Is Air France a Good Airline?

Despite loyalty program issues, Air France's top rankings and redemption rates make it a top choice.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Published
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Many travelers have France on their minds, especially with the 2024 Olympic Games coming up in Paris. And what better way to fly to any country than on its namesake airline and flag carrier?

But, is Air France actually good? Here's our breakdown of what travelers considering flying to France or beyond need to know about Air France.

What is the Air France experience?

From booking to boarding, here's each step of flying on Air France.

  • Making reservations: If you're determined to fly Air France, you can head straight to Air France's website to search and book your flight. However, you'll usually be better served by searching through a flight aggregator such as Google Flights. After finding a good fit, Google Flights will link you to Air France for booking.

  • Check-in: Air France's online check-in opens 30 hours before departure — except for flights from Atlanta or Detroit, for which check-in opens 24 hours before departure. Check-in closes 60 minutes before departure for Air France flights departing the U.S. 

  • Boarding: Air France groups passengers into five zones for boarding. Elite members and premium cabin passengers board in Sky Priority zones 1 and 2, while economy passengers are grouped into zones 3 through 5.

(Photo courtesy of Air France)

  • In-flight experience: Air France offers an extensive library of movies and TV shows to help pass long-haul flights, with free headphones provided. Food and drink options will vary based on your service class and flight length. Air France offers Wi-Fi on 90% of its aircraft fleet, with three different speed options available for purchase.

Different fare types listed on Air France's website.

Air France reviews

Airlines understandably showcase their best elements in advertisements. So, that's why it's important to get advice from independent sources on just how good an airline is — and Air France is generally regarded as one of the best airlines in the world in independent award ratings.

In the Skytrax World Airline Awards for 2023, Air France was voted #7 in the world — placing the airline ahead of stalwarts Cathay Pacific Airways, EVA Air and Korean Air. While it didn't take top honors in any individual field, Air France scored high marks in the Skytrax 2023 rankings in the following areas:

  • World's Best First Class (#2).

  • Best Airline in Europe (#2).

  • Best Airline Staff in Europe (#2).

  • World's Best Business Class (#7).

  • World's Best Premium Economy (#8).

  • In-Flight Entertainment (#10).

  • World's Best Economy Class (#16).

  • World's Cleanest Airline (#19).

  • Best Airport Services (#20).

However, Air France failed to land in the top 20 for Best Airline Cabin Crew Worldwide and finished outside the top 10 in the world's most family-friendly airlines.

Air France is one of 34 airlines with a five-star rating from the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Other independent rating awards won by Air France include Business Traveler USA's Best First Class in the World and the World Traveler Awards' Europe Leading Airline 2023.

Air France safety record

According to AirlineRatings.com, Air France's safety rating is 7 out of 7 stars. Air France hasn't had a fatal crash in the past 10 years.

This is an improvement from recent audits. In a 2022 blog post, AirlineRatings explained that it downgraded Air France's safety rating after it was revealed that two of the airline's pilots got into a physical fight midflight. Reportedly, cabin crew had to intervene to ensure the safety of the flight.

This incident came to light just days after the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) released a report indicating that Air France's pilots weren't rigorous about following safety procedures.

Air France's loyalty program

Air France shares a loyalty program with Netherlands-based KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and smaller airline Transavia. The joint loyalty program is called Flying Blue.

Despite being a European-based loyalty program, Flying Blue partners with most major U.S.-based transferable point programs, including:

Flying Blue used to use a convoluted pricing scheme for award redemptions based on the origin and destination of the flight. However, it recently standardized award rates. While Flying Blue doesn't publish award rates, travelers have found that Flying Blue award rates between the U.S. and Europe now start at:

  • 20,000 Flying Blue miles in economy.

  • 35,000 Flying Blue miles in premium economy.

  • 50,000 Flying Blue miles in business.

Air France often runs monthly award discount programs that can reduce the cost even more. However, be wary if you see award rates that seem too good to be true. In December 2023, Air France ran a flash sale that discounted business class awards to Europe to just 13,500 Flying Blue miles one-way plus $250 in taxes/fees.

Unfortunately, the Flying Blue director later got cold feet and canceled award fares for most of the 2,500 travelers who took advantage of the deal.

Who should avoid Air France?

Not every airline is suitable for every traveler. Here are a few examples of what kind of travelers should find another airline to fly:

  • Travelers who want to visit Australia, New Zealand or parts of Southeast Asia. Air France operates an incredible route network to almost 200 destinations across over 80 countries. However, it doesn't fly everywhere in the world. Air France's route map doesn't extend to Australia, New Zealand or parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia.

  • Travelers who want to visit Asia. Particularly for travelers based on the U.S. West Coast, it will be an excruciatingly long journey to Asia via Paris. For example, flying from San Francisco to Seoul takes more than 23 hours. Other airlines can fly you to Asia in almost half of that flying time.

  • Travelers who are Francophobes. Air France is unabashedly French, from serving French wines to French being the primary language spoken onboard. If you're not a fan of French culture, it's best to find another airline that serves your destination.

Final thoughts on flying Air France

Air France is generally ranked as one of the best airlines to fly — particularly in first class. Its loyalty program partners with many U.S. point programs and can offer excellent redemption rates, making it an appealing option to fly to Europe.

However, its Flying Blue loyalty program has been known to backtrack on deals that it offers to travelers. Even so, Air France can be a great option when traveling from the U.S. to Europe.


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