In this flight report, we review the brand new Airbus A220-300 of Air France as we travel in business class from Paris to Madrid.
Boarding the Airbus A220
After an excellent experience in the new Air France Business Lounge for Schengen flights in Terminal 2F, it was time to walk to the boarding gate for my flight to Madrid.
Priority boarding is always neatly enforced at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport as there are distinct queues for each boarding group.
However, as Air France is part of the SkyTeam alliance in which lowly silver members also have SkyPriority perks, the queue for priority boarding can be rather long.
That was also the case for today’s flight to Madrid as there were about 15 to 20 other people in the same queue.
Fortunately, I was the third in the queue, which allowed me to be on board before most others so I could still snap some decent pictures of the interior of the brand new Airbus A220 which would operate today’s flight to Madrid.
Air France Airbus A220 cabin
The Airbus A220 operating my flight to Madrid (tail number: F-HZUB) is a recent addition to the Air France fleet as it has only been in service for two weeks when I took the flight.
The aircraft still had a bit of a brand new plane smell not dissimilar to that unique scent when you pick up a new car. Other things you will instantly notice on the Airbus A220 are the large overhead storage bins and the beautiful mood lighting.
What sets the Airbus A220 apart from other planes from a passenger perspective is the fact that the seats are in a 2-3 configuration instead of a 3-3 configuration like you would find on an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737.
That means your chances of being stuck in the middle seat are halved – although that is not something you need to worry about when flying business class.
From an airline perspective these Airbus A220s are great too as they have a 25% lower fuel consumption compared to previous generation aircraft. Besides it being much better for the financial resources of the airline operating the Airbus A220, it also has clear environmental benefits.
Just like its other narrow-body aircraft, Air France uses the same seats in business class and economy class. This allows for optimal flexibility as the dividers and curtain separating business class from economy class can be moved up or down the aisle based on demand.
Air France Airbus A220 seat
Even though the seats in business class are the same as in economy class, they are perfectly fine for the short intra-European routes on which the Airbus A220 is used by Air France.
These leather seats have movable headrests and plenty of seating comfort. There are also individual air nozzles at every seat.
Being 1.86m tall (6’1) I thought the legroom was certainly adequate enough for a short-haul flight within Europe and I didn’t have any discomfort during the two-hour-long flight to Madrid.
A huge benefit of flying the Air France Airbus A220 in business class is that the seat next to you stays guaranteed empty, giving you plenty of shoulder room and extra space.
If you are flying solo it is therefore highly recommend to pick a seat at the port side of the plane (2A, 3A etc.) as that way you have both a window seat and direct aisle access.
When you select a seat in business class on the starboard side of the plane, you will see that you can only assign yourself the aisle seats (1D, 2D etc.) or window seats (1F, 2F etc.) as the middle seats (1E, 2E etc.) will always remain empty. Therefore, these seats ideal for couples or persons travelling together.
In business class, you can pre-assign yourself any seat for free. I assigned myself seat 3A, the second most forward seat on the port side of the plane (there is no seat 1A on the Airbus A220 as you can see on the seat map below).
Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Madrid (MAD) on Air France
Flight AF1600 – Airbus A220-300 – Business class, seat 3A
Plane registration number: F-HZUB
Departure: 1.10pm – Arrival: 3.20pm
Flight time: 2h10m – Distance: 660 miles
Boarding was completely relatively fast and we were pushed back right on time from our gate at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Two other advantages of the Airbus A220 became clear upon take-off.
First of all, the Airbus A220 certainly is a silent aeroplane. Even during take-off you can hardly hear a sound inside the cabin!
Another advantage is the big windows on the Airbus A220 which makes it easy to admire the views outside. As the weather in Paris was gorgeous on this day, I enjoyed some superb views of the runways at Charles de Gaulle Airport and the French countryside upon departure.
Once we were flying at cruising altitude and the fasten seatbelt sign went off, on-board services kicked in immediately.
On short-haul business class flights within Europe, Air France serves a light meal and free-flowing drinks, including alcohol like beer, wine, champagne and stronger booze such as gin, cognac, port wine and vodka.
There is no choice of meal as every business class passenger gets the exact same dish (unless of course you have requested a special meal in advance).
The meal for today’s flight to Madrid was some kind of white fish with orzo (unfortunately, Air France stopped handing out menu cards on intra-European flights since the start of the COVID pandemic, so I can’t tell precisely what it was).
It was served with two different cheeses, some bread and a Paris-Brest dessert pastry. To drink, I had some champagne (Pommery was served on this flight) and sparkling water with my meal.
The meal was beautifully plated and presented and more importantly tasted absolutely great. Air France generally does food well and with a bit of luck you can even have a great meal on a short intra-European hop.
The Air France crew working today’s flight to Madrid were all excellent – with especially the male purser serving business class delivering some superb service.
From the warm welcome to the way how the meal service was executed, everything was top notch on the flight.
Most impressive were some small details which might be common on some premium airlines in Asia but aren’t an everyday occurrence when flying short-haul in Europe.
When I was asked for my choice of drinks and answered that I would like some champagne, the flight attendant came back with the bottle to show me the label and to pour in the glass at my seat.
Upon serving the champagne, I was asked whether I wanted some water with it as well. When I asked for sparkling water, the purser inquired whether I wanted a slice of citrus with it – another fine detail which not many other flight attendants would bother with.
