Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (2023)


Air France has nine Dreamliners, flying to destinations including Boston, Guangzhou, Bogota and Osaka. I was flying to Nairobi, a route that launched in March 2018 and operates five days a week (no flights on Monday or Wednesday).

The airline has been offering premium economy since 2009, and it is now available across its long-haul fleet. The seat product got a refresh in 2013, and Air France recently unveiled slightly different design that will be rolled out on its A330 fleet.

Air France unveils new A330 premium economy and economy cabins


I started in London and took an Air France flight over to Paris CDG. There are more straightforward ways to get from London to Kenya – British Airways and Kenya Airways both run daily direct flights – but I wanted to try Air France’s premium economy product, and found the connections smooth. My route would make sense if you wanted to fly Skyteam (as opposed to Oneworld with BA) and in premium economy (which you don’t get with Kenya Airways).

I arrived early at Heathrow Terminal 4 for my 1735 flight. Air France/KLM have their own corner for check-in to the right of the main doors, with queues that moved quickly. There were self-service check-in and luggage tag machines that nobody seemed to be using.


My first flight left on time and the staff managed to speed down the aisle handing out lettuce and falafel wraps during the short journey. I found this connection pretty seamless. Since it was early evening I wasn’t groggy, and I had checked in my main bag at Heathrow. The cabin crew told me my new gate number while I was on the plane, and it was about fifteen minutes’ walk from the aircraft, plus five minutes to get through a security screening. It was handy knowing that I was heading for K35 as there were several points in Terminal 2 where I needed to turn to head towards the correct bracket of letters (eg: gates A-F).

The second flight was scheduled for a 2105 departure, and with the time difference we landed at 2000. That meant that since I had priority boarding I managed to walk off one plane onto the next almost without breaking my stride. However what worked perfectly for me would obviously be a nightmare if the first flight was delayed.

I should also note that the transfer was significantly less enjoyable on my return. For one thing it was after an 8 hour flight, but it also required me to take a train to the correct part of the terminal and then take a fairly long bus to the actual aircraft, neither of which I’d had to do on the way out.

Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (1)

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The priority queue moved quickly and I got settled into my seat. The premium economy cabin has three rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration (AB-DEG-KJ). On my flight it was only half full, so I had a spare seat next to me. Before take-off the crew came around to hand out amenity kits with a toothbrush, socks, earplugs, eye-mask and headphone covers (over-ear headphones are attached to the seat.) The kit designs rotate relatively frequently, and mine was an 85th anniversary tribute to the airline.

The seat

The seats fall pretty firmly in the middle ground between business and economy. With 40 inches of pitch and 19 of width they don’t feel cramped, even if you’re not in the bulkhead row. They recline within a fixed shell so as not to disturb the passenger behind, which is a big bonus if you want to work, eat, or just generally retain some personal space. I would imagine this will come to be a must for any premium economy product. The recline is not bad at 130 degrees, though obviously they can’t compete with the lie-flat offering at the front of the plane.

On arrival the cabin looked clean and I thought the seats looked smart and modern, with a white, black and red colour scheme and leather finishings on the arm and headrests. There was also a comfortable red pillow and a thick, soft blanket. A small bottle of Evian was placed in a water bottle holder.

I found the pocket under the armrest convenient for stashing my phone and my own in-ear headphones. There was also what I think was a second water bottle holder on the seat in front, which was big enough for me to place my book in during meal times (I’m always scared that I’ll forget anything I put into the covered magazine holder.)

Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (3)

It’s possible to raise up your legs a little using the legrest, or to put your feet on an adjustable stand.

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The IFE screen is 11.7 inches and is intuitive to use. The seat also has European plug sockets and USB ports.

The tray table was firm to work or eat on, and also could extend out to double its size. However the extension was a little less firm, so you probably wouldn’t want to put a lot of weight on it.

Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (4)

All Air France Dreamliners have wifi, with various packages available – a free pass for messaging on WhatsApp, iMessage or WeChat, a Surf Pass for internet browsing and emails starting from €5, and a stream pass for more heavy-duty internet use at a hefty €30. However I have to admit that I didn’t try these options because I didn’t urgently need internet and I generally find in-flight wifi more trouble than it’s worth.

Best seat

I sat in seat 11D on both legs of the journey. Since the way out left at 2105 and arrived in the early morning, I would have preferred a window seat (A or K) so I could sleep against the window, and it didn’t look like it would be too hard to step over the legs of the person next to you. However it was good for the way back, when I wanted a short snooze but was mainly keeping myself occupied. I didn’t hear much noise from the galley in front, and the nearest toilets are either in the middle of the plane behind row 25 or at the very front.

The only seats I would avoid are 11E and 12E, since you don’t get the benefits of the bulkhead row, aisle access or the window. Also note that passengers in row 10 need to stow bags in the overhead bins during take-off and landing and also fold down their IFE screen.

Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (5)

The flight

We departed on time and almost as soon as the seatbelt sign was off the crew came round with a wet wipe packet and a menu, introduced themselves and told us to let them know if we needed anything. At 2200, just under an hour after take-off, they brought round drinks and a bag of pretzel-style breadsticks. I opted for the in-flight cliche of tomato juice, which came with a little packet of pepper and a stirrer.

Dinner came 40 minutes later, and my wine was served in real glass, which was a nice touch. The knife and fork were plastic. All passengers (unless they had pre-ordered from one of the different menus) got two bread rolls with Camembert and butter, salmon tartare for starter and a red berry crumble for dessert.

For the main I chose creamy penne pasta in mushroom sauce over chicken jus with vegetables. Plane chicken is just too unpredictable, in my opinion. The salmon had potential but was too cold, with parts of it still icy. However everything else was tasty.

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Flight review: Air France B787-9 premium economy – Business Traveller (6)

The crew came to check if everything was OK halfway through the meal and another roll was offered. The trays were cleared at 2320 and then more drinks came round. I went for a chamomile tea.

The IFE offering was not bad; there were a few recent Oscar nominees and the latest blockbusters, although French-language films dominated the selection, unsurprisingly. The headphones were good for sound although quite uncomfortable after an hour and a half or so. Then again, that’s common with this type.

The lights were dimmed not long after dinner, and the rest of the flight was smooth. Drowsy after a nap, I thought the toilets were at the front of the cabin and so ended up queuing outside the kitchen for a few minutes until a bemused flight attendant found me and pointed me towards the back. The ten-row walk to the toilet is probably a downside of the premium economy cabin if you have a weak bladder. If you don’t then it’s a plus, since very few people end up walking past your seat.

A chocolate muffin, orange juice and Greek yoghurt were brought round an hour before landing, as well as hot drinks.


We landed in Nairobi a little ahead of schedule, at 0555. The visa queues built up quickly, so it was convenient to be among the first off the plane. Get your pen ready if you’re filling out a visa on arrival.

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Does what premium economy should do in bridging the gap between business and economy. For a really good sleep it can’t compete with the former, but it provides 40 per cent more room than the latter, and the 21-seat cabin means you get a more relaxed atmosphere and attentive cabin crew, as well as nice touches like a menu and amenity kit. The seat is stylish and comfortable, and the fixed-shell recline is a particular bonus.

Fact box

Best for

Comfortable seats in a small, quiet cabin


A return flight in August started from around £1,500. However the pricing between premium economy and business on this route seems to be pretty erratic. On some days you’d be looking at £2,000 in premium economy and £2,285 in business, so upgrading would probably be worth it if possible. However on other days premium economy was down to £1,200 while business was closer to £4,000.



Seat width

19 inches

Seat pitch

40 inches

Seat recline

130 degrees

Flight duration

London-Paris: 1 hour

Paris layover: 1 hour

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Paris-Nairobi: 8 hours



What is the best seat on Air France Boeing 787-9? ›

Air France 787-9 Economy Class

The 787-9 Dreamliner offers our third-place economy class product. There is 1 inch less of seat pitch — 31 inches instead of 32 inches. The best seats to reserve are 30B/C and 30H/J. These seats have the most legroom, thanks to the exit row.

