The story below is contributed by reader Iryna Symonenko.
I had an interesting story back in 2017.
I was planning to visit Asia for the first time in my life; but I barely had any money at that time, so it was more like a dream.
Anyway I was surfing on Skyscanner, putting in the dates I needed and all the major destinations in Asia.
The tickets were generally expensive… I was searching tickets to Bali and saw the ticket from Budapest to Bali with Air France and Garuda Indonesia for £183!
I took my credit card and booked immediately. I was aware of error fares, so I was super quick to make this reservation. After I received my confirmation from the agency, I went to the main websites for error fares, such as secret flying, but this deal was not there.
After that, I started to convince my friends and colleagues to go with me; finally one of them booked the same flight. So while we were happily celebrating that night my friend received a cancellation SMS, but there wasn't one for me 😁
So in the next morning, I decided to check my booking reference on the Air France website. I saw that my ticket was generated and all was good.
After that I was surfing through the booking and went to select my seat section.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had a selection in the first row! I realized then that short legs of the flight were in Business Class and the Paris-Singapore leg was in La Premiere (First Class) 🤩
I love aviation so much, so you can imagine my feelings. It was at that time that I discovered Sam's channel, as I was searching on YouTube for videos about Air France La Premiere.
I had to wait 5 months for the trip, then finally the big day came. I was keeping all my hotel bookings with free cancelation option, as I was not sure I would be allowed onboard. I had some confidence though, as I was receiving all the flight updates via email and SMS and I had also managed to generate my boarding pass online.
I arrived at Budapest airport with my backpack, then went straight to the priority line.
At check-in the employee started to make some calls as soon as she saw my documents and then she asked me to wait. I couldn’t speak a word in Hungarian, so I was extremely nervous.
At that moment I figured there were 2 outcomes; either they would bring me the glass of Champaign, or I would be denied boarding.
Then AF representative finally showed up, they began by trying to convincing me to cancel the ticket with a full refund and to make a new booking. 😂
She started to explain to me that this deal was caused by an error in Garuda Indonesia system, as I had the final leg of my flight from Singapore to Bali with Garuda.
She really put a lot of pressure on me, threatening that I could be denied boarding in Singapore by Garuda Indonesia and that I’d be stuck there. I was asking her why they didn’t contact me before, as 5 months have passed from the booking time to the day of travel. She told that they didn’t have my contact details, which was complete nonsense as I was receiving all the emails and the SMS from the airline.
Finally, I asked her if she was denying me boarding, it was then that she told me that she had no legal right to do so 😁.
I’m not an expert in the law, but that seemed obvious to me. I figured that once I boarded the first flight then everything would be fine. So I got my documents from her hands and took my chances. I can say that all other representatives of the airline on the plane and on the ground were extremely professional and polite.
So finally the most exciting flying experience of my life had begun.
The first leg of my flight was a nice, typical short flight Business Class experience. The miracles started when we landed in Paris CDG. Once the plane doors were open, an extremely nice lady came into the plane; she was holding a tablet in her hands that had my name on it. She took me down by the stairs, put me in an amazing Jaguar Limo, and took me to the Air France La Premiere Lounge; it is enough to say that this was impressive.
While I was having a glass of Champaign and a French macaroon, she took my passport to the immigration; it was then duly stamped by customs, without me even needing to be present.
After that, she introduced me to one passenger, who was taking the same flight, and asked us if it would be acceptable to take us to the plane in the same car.
Finally we arrived at the airplane, it was a Boeing 777-300/ER and we boarded via the separate door for First Class passengers. The Capitan greeted us both by name and we took our seats. I was introduced to my flight attendant who made me feel like a queen😁
There are 4 seats in the La Premiere cabin and you can close the curtain after the take-off to have full privacy.
It was the first time in my life when I was happy that the flight time was so long, so I could enjoy every minute of it.
After take-off my gastronomical journey started. All the food was served as if it was in a high-end restaurant and was nothing short of amazing. I had black caviar as appetiser and then I selected lobster for the main course. The food was accompanied with great selection of French wines and champagnes, so I fully experienced why the Air France slogan is “France is in the air”💙🤍❤️
After dinner, while I was changing into the supplied pyjamas in the First Class bathroom, the flight attendant made up my comfy flatbed. So before falling asleep I was comfortably watching some nice movie accompanied with an amazing French sorbet.
The next morning we landed in Singapore where the ground hospitality service met me and took to the lounge in a small “golf” car. They also provided me with the boarding pass for my final flight with Garuda Indonesia.
In Denpasar the hospitality experience was also great. I was picked up from the flight, quickly passed through all the immigration formalities and waited for my bag in the Business Class lounge.
My stay in Bali was amazing, but nothing to compared with emotions I experienced during my flight.
On the way back I flew with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then changed to Air France back to Europe.
At that point, I already felt like an experienced First Class traveller 😃. So while we were waiting for the take-off permission in Hong Kong, I was brave enough to ask the Captain if I could visit the cockpit; as this had been one of my biggest dreams. He happily agreed and told me to take my phone, so he could take some photos for me. I’ll never forget the moment when they’ve put me in the Capitan's seat and let me touch the flight controls.
The flights back were an amazing experience too, with me reaching Budapest without any issues.
Upon return, I received my Flying Blue gold card; which I still maintain to this day.
On top of that I got around 60k miles; so I used these to fly to Mauritius the following year, paying only airport taxes 😁
After that trip, I realised that flying in Business or First class is not only about luxury and amazing food. I believe that the hospitality aspect is also key here. You do not need to worry about anything: airport queues, what your gate is etc. This means you have zero stress during your travel and feel only happiness and excitement.
A couple of years after, I had to fly from Europe to Uruguay for work and I was booking a Business Class ticket. I had many options to select from but decided to go again with Air France. Partially to compensate for my amazing previous experience with them, partially to keep my Gold status in Flying Blue😁🤷🏼♀️😁 and definitely to enjoy the great experience with this amazing airline again.
This trip was so unbelievable that when I met my boyfriend @thewanderinginvestor and told him the story, he thought that maybe I made it up; he was thinking I had some sugar daddy sponsoring my trip 😂
And now my dream is for us to experience such an amazing flight together, to share such memories with someone who shares my passion for traveling and whom I love ❤️
The story above is contributed by reader Iryna Symonenko.