I’m on my way to Bucharest to give a course with the Romanian air navigation service provider. As I’m teaching on Tuesdays until 13h30, the direct flight with SWISS was not an option for me, because it leaves too early. And so I ended up being booked with Air France via Paris.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I’m not having much luck with transportation this week. Monday started with a rejected take-off in Frankfurt that Lufthansa turned into a dog’s breakfast and which eventually saw me arriving in Zürich with a delay of four hours and several missed meetings late.
My flight today will start boarding at 14h40, so I figure I had probably best take the 13h55 train to get me to the airport at 14h10. But of course I miss that train and the next one, three minutes later, has been cancelled. And the one after that is running late. Crap!
But eventually, things turn out for me. At 14h20 my train pulls into the station at Zürich Flughafen. I even have enough time to change some currency before continuing on my way to the security checkpoint.
CHECK-IN & AIRSIDE
Air France is checked in by DNATA at Zürich airport and has obviously succeeded in securing one of the best locations in check-in 2. As you get off the escalators, coming from the railway station, the check-in counters are just on your left.
I’ve already checked in using the Air France app, so I can head straight for security. There is one lane open for Business Class passengers and the queue is fairly long when I arrive. But obviously they’re preparing for the evening rush hour and after only a few minutes a further line is opened to speed things up.
By the time I’m through, there’s just another five minutes to go before boarding begins, and so I head straight for gate B31 from where the flight will be departing.
Boarding starts more or less on time. The first call is for Business Class and Platinum card holders to board through the attended gate. Once that is done, the remaining passengers are invited to board via the automatic gates.
The flight is not full today, so boarding is quickly completed.
The Airbus A 318 is a strange little aeroplane. It’s essentially an Airbus A 319 which never fully grew. The aircraft has not been a commercial success and to be honest, I’m not sure if the production line is even still open for this type. In any case, Air France currently has a fleet of 18 of these short, stubby little aircraft.
They are configured with a seating capacity of a maximum of 118 seats. On today’s flight there are four rows of Business Class with a total of 14 seat. On the port side of the vessel there is no row 1, the bulkhead row on this side is row 2. I am seated on 2A, a window seat. With only three passengers in the Business Class cabin in total, I have the whole row to myself, which is obviously very luxurious and makes for a very comfortable ride. The seat pitch throughout is 32 inches. In addition, there is a red pillow at every seat, which gives the impression of a very bright and fresh cabin.
The service up front is done by the maître de, a young French woman. Apparently, the English language continues to be a problem for Air France. But as long as I can communicate with her in French, I think we should be alright. While boarding is still in process, she welcomes me on board, brings me a refreshing towel and asks me if there’s anything I’d like to drink. I order a bottle of still water.
Throughout the flight she takes good care of the three of us, in addition to helping out with the service in the back. What I particularly like though, is that Air France strictly enforces a closed curtain policy on its flights.
As soon as we’re airborne, the meal service begins. The flight time is estimated at 1 hour and 5 minutes, which is not very much. The meal service consists of one tray that has on it:
- a wholegrain, bresaola and horseradish sandwich,
- pickled vegetables served with a tartar sauce,
- a warm cheese stick,
- a bowl of diced pear in honey,
- a Tropézienne cake and a small but sinfully dense chocolate cake thingy,
- a box with two chocolate pralines.
To drink with that I have a Coke Zero. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are also available after the meal, but I decline the flight attendant’s offer.
The meal is not particularly big or anything, but given the short flight time I think it is perfectly adequate.
Eventually we start our descent into Paris. It’s quite windy, but at least it’s a bright sunny day here – despite the cold. Terminal 2F is home to Air France’s European Schengen flights. My connecting flight will depart from 2E, which is in walking distance and very quick and easy to reach from 2F.