Air France A321 economy is perfect for anyone who hates their kneecaps

Air France A321 economy is perfect for anyone who hates their kneecaps

What the hell are you even thinking considering taking a flight in Air France A321 economy class? Have you gone mad?

My assumption is that you found this review because you found a tempting deal, and before pulling the trigger, you just want to see what it’s like. I get it. We’ve all been there.

My advice? Save the money and choose an ultra low cost airline instead. Yeah, you’ll miss out on a tasty (and free) in-flight snack, but everything else will look and feel the same. Why full price to punish your knee caps this badly?

Paris, France (CDG) – Rome, Italy (FCO)
Friday, January 19, 2024
Aircraft: A321-212
Registration: F-GTAT
Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes
Seat: 22A (Economy)

Air France A321 (F-GTAT) side view
Air France A321 (F-GTAT) side view illustration by
AF1504 flight track
Our route from Paris to Rome today as AF1504.

My full review of Air France A321 economy from Paris to Rome

Prior to this flight, the last time I flew intra-European economy class was in an Iberia A340-600 from Madrid to London (way back in 2019). Even though it wasn’t all that great of an experience, it felt every bit as saucy as Qatar Airways A380 business class compared to what I’m about to show you.

Arrival at Terminal 2F at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Not gonna lie. Strolling into the terminal that morning, I wasn’t exactly a bundle of energy considering that I had just arrived from Chicago in Air France A350-900 premium economy.

CDG airport terminal 2F departures board
Welcome to Terminal 2F at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport! There’s an Air France flight to Rome departing from here relatively soon, and my mission (should I choose to accept it) is to partake in that action.

If I was flying anything but steerage, I could’ve spent my 3.5 layover inside the amazing Terminal 2F Air France / KLM Lounge eating phallic little sausages and drinking weird green elixirs. Instead (because I chose to save a few bucks and fly economy), all I could do was hang around the gate area admiring the absolute awesomeness of the terminal architecture. Mostly while sitting, of course.

CDG airport terminal 2F
My consolation prize for having to endure Air France A321 economy class today? Exploring the innards of this magnificent terminal.
SANspotter exploring terminal 2F CDG airport
Pretending that I was hanging out in the Millennium Falcon was pretty badass too.
Paris Charles de Gaulle airport terminal 2F architecture
Make no mistake about it – this is one of my favorite airport terminals in the entire world. Easily in the top five!

The boarding process for AF1504 to Rome

Feeling borderline delirious from jet lag doesn’t help any when all the gate announcements (and signage) are in a language you don’t understand. I was fully aware of 49 minute delay though. They couldn’t hide that from me as I stood around with everyone else waiting to board this flight.

Gate F49 terminal 2F CDG airport
Gate F49 is where I will spend my last moments before getting to say that I have officially experienced AF A321 economy. Spoiler alert: my life was better in the “before times.”
Air france CDG-FCO economy class mobile boarding pass
The boarding pass. If I had to do it all over again, this is the point where I would be saying goodbye to my precious kneecaps. At least they could’ve warned me of what was to come.
Walking down jet bridge add CDG airport to board air france a321
Down the jet bridge! And to think that I was feeling curiously optimistic at this point lol.
Air France A321 business class
Just a quick pic of what it’s like to casually stroll through business class on the way back to steerage.
Air France A321 economy class
The journey continues. Here we have the economy class cabin, which admittedly looks nothing like I thought it would. What’s with the squiggly red headrest coverings?

The seats

Perhaps the best way to sum up my first impressions of the Air France A321 economy seats is that they looked like something straight out of an ultra low cost airline. Actually, they looked worse. Need proof? Compare what you’re about to see to the seats in my EasyJet A320 review. Oof.

