Inside the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge with various grey seats and decorative elements. There is a waterfall like art installation around some of the seating.

Air France CDG L satellite lounge: great bones, missed opportunities

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftAir France operates five business class lounges across Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport’s numerous terminal and satellite buildings, and its newest longhaul-focussed lounge is in terminal 2E’s L-gate satellite, serving part of the airline’s non-Schengen flight schedule. (You can’t really get past the scanners restricting access to a specific satellite unless you’re departing from it, in case you were wondering.)

I’ve been hoping for the transit dice to land on the right satellite terminal since the lounge opened with a turquoise splash in 2018, and on a recent connection I finally got the chance.

Arriving, you’re immediately greeted by a series of signs stating in increasingly capitalised letters that the lounge doesn’t welcome various people: Priority Pass subscribers, Delta Sky Club Members, or American Express cardholders. I understand that turning people who don’t have access back before taking up welcome desk staffers is useful, but this could be more elegantly done.

I scanned my boarding pass and received the green light and beep, only for one of the welcome desk staffers who hadn’t seen it go green shout after me to come and be scanned by her again. Not ideal in terms of efficiency or passenger experience, really.

On first impressions, the lounge is leaps and bounds ahead of its elderly cousin in the main 2E terminal building, which I’ve long nicknamed the “sunken bunker” for its dim and now frankly dingy aesthetic. 

Since this lounge serves only the L gates, it is relatively small for a hub carrier’s home base. I’d estimate it as a bit smaller than BA’s Heathrow T5 South business lounge, and much smaller than the big Lufthansa lounges in Frankfurt and Munich. 

During the four hours of my lunchtime connection, the lounge was always very busy, with table clearing and food/beverage replenishment not perhaps as speedy as the lack of tables and number of guests really needed.

Tiny white tables needing to be cleaned in the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge

Cleaning and maintenance were sadly lacking in the Air France lounge. Image: John Walton

In layout, the main section of the lounge is a long, relatively narrow, and low-ceilinged rectangle, split into three sections by partial dividers.

Decorative screens are installed around some of the various seats in the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge.

The semi-screen elements were effective visually but didn’t dampen the sound in a busy lounge. (This is roughly a third of the total space). Image: John Walton

To the right is the open kitchen area that at no point during my four-hour lunchtime connection had anybody doing any actual cooking, but which was a pleasant anchor for this dining-focussed zone with the larger of the two buffet-bars.

A salad bar and cold cuts in the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge

The salad bar and cold cut station was fine, but management issues like the oxygenated skin forming over the bowl of mayo sitting out for four hours were concerning. Image: John Walton

In the middle is the lounge’s focus, Le Balcon (The Balcony), the brass-roofed oblong signature space created by designer Mathieu Lehanneur. It’s très chic, but only a très petite proportion of the lounge, perhaps a third of the main lounge footprint. I was surprised that it was actually on the main level of the lounge — I’d got the impression that it was upstairs somehow.

The marble bar in the lounge with some items displayed on it.

It was baffling why the central focus bar of the entire lounge was so very bare. Image: John Walton

In theory, it’s a great idea for the premium leisure market to enable a couple of people to sit around a small table, and certainly it’s nice to have a focus space for influencers to lounge around taking photos — and there was definitely a good bit of that going on while I was there — but its actual function was a bit lacking.

A large blue cushioned bench with small white round tables.

The Le Balcon banquettes are beautiful, but the embedded tables (and their size) reduced the flexibility and usability of the space. Image: John Walton

There was also only power for one — a combination AC power socket plus USB-A socket at each table — so if you’re travelling with a colleague or partner or need to use more than one AC charger you’re out of luck. Battery anxiety is real, especially for connecting passengers on an airline that doesn’t offer power in business on all its aircraft. (Indeed, three out of the four USB-A sockets in my row on the inbound shorthaul flight were broken, so lounge power was much needed.)

It was also a little odd that the marble bar surface in Le Balcon was so very underutilised, with just wine and Champagne and a little half-tray of snacks. This could have been generously provisioned with options, even if it were just bagged snacks to go with the booze — there’s an entire French snacking cocktail hour tradition, apéro, that would be super to showcase — but the rather sparse offering made the space feel a little unloved. 

A few bottles of Champagne in an ice bucket.

The lounge Champagne was the very decent Joseph Perrier. Image: John Walton

In a cautionary tale about getting to designer-y with lounge furniture, the odd leather donut sofa with mini-side-tables was used by precisely nobody despite the lounge being very busy.

A cream coloured donut sofa sits beside a large bright blue decorative 'cloud' circle is in the middle of the lounge.

I never saw a single person use the “donut sofa”. Image: John Walton

I spent some time waiting for a Le Balcon seat to open up at the nearby coworking tables, which were excellent — comfortable chairs, power (!) and an expanse of work surface.

A large wooden table with chairs and a view of the airport roads.

The coworking tables are great, but the view is less so. Image: John Walton

The busy nap room was popular, while the Clarins spa had no staffer anywhere near and a sign that its bookings were full up.

A sign in the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge indicating that the spa is full.

I was in the lounge for nearly four hours and the spa was “full” the whole time. Image: John Walton

I presume that this was closed, as was the substantial part of lounge with an “exceptionally reserved” sign (a very odd translation: exceptionellement réservé in French means “as an exception” rather than “very”). With nobody in that section at any point when I passed it, Air France would have done well not to have blocked it off given how busy the lounge was.

A sign in the Air France CDG L satellite business lounge indicating that a certain area was reserved.

I realise that this is a minor gripe, but that’s not what “exceptionellement” means. Image: John Walton

Regrettably, the only view from the lounge is over the approach road to the airport, and the frosted anti-sun louvres seem immovable, or at least were in firm anti-light mode on the grey February day when I passed through.

This lack of natural light made the lounge feel dim and cold, and perhaps some thought about varying the lighting levels and warmth across the weather would be helpful.

All in all, the lounge remains structurally strong and stands up well in comparison to other airlines’ European hub business class lounges.

However, much of the way that it is managed and operated — the closed section, the lack of cleaning or replenishment, the lack of the bar in Le Balcon, not using the showpiece kitchen — feels like a real missed opportunity.

A hot buffet with an assortment of choices.

The food — the advertised cod with white sauce and unadvertised veal stew — was fine but needed better replenishing. Image: John Walton

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Featured image credited to John Walton