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.
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.
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.
Two larger seating areas occupy the central portion of the lounge, and feature an abundance of my very favorite lounge chairs.
The fourth space was a work area, with spacious working desks near a smaller cold buffet and self-service drink bar.
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?
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.
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.
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.
During my lunchtime visit, Air France offered several warm entrees at the buffet, including a braised duck dish and cauliflower au gratin side.
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.
The salad bar was tidy and delightful, the lettuce was fresh, the orzo pasta cooked al dente.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were multiple alcoves with big flat-screen televisions.
One of the seating areas featured a pair of Sony Playstation PSVITA stations, near the kids play section.
Wi-fi in the lounge was good enough for general purposes, and I had no difficulty connecting.
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 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.
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 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.