Air France A321 economy class row 22
Row 22. Without getting too far ahead of myself in this review, I’d like to take this moment to extend a giant middle finger to every seat in this row. Especially the window seat. Screw you for even existing!
Air France A321 economy class leg room
Go ahead. Call me a p***y if you must, but the leg room in these seats is horrible. Honestly? Imagine Allegiant Air A319 economy (but French).
Air France A321 economy class seat height
Making matters worse was how tall the seat backs are. I’m 5′-10″, and I couldn’t see over the top of them without doing one hell of a good meerkat impression.
Air France A321 economy class View from seat 22A looking forward
“Weet weet!” (or whatever the hell the sound meerkats make).
Air France A321 economy class seat space
Claustrophobia FTW. I mean…FTMFL (I always get my acronyms mixed up).
Air France A321 economy class seats row 22 leg room
I don’t understand a lick of French, but it’s safe to say that she was either A). Voicing her displeasure about the legroom, or B). Spewing expletives about having to sit next to SANspotter. Either way, she wasn’t happy.
Air France A321 economy class headrest covers
Moving on. I quite like the headrest covers! But why do they look like something straight out of an airline offering €9 fares to Ibiza?
SANspotter sitting in an Air France A321 economy seat
That moment when you realize that you might be flying on a rickety old A321 that was picked up real cheap from an ultra low-cost carrier who abused more than a corrupt politician would abuse total presidential immunity.
Air France A321 economy overhead bins
There’s nothing here in the interior of this plane that says Air France. I think I’m hearing a lot of “screw this!” (all in French, so I don’t know for sure), but this doesn’t feel any different then some of my worst ultra low cost air travel experiences so far.
Air France A321 economy coat hook
Coat hook or bottle opener?
Air France A321 economy drink holder built into tray table
Judging by this beer holder built into the tray table, that was most certainly a bottle opener. $20 says this A321 could fly to Ibiza with its eyes closed.
Air France A321 economy passengers
Ok, yeah, we were able to wedge ourselves into these seats semi decently, but the question is: will we ever be able to get out?

The departure out of CDG

Yeah, the windows were all fogged up and scratchy. My knees (and lower back) were already killing me. And by the time they pushed us off the gate, we were still 49 minutes behind schedule. Despite all that, I actually wasn’t in the worst of moods. It’s kind of hard to feel salty when you’re headed to Rome.

Air France A320 sitting at the gate CDG airport
I’ve been complaining so much about the leg room that I forgot to even mention that we’re 49 minutes late so far. This is fun!
Air France A321 taxi to runway CDG airport
To make matters worse, the noises this airplane was making during the taxi to the runway weren’t very reassuring. At least it was cheap, right?
Air France A321 taking off from CDG airport
Maybe if I wasn’t so concerned about how ‘experienced’ this aircraft was, I would’ve noticed the beautiful weather. Yeah, she may be a bit of a whore, but it looks like it’s gonna be a good day for flying!
Flying over central Paris and Eiffel tower after takeoff from CDG airport
Here’s a pic of central Paris (and the Eiffel tower) to distract you from my obnoxious (and borderline offensive) photo captions.

In-flight entertainment

Sorry. There’s a real good chance you’re going to be bored AF in AF A321 economy if you don’t come prepared. No, coming up with creative ways of preventing your knee caps from being pressed into the seat in front of you doesn’t count as “in-flight entertainment”.

Air France A321 economy Wi-Fi menu
Of course there’s no in-flight entertainment. There is Wi-Fi though! Messaging is free, but you’ll have to pay for everything else.

Not only are there no video screens, there are no streaming movies and TV shows either. At least they provide varying levels of Wi-Fi (everything from free messaging to high speed Internet).

Air France A321 economy Wi-Fi coverage on a flight from Paris to Rome
They take Wi-Fi connectivity a little more seriously here in Europe than they do back home in the US. I’m willing to bet anything that they’d go through the trouble of filing a completely new flight plan to avoid annoying dead zones.
Air France A321 economy in-flight Journey screen via the mobile app
This ‘journey summary’ screen represents the only thing you’re going to get if you refuse to shell out cash for the Wi-Fi. Don’t be a cheapskate!
Accessing Air France website via Wi-Fi in Air France A321 economy
Me being a total cheapskate and all (lol), I discovered that (in addition to the mobile app) you can access the Air France website without having to pay for Wi-Fi. I appreciated being reminded of our delay.
Flying over the Swiss Alps in an Air France A321
Being a total cheapskate has its advantages! Had I purchased the Wi-Fi, would I have even noticed the snowcapped Alps?
SANspotter looking out the window of an Air France A321
“I can’t wait to make a witty comment about snowcapped mountains being the ultimate in-flight entertainment!”

