A while back Air France came up with the bright idea of setting up secondary, low-cost hubs in Toulouse and Marseille. Among the newly opened routes was Marseille to Basel, where I live. I’ve always wanted to visit the Provence region of France, so once the flights were released for sale, I booked myself on a flight from Basel to Marseille in the evening of Friday, 29. June 2012. The return would be the next evening, on Saturday, 30. June 2012. This gave me nearly 24 hours to drive out of the city to see if I could find the famous lavender fields of Provence, which are in bloom in June.
And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. Quite a while after I had booked the flights, I received a mail from Air France informing me that due to the bad performance of the route, the Saturday flight had been cancelled. I would need to be rebooked. The easiest thing of course, would have been to rebook me for the flight the next evening, Sunday, 01. July 2012. But private affairs required me to be back in Basel on Sunday morning, so instead of taking the direct service, I opted for a 06h15 departure from Marseille to Roissy and then on to Basel. That would get me into Basel at 09h45. 06h15 is very early and yes, transferring in Roissy is not my idea of fun either. But it cannot be helped.
Then a while later I needed to be in Dubai for a week, until 28. June 2012. I subsequently booked flights with Oman Air to get me from Zürich via Muscat to Dubai and back. The Oman Air flight back to Zürich would be on Friday, 29. June 2012 and would arrive back in Zürich at 18h40. This gave me enough time to get back to Basel, grab my rucksack and head for Basel airport for the flight to Marseille at 23h00.
And then along came Air France and made a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing. After I had booked the trip to Oman, I received another mail from Air France informing me that the flight from Basel to Marseille had been rescheduled and would now already be leaving at 20h00. There was no way I would make it from Zürich by that time. And so it came that the outbound flight had to be changed as well. Eventually I was rebooked to leave Basel at 10h00 on Saturday, 30. June 2012. I would fly to Marseille via Orly.
But one must look at the positive side. At least this meant that I would be flying on the Britair CRK to Orly.
Date: 30. June 2012
To: Paris Orly
Airline: Brit Air for Air France
Aircraft: Bombardier Canadair Regonal Jet CRJ-1000
Cabin: Economy Class
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The journey begins, yet again, outside the main railway station in Basel. It is here that I catch the line 50 to the airport.
The airport is looking good. Following the completion of the exterior, the interior has now also been revamped.
This here is actually what used to be the oldest part of the original construction from the 1970s.
I cross over into the French side. I’ve already done OLCI, so I head upstairs for security.
The French side of the departure lounge is empty.
At around 09h30, my bird finally makes an appearance. This will be my first trip with the CRK!
A short while later, boarding is called. The load on today’s flight is rather light and boarding is quickly completed.
Platinum members get seats at the front of the plane, hence I am on 1A. There are about 8 empty rows in between me and the rest of the passengers. The cabin on this bird is in mint condition and has that lovely crisp new plane smell about it. I suspect it hasn’t been in service very long.
The cabin crew make a quick welcome announcement in French and English and then we’re off.
Take-off is to the south towards Switzerland and Basel. After take-off we do a steep right turn and set course for Paris.
Once the seat belt sign goes off, the curtains close and the crew start to prepare for the service. The cabin crew on this flight consists of two very chirpy and friendly French young ladies. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the light load or perhaps a combination of both but they appear to be in a really good mood.
For the meal I have a cup of hot chocolate and sweet biscuits. The flight attendant tells me that the hot chocolate is made with water. But If I add two creamers I won’t be able to tell the difference. I try and must admit, not bad at all.
The weather en route is overcast.
On the approach the weather clears up. But alas I am sitting on the wrong side to be able to see the city.
We arrive in Orly on time and taxi past a huge variety of different airlines and aircraft types. A short and pleasant flight comes to an end.
TRANSFER AT ORLY OUEST
Domestic flights arrive and depart from Orly Ouest. The terminal is quite old and evidently not geared for transfer passengers. This means that although I’m on an intra-Schengen flight, I will still have to go through security again. There is a separate area for SkyPriority passengers to check-in, but alas no fast track through security.
Even so, once I’m through security I still have enough time to visit ‘Le Salon Air France’. Air France operates a shuttle, called ‘La Navette’, to a number of French cities. These flights all leave from the same area in Hall 2 and the lounge is only available to these flights. The lounge is not very well stocked and not exactly fancy. But it gets the job done and it offers some excellent views of the apron.
Date: 30. June 2012
From: Paris Orly
Airline: Air France
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Cabin: Economy Class
Seat: 10D, aisle
Boarding is called a few minutes late. It’s an orderly affair and Air France take their boarding by seat rows very seriously.
Originally I’m on 10E, the middle seat on the emergency exit. Fortunately the guy on the aisle recognises some pal of his just as the doors close and decides to move. I shift across to the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat empty for the rest of the flight.
The cabin on this aircraft has a very modern and spacious feel to it. The seats are not exactly comfy but sufficient for a short flight of only one hour.
Service on this flight is pretty much the same as on the previous flight. The crew are friendly and chatty.
The meal on this flight is as frugal as that on the previous one too. This appears to be the standard on Air France domestic flights. I have a Perrier and more of the biscuits.
ARRIVING IN MARSEILLE
The approach takes us over water and eventually a set of large salt pans. It’s quite spectacular.
After we land we taxi past a huge fleet of fire protection aircraft.
I deplane and head outside. It’s a nice day but very hot. But it still feels nice. Just like a summer holiday. As for Air France, I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan. But I must say, these two flights were not bad – not bad at all.
The Provence region of France is very beautiful and offers some quite dramatic landscapes. Softly rolling lush green hills will suddenly give way to ragged cliffs with quaint little villages perched dangerously on the promontory. The lavender season, when the flowers are in bloom, is relatively short. I think I was quite lucky in that everything was still in full bloom when I visited.
I think I shall have to return some day and maybe spend some more time here.