What is Premium Economy on Air France like? ›

Seats: Up to 19.2 inches wide, premium economy seats are arranged in either a 2x4x2 or 2x3x2 configuration and feature 38 inches of pitch. They also include leg rests, headrests and foot rests. Baggage delivery: Premium economy customers have priority baggage delivery via their SkyPriority access.

Is it worth upgrading to Premium Economy Air France? ›

Overall, the Premium Economy product on Air France is a good value, particularly when fares are on the lower end of the spectrum.

Is the 787-9 Dreamliner comfortable? ›

The 787 promised passenger comfort

One of the promises of the 787 was improved passenger comfort. There are several improvements in this area, including higher cabin air pressure. The cabin is pressurized at 6,000 feet, as opposed to 8,000 feet on most other aircraft, including the 777.

Where should I sit on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner? ›

By far, the best seats to pick on United's Boeing 787 fleet (both the 787-8 and the 787-9) are seats 27A and 27L. Row 27 is the emergency exit row for the economy class cabin. This row is reserved as Economy Plus seating but the two “window” seats, A and L, are not considered Economy Plus seats.

Are Boeing 787-9 seats comfortable? ›

Boeing's new 787-9 claims better passenger comfort over extremely long-haul routes. Here's what it's like on one of the longest you can take.

Can you lie down in premium economy? ›

They're stacked in a double-decker layout to maximize the number of seats within the cabin while providing direct access to the aisle. Passengers can lie flat for rest or sit up with ample space to work or relax.

What perks do you get in premium economy? ›

In terms of what separates Premium Economy seats from standard Economy, you can expect:
  • More leg room.
  • Wider seats.
  • Extra inches of seat recline.
  • Power outlets.
  • Larger personal entertainment screens.
  • A larger selection of foods.
  • Greater privacy.
Aug 22, 2019

How can I make premium economy more comfortable? ›

10 ways to make Economy feel like First Class
  1. Start with the airline. ...
  2. Take a good travel pillow. ...
  3. Elevate your legs. ...
  4. Move seats. ...
  5. Go DIY gourmet with duty-free treats. ...
  6. Invest in good headphones or earplugs. ...
  7. Choose your seats wisely before you board. ...
  8. Bring a good sleeping mask.
Sep 19, 2018

Do you get better food in Premium Economy? ›

But premium economy, if done well, offers more than just a few extra inches of leg room. Think of the ideal premium economy as a kind of “business class lite” option, with better meals, fancier cocktails, roomier seats, and upgraded amenities such as dedicated check-in and access to more storage space.

Can Premium Economy passengers use the lounge? ›

Pre-flight Airport Lounge Privileges

After checking in, Premium Economy Class passengers are warmly welcome to wait to board their flight in our comfortable airport lounge!

What is the difference between Air France economy and Premium Economy? ›

A comfortable and adjustable seat

Equipped with a large and relaxing seat, the Premium Economy seat gives you more space compared to the Economy cabin as well as multiple storage areas. For your ultimate well-being, your headrest, foot-rest and leg-rest adapts perfectly to the contours of your body.

Why is 787 Dreamliner so popular? ›

This high aspect ratio wing design combined with efficiency enhancing raked wing tips allow the 787 to be one of the fastest commercial aircraft (Mach 0.85 cruise speed) while consuming less fuel than today's comparably sized aircraft.

Is Boeing 787-9 better than 777? ›

Both are long-range aircraft that can be deployed on many long-haul routes. The 777 variants tend to be larger than the 787 variants, and so tend to have higher seating capacities, although the stretched 787-10 has similar seating capacities to some of the 777 variants.

