The facial massage is what really did it for me. Not the seat in the Air France business class cabin that reclined flat, not the champagne that flowed freely, not the gourmet meals, or the choice of 100 movies in English. It was the facial massage in the first class lounge at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
Let me begin by saying I've flown quite a bit in my life, including a seven-year stint as a flight attendant. But I have never experienced this kind of travel. I didn't even know it existed. You see, my life now consists of packing my daughter's lunch, doing my daughter's laundry, playing Sorry!, and working the safety valet drop-off line at my daughter's elementary school.
How did I find myself in Air France business class, seat 32A? Well, recently I had the opportunity to travel to India and the Middle East with Russian born comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Read that again if you need to, I'll wait. I do the social media for Yakov and he needed help with his shows. Though I have never been away from my eight-year-old for more than six days, the trip was paid for, and I haven't been on vacation in 13 years, so needles to say, I said yes.
The distance was daunting and, business class or not, I was not looking forward to more than 36 hours in the air. But guess what? Air France knows what they're doing. From the clever safety video with dancing models in sassy clothing, to the three cameras mounted on the aircraft's tail, nose, and fuselage, making viewing outside the plane clearer than ever, Air France has it going on.
First, let's talk about where I was sitting. I was sitting in an Airbus A380, a double-decker jumbo jet that holds 538 passengers. I was in business class, above the pilots, and my shell-designed seat transformed into a 6½-foot fully flat bed. Back in Los Angeles, I sit in a Subaru (read: "Mommy Mobile") stuck in traffic. My bed in LA is somewhat flat, and comes with an eight-year old girl's lanky leg in my abdomen. Plus a cat, with an ass the size of a raccoon, sleeping on my pillow.
The amenities on Air France included a soft and soothing duvet (this one sans a light coating of cat hair), a down-filled bed roll, a feather pillow, cotton pants and t-shirt to wear for comfort on the flight, plus what seemed like a dozen flight attendants attending to my every wish.
Early in the flight, I looked up and saw a flight attendant with flawless skin and a genuinely happy look on her face saying, "What can I do for you?" Really? I thought. Why are you happy? How many hours have you been flying? How much are they paying you? Do you steal Bacardi minis like I used to? You see, when I was a flight attendant, we weren't happy. We were almost always pissed off. We flew 12-hour days on a DC-9 with a full breakfast service between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We had eight or nine legs (takeoffs and landings) per day. Our uniforms were a nightmare: navy polyester suits with stiff blouses buttoned to the top and secured by a neck scarf, navy pumps, navy hose, navy blazers, and beige bras. Sassy we were not.
But now the game had changed. Now, I was the passenger, in business class no less. I got to pretend I was the princess at the ball. It was a whirlwind of hot towels, Clarins toiletry kits, noise-cancelling headphones, storage space for my laptop including a power outlet, a personal telephone to make calls via satellite, and enough space to dance a waltz in the forward lounge area (I know, because I did).
An hour later, another flight attendant placed linens on my tray table and more shiny flatware than I have in my entire apartment. There were crab legs and caviar. Similar to a dinner at my house of Trader Joe's California Rolls with imitation crab. Except not similar at all. The lengthy menu on Air France included Guinea Hen and Asian-style sautéed shrimp with garlic and chili pepper. The choice at home is Dino-Bites (that's chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs, people), or macaroni and cheese.
Breakfast followed a few hours later and--surprise, surprise--it wasn't a bird's nest and chocolate milk. It was a salmon omelet with shallots and mushrooms. (By the way, a bird's nest is a piece of white bread with a hole torn out and a fried egg in the middle, and it's awesome.)
As I looked around the business class cabin, I thought about how I recently skipped a payment on my daughter's Section 529 California college fund, and how the ticket price of anyone around me could cover an entire year of her college education. But, I realized, I needed this break and my child will succeed regardless. Life is short, I need to sit back and enjoy this. I ordered another glass of champagne--a mimosa this time, it's breakfast after all--and reclined my seat to the flat position.
(This article is not sponsored by Air France.)