The food

Miracles can happen! Just as I was feeling my lowest about this experience, the cabin crew came down the aisle slinging sandwiches and complementary beverages. It was easily one of the most delicious free airline sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in economy class anywhere in the world. Who knew?

Air France A321 economy in-flight snack
I’m so conflicted. On one hand, the seats are horrible (and quite painful). On the other hand, this vegetable sandwich seems to imply that they don’t actually want me dead. At least not yet.
Air France A321 economy sandwich
Can you imagine how many heads would explode if a US airline served healthy sandwiches in economy class? “How DARE you force me to eat healthy!”
Air France A321 economy vegetarian sandwich
Was it good? Judge for yourself by the size of those bite marks.
SANspotter eating in-flight snack in Air France A321 economy
Oh hell yeah. There’s no doubt in my mind that even Jules Winnfield would declare this to be a tasty sandwich.

Seat comfort

If you’re the kind of person who can fly long distances on ultra low cost airlines without batting an eye (or wincing in pain), you’re not likely to have any issues with this. However, for a full fare airline, I found seat comfort to be borderline unacceptable.

Air France A321 economy tight seat pitch
Giving birth to a backpack? Or struggling with the tight seat pitch? I say again: these seats are tight!
Air France A321 economy class passengers tight leg room
“He said the seats are tight.”

Air France should be ashamed of themselves. Better yet, maybe I should be ashamed of myself for thinking this was going to be somewhat comfortable.

Descent and arrival into the Rome Fiumicino Airport

“Fashionably late.” That’s what you call it when you arrive 49 minutes behind schedule on a French airline, right? However you want to describe it, I was just glad to put this experience behind me.

Approach into Rome airport in an Air France A321
It’s nice to see Italy with my own two eyes again! Last time I was here was 20 years ago. #oldfart
Air France A321 landing at Rome FCO airport
Welcome to Ibiza Rome.
Old Alitalia 777s parked at Rome Fiumicino Airport
Whoa. Old Alitalia 777s! Unfortunately, for this AF A321, I do believe this is the airplane equivalent of whistling past the graveyard.
Air France A321 arriving at terminal 1 FCO airport
Pulling up to Terminal 1 alongside Europe’s finest (Ryanair and Volotea). I can think of no better way to end a review of a crusty old Air France A321 than to watch it all through a scratched up and foggy window.
Unbuckling seatbelt in Air France A321 economy
“Release me from this wretched seat!”
Waiting to deplane Air France A321 economy
Not so fast, cowboy. One must have patience when deplaning from the back of A321 economy class.
Air France A321 economy class view from back
Finally! I look forward to the day when I’ll look back on this experience as a necessary challenge which helped me to become a better (and more impartial) airline reviewer.
Exiting Air France A321 through forward boarding door
But today? Screw that seat (and I hope the next guy farts in it all the way back to CDG).

Pros and cons of the Air France A321 economy class experience

Look. It ain’t all that bad. I’m willing to admit that I probably set my expectations a smidge too high before stepping foot out of this airplane. I mean, it’s basic economy class, so it was never supposed to be perfect.


  • The food is actually quite good. It’s slightly more substantial than a typical airline economy class snack, and fairly high quality as well.
  • The cabin crew was fantastic. And yes (to my fellow Americans), don’t worry – they all speak English.


  • The seat pitch (leg room) was probably the worst I’ve experienced on any airline.
  • Why does it gotta be so visually drab? There was zero effort into incorporating Air France branding anywhere inside that airplane.
  • Those A321s are getting on in years, and you’re likely to hear some scary noises way back in the bowels of economy class. 

Comments (2)

  1. Peter

    February 24, 2024
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 24, 2024

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