Are premium seats on Dreamliner worth it? ›

Access to a relaxing airport lounge

There are many reasons to upgrade to premium seats when flying with TUI, but one of the best perks is access to the TUI airport lounge. This is the perfect place to relax before your flight, with comfortable seating and plenty of peace and quiet.

What is the best business class seat on Boeing 787-9? ›

I think Seats 6A and 6K, and 7L are the best Business Class seats on the British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner if you like a view, although it is worth noting that all window A and K business class seats face backward.

What are the best seats on 787 Dreamliner? ›

The best seats for window lovers and solo passengers are seats A and K in Rows 2, 4, 6, and 8. These offer extra privacy thanks to the aisle-side console, as well as offering stunning window views throughout the flight.

Do exit row seats recline on 787-9? ›

Passengers can recline in all seats – even in the final row – which should offer some reprieve on a flight over 16 hours from Seattle to Bangalore. There is limited storage in these seats, but there should be plenty of overhead bin space for passengers.

What is premium economy on a Boeing 787-9? ›

The premium economy cabin on this Boeing 787-9 aircraft consisted of 21 seats across three rows arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. I'm so used to flying economy that I completely overshot the premium economy cabin and walked to the economy section — but I won't blame myself completely since it was just three rows.

How many business class seats does a Boeing 787-9 have? ›

Flagship Business

The 787-9 business class consists of one large cabin arranged in eight rows of reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 seating. There are no middle seats in row 8, meaning there are 30 business class seats on the aircraft. The aisle-side armrest can adjust upward and downward.

Does Boeing 787-9 have lie flat seats? ›

The Flagship Suite on the Boeing 787-9 will feature lie-flat seating that can convert to a chaise lounge position.

Which seat is best in Boeing 787? ›

The best seats for window lovers and solo passengers are seats A and K in Rows 2, 4, 6, and 8. These offer extra privacy thanks to the aisle-side console, as well as offering stunning window views throughout the flight.

Are duo seats worth it on Air France? ›

With decent 32-inch legroom and adjustable headrests with head-support side flaps that actually stayed in place, they compared favorably to most competitors' except in width. The cozy Duo arrangement, as Air France calls it, was definitely worth the extra money for us.

Does the last row of Boeing 787-9 recline? ›

The very last row does recline so that's not so bad but there is limited overhead bin space in the center starting at row 39 due to the crew rest bunks. Also, row 38 has no windows.

Which is the best seat to sit in flight? ›

Exit rows, aisle or window seats, and anywhere close to the front are typically considered the best seats on a plane.

What are the best seats on Boeing 787-9 business class? ›

I think Seats 6A and 6K, and 7L are the best Business Class seats on the British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner if you like a view, although it is worth noting that all window A and K business class seats face backward.

What is premium economy on a 787? ›

A Premium Economy ticket includes special amenities with seats behind Flagship®, Business or First. You can buy a ticket on these aircraft with more coming soon: 777-300s. 787-8s flying internationally and to Alaska. 787-9s.

Do you get lounge access with Air France Premium Economy? ›

Premium Economy: Lounges. When flying in Premium Economy, you don't get access to any Air France lounges for free, although you can pay a hefty fee for access on booking or once you are at the airport.

Are Air France business class seats lie flat? ›

Our Business seat characterizes our vision of travel: A full-flat bed. Direct aisle access for each passenger.

Which is better comfort plus or Premium Economy? ›

While Comfort Plus is closer to the level of service you'll receive in the economy cabin, Premium Select offers travelers a bit more luxury with early boarding, a higher baggage allowance, better food and a more comfortable seat configuration.

Can you recline in the last row of premium economy? ›

In premium economy, the last row of the cabin is the only one that doesn't recline into someone else, and since people use this cabin to eat and often to work, this is huge on overnight flights.

Is Boeing 787 better than Boeing 777? ›

Depending on the variant, the 777 can seat up to 396 passengers in a typical two-class configuration, while the 787 can accommodate up to 330 passengers in a similar layout. Therefore, if airlines need to transport more passengers, the 777 is the better option.


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