In Singapore I’m staying at the Changi Crowne Plaza Hotel, which has direct access to Terminal 3. I spend a blissfully lazy Saturday by the pool. I mean, what else could you possibly ask for? I have a room that opens directly onto the pool, it’s warm outside and all I have to do to watch the aeroplanes taking off is to look up from my Kindle whenever I hear one thundering by.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
To get from the hotel to Terminal 1, I exit the hotel on the second floor level and do two right turns, which brings me to the Skytrain station for the short trip across to Terminal 1.
The Air France check-in counters are on the very first row of counters when you enter Terminal 1 coming from the direction of the Skytrain. You really can’t miss them.
Online check-in is available, but it is not possible to save the boarding pass to Passbook or to have it printed. Still, it makes no difference to me, seeing as I’ll be checking in a suitcase anyway. There is one counter for La Première, four for SkyPriority and two baggage drop-off counters for Economy Class passengers.
There’s a bit of a hold up checking in. I’m not sure what’s going on, but the agents are taking their sweet time processing the passengers. Although admittedly, it probably doesn’t help that there’s one woman travelling on her own with, and I kid you not, five large Rimowa suitcases, four rucksacks, two laptop bags and one handbag. When the check-in agent breaks the news to her that, surprisingly, she’s exceeded her baggage allowance, she looks totally surprised…
Air France uses the DNATA lounge in Terminal 1, which is fairly big but also very busy when I arrive. There’s hardly anywhere left to sit. The lounge has a good selection of hot and hold dishes and a wide selection of drinks. Other than that, it’s not a particularly memorable lounge.
The flight will be departing from gate D34, and on the boarding pass it says that boarding will commence at 22h30 for the 23h10 departure. I figure 22h30 indicates the time to report at the gate for the security check. Luckily, there is a separate and much shorter queue for SkyPriority passengers. Just as I’m packing away my things, boarding for the flight starts, with an invitation for SkyPriority passengers to board first.
On the Boeing B 777-300ER Air France has a reverse herringbone configuration, with the window seats facing towards the windows for more privacy. The seat is fully lie-flat and has more than enough storage space. USB and electricity plugs are also available. The seat is quite wide, so that when in the fully flat position, there’s still enough space to toss and turn in your sleep.
There are two Business Class cabins, one forward of the L2 door and the other aft of it. I am sitting in the forward cabin on 4A, which is the second row in the forward cabin with four rows of seats.
The cabin and seat are kept in Air France’s colours – white, red and blue – and look very attractive and fresh. When I arrive at my seat, a pillow, blanket and slippers have already been placed at my seat.
The crew on this flight are excellent. They’re quite senior and they do an outstanding job. Throughout the flight they’re checking that the snack bar is replenished and the toilets are regularly checked, kept stocked and clean.
Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of champagne or fruit juice on the tray, but other drinks are also available on request. After that, scented hot towels are handed out.
The flight time is announced at thirteen hours and twenty minutes.
Once we’re airborne, the crew distribute the menus and pass through the cabin with a tray offering more champagne.
Originally, the plan was that I’d eat in the lounge and just go straight off to sleep once we’re airborne. Which is why I nearly overdosed on the creamy mashed potatoes they had in the lounge. That and the fact that I’m just a sucker for a good plate of mash… In any case, I make the mistake of looking at the menu and decide that it does all sound rather interesting. And I’m not really tired yet anyway, so… bugger it. I’m in! The tray arrives with the first course, the salad and the cheese already on it.
Semi-cooked tuna in a black pepper crust, served on quinoa salad and poached shrimp on a citrus salad with cucumber and a yuzu vinaigrette.
This is a tasty dish and the presentation works well. It’s also properly seasoned (which is something Singapore Airlines didn’t manage quite so well…).
The salad comes with a small bottle of balsamico mixed with olive oil. It’s mostly leaves but it’s still a fairly large salad. With that the crew offer a selection of breads.
Penne with a mushroom ragout, roast tomatoes and garlic oil.
There is a choice of four different dishes for the main course. The pasta is good and has managed not to go all hard and rubbery as it sometimes tends to do on a plane. The ragout is flavourful and creamy.
Selection of cheese
Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anywhere what the cheeses are, but they’re very good!
Chocolate praline éclair, violet mousse, yuzu meringue tart and strawberry sorbet.
For dessert there is a choice of either ice cream (banana, vanilla or strawberry sorbet) or three small pastries. I initially go for the pastries, but then the flight attendant tells me that the strawberry sorbet out of Singapore is usually rather nice too. Just in case I’m interested. Oh very well then, bring it on. Je souffre en silence…
After the meal, the crew set up a fairly substantial buffet in the galley with a good selection of some delectable French sweets by Fauchon, sandwiches, noodle soups and fruit.
And I go off to the land of nod for a solid seven hours. Incidentally, the blankets Air France provides in Business Class are lovely. They’re cosy and warm and fluffy.
The amenity kit is some special edition to commemorate Air France’s 85th jubilee. It may not necessarily look like much, but at least it contains some useful items, including eye shades, ear plugs, a toothbrush and Signal toothpaste, a comb, and a pen.
The second service begins ninety minutes out of Paris. The lights come on and passengers are given a scented hot towel to revive.
The tray arrives with the hot meal and all the other items already on it. There are three choices for the hot meal. My meal consists of:
A selection of bread, croissants and pain au chocolat
Crêpes in vanilla sauce with a passion fruit and mango salsa.
The breakfast is quite substantial and the hot meal is simply divine. This is total comfort food. The vanilla cream is rich and not overly sweet and the pancakes are light and thin.
Just under forty minutes out of Paris, we start our initial descent into Paris. The captain comes on to inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing in Pairs because visibility on the ground is very bad.
We touch down, the mighty triple seven gives us one last impressive roar as the reversers open to slow us down, and then it’s done. We’ve landed and I’m back in Europe. By the time we arrive at our gate in Terminal 2E it’s already 06h10. I now have just slightly over an hour to make my connection back to Zürich from Terminal 2F.