When addressing passengers, the flight attendant would also kneel down in the aisle to be at the same eye level, another touch of quality service which is common in Asia but incredibly rare in Europe.
After the meal I declined the coffee service as I’m not a fan of the quality of the coffee on board Air France, it being rather watery and weak.
Instead, I had one or two more glasses of champagne while listening to some music and looking out from the window over the skies and clouds.
The extra glasses of fizz also gave me the opportunity to try out the lavatory on board the Airbus A220, which compared to other narrow-body aircraft was relatively spacious.
Each seat on the Air France Airbus A220 – both in business and in economy class – are equipped with seatback USB-A and USB-C charging ports. However, there are no power sockets on the plane.
There are no in-flight entertainment screens on board the Air France Airbus A220 so you will have to bring your own electronic devices if you want to watch something.
Each seat on the Air France Airbus A220 also has a special tablet and smartphone holder. The tray tables are large and sturdy enough to get some work done on your laptop.
Air France has equipped its Airbus A220 fleet with WiFi internet. Called ‘Air France Connect’, it is easy to set up on both your laptop or smartphone.
There are three different WiFi passes available. The Air France ‘message pass’ is free for every passenger and it allows you to send Messenger and WhatsApp messages.
If you want to surf the internet, you can go for the basic ‘surf pass’, which costs 5 euro on short-haul flights. The ‘stream pass’ of 15 euro allows you to stream online videos as well.
Air France Connect also gives you free access to a flight tracking feature which shows you the route map and important flight details such as flying altitude and ground speed.
Air France connect also has some free content available such as city guides and a couple of online magazines and newspapers.
Although the weather during the flight had been great so far, it wasn’t exactly the same case when we crossed the Pyrenees and entered Spanish airspace.
The Castilian plateau was covered by dark, threatening clouds – which didn’t promise much good for the weather during my time in Madrid.
That said, it still made for some wonderful views as we descended towards Madrid Barajas Airport as the dark clouds and rays of sunshine created some beautiful light effects.
We landed on time at Madrid Barajas Airport and after quite some time taxiing around the large airport premises we finally found our parking position at one of the gates of Terminal 1.
After thanking the crew for the great flight, I exited the aircraft through the jet bridge and found myself in the outdated departure area of Madrid Barajas Terminal 1.
It took a while to find the signs towards the exit and baggage reclaim, but once I found it the walk was rather straightforward.
Before entering the baggage reclaim area, there is a checkpoint where employees of the Spanish Health Authority look at your EU Digital COVID Certificate or any other vaccination certificate or negative PCR test which you might need to enter Spain.
Here, the online PLF (Passenger Locator Form) which you have to fill in when flying to Spain during the pandemic is checked as well.
As there were no queues, the entire process just took a few seconds. Having no checked luggage, I could walk straight on into the arrivals hall of Terminal 1, from where it is still a good 10 to 15 minutes walking towards the airport metro station.
The Airbus A220 is a great addition to the Air France fleet, being especially attractive to its business class passengers.
What makes this aircraft so great is its 2+3 seat configuration. Given that Air France blocks the seat next to you in business class, you can’t beat the port-side seats on this plane given that you have both a window seat and direct aisle access as there won’t be anyone seated next to you.
The leather seats on the Air France Airbus A220 are comfortable and given the extra space you have in business class and silent cabin of the aircraft it makes for a pleasant way to fly within Europe.
Moreover, I always find that Air France has an excellent business class soft product even on its short-haul flights. This flight on the Airbus A220 was no exception as the meal was extremely tasty, the champagne flowed freely and the overall service was simply great.
If you have a choice, make sure you fly on the Airbus A220 as it offers a much better business class experience compared to the other aircraft in the narrow-body fleet of Air France such as the A319 and A320.
Trip report index
This ‘Trains, Planes, Beer and Tapas: A Trip to Prague and Madrid’ trip report consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Ryanair Bucharest to Chania (Boeing 737-800)
2. A Short Chania Stopover
3. Review: T62 Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
4. Review: EuroCity Train EC 172 “Hungaria” Budapest to Brno
5. A Short Stopover Walk Through Brno
6. Review: EuroCity Train EC 278 “Metropolitan” Brno to Prague
7. Review: K+K Central Hotel Prague, Czech Republic
8. Beer Boozing in Prague
9. Praha Hlavní Nádraží – Prague’s Stunning Art Nouveau Station
10. Review: Leo Express Train Prague to Olomouc
11. Olomouc: An Amazing Art Nouveau City
12. Review: RegioJet Train Olomouc to Prague
13. Review: Erste Premier Lounge Prague Airport Terminal 2 (Schengen)
14. Review: Air France HOP Business Class Prague to Paris CDG (Embraer 170)
15. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F (Schengen)
16. Review: Air France Business Class (Airbus A220) Paris CDG to Madrid (current chapter)
17. Review: Hotel Europa, Madrid, Spain
18. Tapas Crawling Through Madrid
19. Review: Ibis Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain
20. Review: Puerta de Alcala Business Lounge Madrid Barajas Terminal 2
21. Review: Air Europa Economy Class Madrid to Milan Malpensa (Boeing 787)
22. How To Transfer Between Milan Malpensa and Bergamo Airport