Business Class cabin on Air France's Boeing 777-300ER. The cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration of blue seats with white thermoplastic shells.

Expanding on Safran’s 3F concept for the new Air France suite

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundWith Air France’s new outward-facing herringbone Safran Cirrus doored mini-suites now flying, what does the product look like in the images and video we’ve seen on board in-service aircraft, and how has the programme advanced since it was unveiled last year?

Safran calls this business class product the “3F concept”: “full flat”, “full access” and “full privacy”, although given that the F only stands for “full”, is this really three Fs or is it only 1F? Let’s add a few more Fs to Safran’s three, starting with Finish, as in “colour, materials and finish”.

Overall, the palette remains very dark blue (fine, if unremarkable and the palette of dozens of airlines) and a variety of whites (less fine).

Air France Business Class 3F seat by Safran is navy blue with white thermoplastics.

In what we’ve seen, it’s not exactly impressive under standard aircraft lighting, not least because there are so many different shades of not-quite-white in the aircraft that don’t match. The refurbished Boeing 777-300ERs on which these new seats are installed have multiple, aged, faded thermoplastic elements in white and beige. The overall effect is just a bit… dingy.

Rotation

The window shades don’t match the window surrounds, which don’t match the sidewall, which don’t match the PSUs and overhead bins, which don’t match the ceiling, which don’t match the lavatories and other existing monuments — and none of them match the bright white of the side console, the matte magnolia of the seat surround, the glossy thermoplastic of the door cassette, or the enormous white expanse of the bulkheads, all of which themselves are different.

This also raises an issue that is not unique to Air France but that is infamously emblematic of the carrier: aesthetic maintenance and cleanliness of cabins. Air France’s reputation is not stellar in this regard, as RGN was reminded again on a recent Air France 777-200 flight. So the decision to select bright white in high-visibility, high-touch areas aboard the -300ERs is curious.

The COVID-era question around whether passengers want airlines to “show clean” is only really valid if airlines frequently carry out deep cleaning.

Now, this may be an overemphasis on the whites point. They look less jarring when the cabin is washed with LEDs, but the fact remains that the cabin is not always washed with LEDs.

Air France business class cabin in a 1-2-1 configuration. The Safran-made seats are blue, surrounded by white thermoplastics on the interior of the shell.

The point could also be made that the view when seated is forwards, where for most passengers the view is largely an expanse of dark blue thermoplastic. But that’s only as far as the door and shroud go, and as doors go it is a relatively standard lower-walled door. Qsuite this is not, and taller passengers will see easily over the shroud.

Passengers in business class see blue thermoplastics when looking forward. This image highlights the blue of these Safran-made business seats aboard Air France's 777-300ERs.On the subject of the door: it is baffling that the airline and its seatmaker have not resolved the problem of the springloaded door fetching up against the seat in front with a colossal THUNK. This begs questions around the “Fit”.

Perhaps a visit to a local kitchen showroom — there is an IKEA in Roissy, just a few minutes from Air France HQ — to experience the concept of soft-close drawers might be in order? 

Another F: feeling. At a time when so many cabins are moving toward natural and natural-effect materials that give texture, depth and tactile comfort, none of this is present here. 

And thus to a final F: Flair. This cabin lacks that. One could argue that the most visually exciting part is the carpet, first seen on Air France’s pleasingly-designed A220. It’s a shame, because Air France has shown its design flair in recent lounge design that just isn’t carried through here. 

Air France business class seat by Safran is navy blue with white thermoplastics. Image: Safran

Related Articles:

All images credited to Safran