Review: Air France Salon Lounge, Paris Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2E, the Best SkyTeam Lounge?

Most airport lounges serve as hideouts. A good lounge makes for a respite, one step away from the nonsense and noise of an airport terminal, with drinks, a few snacks and slightly improved wi-fi. Then there are those few lounges that transform the airport experience from a pass through into something outright pleasurable. I consider the Air France Salon Lounge at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to be the latter.

I had visited other Air France lounges. The shared Air France-KLM Lounge at San Francisco International Airport was just short of awful. There were sausages sitting in milky water. The place smelled of mold. The petit Air France Lounge at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport was delightful, on the other hand, with great snacks, French wines and complimentary massage chairs. But what I found inside Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2E put every other Air France lounge I’ve visited — and every airport lounge in North America — to shame.

An Air France platinum flyer told me the lounge was his favorite in the airline’s entire network. Considering a close competitor, the China Airlines Supreme (Premium Business Class) Lounge in Taipei, I might vote the CDG 2E Salon as the best SkyTeam lounge on the planet.

Lounge situation

The Salon entrance flows seamlessly off the main foyer leading into the terminal, which services Air France’s heaviest intercontinental routes. The public spaces at CDG’s Terminal 2E are beautiful on their own. The Salon felt like a secret back-house of this delightful space, a more private and privileged alter ego.

An easy to find and inviting entrance to the Air France Salon, Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2E.

An inviting welcome to the Air France Salon.

The lounge’s architect employed a delightfully subtle forest motif. Natural elements like leaves and tree branches are woven into bright, curvaceous walls. The space is subdivided into five sections. On one side of the lounge, near the hot buffet, guests can sit at large circular dining tables, accented by warm red lounge benches.

The Air France Salon dining area was crowded in Paris on a Sunday afternoon.

Two larger seating areas occupy the central portion of the lounge, and feature an abundance of my very favorite lounge chairs.

Don’t you just love those leaves in the wall panelling. Detail, detail, detail.

I wish every chair I sat in was this one.

The fourth space was a work area, with spacious working desks near a smaller cold buffet and self-service drink bar.

The Air France Salon work area.

The following alcove was a quiet sleeping and resting space. Day beds were tucked beneath large architectural floor lighting reminiscent of tree trunks. Airbus A380 super jumbos flanked the lounge windows on both sides. Is this the future?

Before ascending into the clouds, one can rest beneath a tree canopy. Wow.

Relaxation situation

With my luggage situated at a day bed, the Clarins Spa was my first stop. Unfortunately a mishap with a duty-free purchase ate up about 30 minutes of my transit time, and by the time I arrived I no longer had time to partake in one of the spa’s complimentary 15-minute treatments. Guests can schedule spa treatments using a tablet.

The Air France Salon at Charles De Gaulle airport terminal 2E offers complimentary 15 minute spa treatments.

Spa reservations can be made easily using a tablet.

This is one of many highlights that make The Salon exceptional. While many top-flight carriers offer complimentary spa treatments for business and first class passengers, this is one of very few alliance lounges that offers complimentary spa services to all lounge guests, even those flying in economy. Given that Delta elites no longer have access to Virgin Clubhouse locations, I believe this perk is unique in the entire SkyTeam network.

Food situation

I’m not a fan of buffet dining, in any setting, and airport lounge buffets are notoriously bad. Air France’s Salon was one of the best I’ve experienced.

Natural elements persisted at the buffet, where floral elements made everything seem just a hair fresher.

During my lunchtime visit, Air France offered several warm entrees at the buffet, including a braised duck dish and cauliflower au gratin side.

Warm duck entree and side at Air France Salon CDG.

Just down the line were nicely steamed vegetables, I tried to count the number of times I’d seen perfectly steamed vegetables at an airport lounge. I came up with zero, which would make this one.

Everything was fairly nicely prepared.

The salad bar was tidy and delightful, the lettuce was fresh, the orzo pasta cooked al dente.

Everything at the buffet actually looked, and tasted, good. No wilted lettuce, I repeat, not a single wilted lettuce leaf at the Air France Salon.

Of course, there was the cheese selection. Of course, it was fantastic. No, these cheeses did not come out of a refrigerator. Yes, they smelled wonderfully stinky.

Air France takes the cheese for best cheese. Duh. Oh, and can you see all the apertif snacks? There were plenty.

Then, they ate cake. There were fruit cakes, cheese cakes, fruit tarts, cheese tarts, creme brulee, creme fraiche, strawberries and kiwis. Lounge attendants served up a seemingly endless rotation of beautifully prepared, tastefully presented dessert items the entire time I was at the lounge.

The dessert buffet at the Air France Salon, Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2E.

Booze situation

Opposite the dessert bar was a gem of a self-serve liquor selection. What is modest in size is mighty in spirit, and each one of these bottles contained something that I really, really wanted to drink. I settled on the Glenlivet Founders Reserve, twice.

I call this little alcove Cloud 9 (there are actually nine bottles of top-shelf liquor and apertifs, and they are in the clouds, so yeah).

There were also customary refrigerators full of beers and soft drinks. I didn’t take a picture of these because you’ve likely seen one before. The wines were very good.

