit more space. The decor and styling of the cabin was nice – though I’m sure it would look even better with natural light coming in through the windows.
Strangely there was some water dripping from the overhead compartments and on to the aisle seat in front of me. The passenger sitting there verified that it wasn’t coming from any baggage and so it was quite mysterious. It was difficult to get any of the cabin crew to address this as they were all busy getting passengers on board.
Waiting for take-off in snowy Toronto
With the airport in full snow operation mode, there was an extensive delay for us – not just with boarding but also with push back. My already tight connection at Paris was made more stressful (and unlikely) with these additional delays. The flight crew, however, were fantastic with keeping us updated on the situation.
While I’m sure a lot of paper could be avoided by not distributing menus, I think it’s great to have something down in writing for passengers to see what they are getting. It eliminates confusion, and for people who have dietary restrictions, there is at least some idea of the ingredients in a dish.
I’m a big fan of the meals served on Air France, and again this experience lived up to my expectations. The cold appetizer, the hot main and the dessert were all delicious. Breakfast, however, was a bit of a different story. It wasn’t awful but it’s definitely hard to compare the bag of cold pre-packaged items to the amazingness that was dinner.
As you can see in the image below, breakfast consisted of drinkable yogurt, bread with jam and butter, and apple juice.
The inflight entertainment system was fast and responsive – everything I would expect onboard a brand new aircraft. The selection of content was great, from the latest Hollywood blockbusters to some good old classic films. There is one USB socket available for charging a device.
By far one of my favorite features was the live tail camera feed accessible on the IFE. This was especially fun to watch as our wings were getting de-iced as well as at sunrise on this overnight flight. The aircraft looks quite stunning from this view in the morning light.
Overall service and conclusion
Despite taking off two hours after the scheduled departure, our flight was able to make up some time. We arrived only one hour later than the scheduled arrival time. Thanks to some sprinting through CDG and the fact that we were one of the first flights arriving in the morning, I managed to make the tight connection. Kudos to the flight crew for making this possible!
I found that the service was great and the cabin crew was pleasant. However, I had a friend take this same flight a week later and had a horrible customer service experience with the flight being delayed and canceled. Staff communication at Pearson was apparently lacking.
As for me, I had another wonderful flight with Air France. In the last four months, I’ve had the opportunity to experience long-haul service with this airline on the Boeing 777, 787, and now the Airbus A350.
Have you had a chance to fly on Air France’s new A350 yet? Let us know if your experience was better or worse!