The smaller refreshment counter had all the typical fixings, an espresso robot, juice machine, beer fridge and wine selection.

Entertainment situation

Entertainment was available in the form of just about every French or English newspaper one might want to read while on a trip to Paris, as well as a healthy picking of periodicals.

I don’t think Air France has thought out their newspaper and magazine selection quite well enough. Sometimes I am facetious.

There were multiple alcoves with big flat-screen televisions.

Forget TV, I’m far more interested in what’s going on outside these windows.

One of the seating areas featured a pair of Sony Playstation PSVITA stations, near the kids play section.

There were video games in the kids section.

Wi-fi in the lounge was good enough for general purposes, and I had no difficulty connecting.

Shower situation

Toward the end of my lounge visit, and the beginning of my eight-hour flight,  I stopped by one of the lounge’s eight shower suites. Unlike many U.S. lounges, one does not have to reserve a shower suite at the Salon. There are plenty to go around.  I looked for an attendant, and eventually found one who, after I asked how to reserve a shower, seemed confused and showed me how to open a door.

The shower suits were spacious enough and featured rain shower heads.

The shower suites were some of the nicer ones I’ve seen. Each shower was stocked with Clarins products, as well as amenities like toothbrush kits, disposable razors and deodorant.

The showers were stocked with Clarins products, and the vanity included shaving supplies, toothbrush kits and deodorant.

Refreshed, replenished, wined, dined and whisky-ed, I sadly bid adieu to the Air France Salon. I left mentally prepared to board an economy flight across the ocean and land at one of the United States’ third-world (to quote the president) airports.

My vessel back to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Overall situation

My platinum friend was right, I decided, this is the best lounge in the entire Air France system, and possibly the best in the entire SkyTeam network. Though I haven’t been to every SkyTeam lounge, the Air France Salon Lounge at Charles De Gaulle Airport Terminal 2E features amenities that just aren’t available anywhere else.

For the few things the lounge lacked, such as a full-service bar and more warm food options, like those available at China Airlines’ excellent Supreme Lounge, Air France’s flagship Salon Lounge made up for in beautiful architecture and unique services, like complimentary spa treatments and an absolutely fantastic selection of super-premium alcohols.

Comments

  1. God how have I missed this one. I usually go to the less interesting one that’s downstairs. I think it’s in 2E… Anyway, nice review! One thing though…I don’t think it’s called the Salon Lounge. Salon = lounge/living room in French. It’s just the Air France Lounge…I think…

    • Hi Garrett
      In French an airline’s lounge is well called “le salon”.
      And you right it’s also the same word used for the living room.

  2. In your defense, you have to sign up for a shower with LH in many of their lounges, including F, so it’s not just a US thing…

  3. So great! Though I only found the lower level one but it was the same minus the view – where is this Lounge with a view?

  4. There is 3 terminals at CDG 2E
    – Gates K (where you do the check-in)
    – Gate L (you take a train – first stop)
    – Gate M (train second stop ->>> The lounge described in the article)

    The lounge at the M terminal is the best indeed, unfortunately you can only (officially) access with a flight leaving at the M gates (and it not possible to know it in advance)
    Second problem (the worst) the M terminal is only open in the morning. So it’s impossible to access with a flight on the afternoon.

    Lounge at the K terminal has been refreshed , it’s much better but it’s not so great that the M one.
    I personally hate the lounge of the L gates. It was also in process of refreshing, We’ll see… I didn’t have the possibility to see it recently.

    So yes do your best to have the M gates

    The new Lounge at the G terminal (generally for France flights) has been totally transformed and is also great (before it was terrible).

    2F (for Europe flights) are classicals but you don’t have champagne… 🙁

  5. We will be travelling on Airfrance Business Class to CGD from San Francisco and return. Is there an admission fee of the lounges?

    • Any business class ticket includes access to that airline’s lounges, as well as all partner airline’s lounges. In your case, you can access any of the Air France Salons/Lounges in Paris, and in San Francisco you can access the Air France/KLM Lounge, the China Airlines Dynasty lounge, and any Delta Skyclubs that you might encounter (although there are none in the SFO international terminal).

      • Merci Beaucoup John. I want to take advantage of the AF lounges, since I just found out that the plane we booked to and from SFO to Paris may NOT have upgraded their Business section. (AF380-800). Major disappointment, since that was a big reason to book Business this time. (We usually just upgrade to premium Economy or upgraded regular economy in the upper level.). Nice, but not ideal sleeping conditions. What a lot of effort just to try to get a few zzzz’s and some free champagne, no?
        Thanks again, Margo

        • Yeah, the Air France business class seats on the A380 are actually quite awful. They are actually the same business class seats that discount carrier La Compagnie uses. Nothing wrong with La Compagnie, but you would be paying probably half price or less with them.

          An embarassment for Air France, considering this should be their most proud (and French) aircraft. If any part of your itinerary changes, you might want to call Air France and see if they’ll change you onto a different flight with a 777 aircraft. Those are the best business class seats Air France as to offer. Even A330 is better than A380.

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