Today marks the beginning of my summer vacation. And Rennes will be my first stop. Originally, I was booked to fly from Basel to Rennes via Paris. However, that connection was cancelled and rebooked via Amsterdam. The originally rebooked departure from Basel to Amsterdam should have been just after 10 in the morning. But then another schedule change meant that I was rebooked again to depart from Basel to Amsterdam on the morning departure at the ungodly time of 06h30. This also meant that I would have a layover in Amsterdam of about six hours.
Normally, I would have jumped at the opportunity to use that layover to go into Amsterdam for breakfast at De Bakkerswinkel in the seedy part of town by the central station. However, given that KLM is currently advising passengers to show up for security screening four hours (!) before departure, I figured I better not risk it.
I’ll be making a separate post of my stay at the Yotel Air at Amsterdam Schiphol. This post is about the flight from Amsterdam to Rennes.
The flight to Rennes departs at 13h40, with boarding expected to start at 13h13, which is an oddly specific time… And of course our aircraft is on a remote stand, so we’ll have to be bussed there.
There are two rows of Business Class, but the forward cabin remains empty on this flight. I’m seated on 3A, the first row of Economy. As I’ve already mentioned, and complained about in previous posts, properly aligning the seat rows with the windows appears to be a bit of a problem on the E170 aircraft. And this includes the configuration Air France has them in. I do have a window seat on 3A, but I seriously need to crank my head back to be able to look out.
I count a total of 68 passengers.
The cabin crew are two females in their mid- to late thirties, if I had to guess. They’re both business friendly. Not gushing, but not rude or unfriendly either.
The flight time is announced at one hour and ten minutes.
The service consists of a small and very tasty, buttery biscuit and a cup of Perrier. Air France have stopped using plastic cups and serve all their drinks in Economy in cardboard cups instead.
After the meal I’m still tired. I quickly doze off and only awaken again when the captain comes on to announce the “début de déscente”, the top of descent.
The landscape below is very flat, green and lush. And not exactly densely populated.
Our arrival is a bit shaky because of the wind. We land on runway 28 and then have to backtrack up the runway, as the only taxiway doesn’t reach all the way to the end.
There are only open stands at Rennes airport, which is very small and really quite dinky.
I completely forget that we’ve arrived on an international service. In as much, it takes me by surprise to find myself in front of an immigration counter upon entering the terminal. The check is not really so much about the passport or ID, but about checking the vaccination status of arriving passengers entering into France.
Getting into town
To get to the bus stop, make a sharp left upon exiting the terminal and just keep on walking until eventually you will see the bus stop. Both the C6 and 57 bus lines run to the centre of town. The journey takes about thirty minutes and costs EUR1.50. Apparently, you don’t need to buy a paper ticket and can normally just badge in with your credit card. However, when I try that, it doesn’t work. So I have to buy a ticket from the driver, who can only accept cash.
I had a really early start this morning, which didn’t exactly give me the warm and fuzzies – even if it was to get on a plane to Amsterdam and then on another to Rennes. However, that quickly changed the moment I stepped of the plane when we arrived in Rennes. This place is just so nice, and the weather is stunning! And tomorrow, I’m off to Mont St. Michel!
I arrive at Basel airport at 09h30 to check in for my flight to Paris at 11h00. Much to my surprise, the Air France KLM counters are deserted – there’s no queue at all. The check-in agent labels my suitcase, but only to Paris, and then hands me my boarding pass.
The Swissport Skyview Lounge Basel
The Skyview lounge is just as quiet. Where is everyone? Any moment now I epxect to see some tumble weed rolling across my path…
In my humble opinion, one of the lounge’s best features is the open air terrace, which originally was built to function as the smoking area. On a day like today it’s just lovely to sit there in the shade, watching the aircraft coming and going.
At about 10h40, ten minuntes after boarding for my flight to Paris should have started, the little Embraer 170 pulls onto its stand at gate 1, on the French side of the terminal. As a rule of thumb, if I slowly start packing up my belongings and perhaps quickly nip into the gents just as the aircraft comes to a standstill, by the time I make the schlepp from the lounge to gate 1, boarding is either just about to start or has just started.
Boarding is… complicated and confusing. And I don’t quite know why. SkyTeam Priority and Business Class passengers, so zones 1, 2 and 3, are invited to board the aircraft through the exit on the left side of the counter, only to then have to cross over to the right side behind the counter. Once all passengers in zones 1, 2 and 3 have boarded, the riffraff is also allowed to board via the exit to the right of the counter only – you guessed it – to then have to queue on the left side. Only once all boarding passes have been scanned and all passengers are accounted for are we allowed to actually get on the plane.
Today’s flight is operated by a dreaded Embraer E 170. I really don’t like these planes, they just feel so cramped and tight. There are two rows of Business Class, although you wouldn’t notice to look at it, given that Air France KLM refuse to keep the adjacent seat empty in Business Class.
And then of course there’s the curse of the misaligned windows. I really don’t understand what it is with this aircraft, but I’ve yet to find an airline that has managed to properly align its seats on the Embraer 170 to allow passengers an unobstructed view outside without having to crank their neck back.
There are two young females working the flight, and both of them are very friendly. What I also notice though, and I know this is what I do for a living, is that both the cabin and cockpit crews’ English is not all that good. The pilot making the announcements has a thick French accent hovering precariously close to the brink of comprehensibility, and the cabin crew are not much better.
A bottle of still water is already at my seat when I arrive.
We are welcomed to the flight and the crew apologise for our delay, which apparently was caused by some dreadful weather in Paris. Eventually, by the time we start our take-off roll we’re already running 30 minutes late.
This is the first time I get to experience the newish Air France domestic Business Class that was introduced a few years back without Covid restrictions or anyting of the sort. Basically, passengers sitting up front get a wider selection of drinks to choose from and both a savory and a sweet snack. The savory snack are these small crépes filled with soft cheese, which are okay. The sweet snack are three rather tasty and buttery sablés. To drink I have a glass of Coke Zero, as the cabin crew looks on despondently as every one of the eight passengers in the Business Class cabin declines her offer for a glass of champagne.
As we approach Paris, the turbulence picks up. I’m starting to see what they were on about with that. It’s bad, like the trolley temporarily lifting off the floor kind of turbulence. As a result, our approach into Paris is rather circuitous, as we try to avoid the nastiest looking cloud cells.
Eventually we land with a delay 45 minutes and it looks as though there’s just been a severe downpour. The flight ends at Terminal 2G, which has been reopened again after a hiatus of two years because of Covid. And while I think it’s good news for Air France that traffic is picking up to the point that they can reopen a whole terminal, I also think 2G is just a bit inconvenient, because it really is just so far out in the boonies.
Getting to Roissypole from Terminal 2G
My hotel is at Roissypole, which is located roughly midway between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1, which is still closed. To get to Terminal 2F from Terminal 2G there is a shuttle that runs directly to the second entrance of Terminal 2F on the departures level. The journey time is about ten minutes, which isn’t bad if you happend to be one of the lucky ones that manage to grab a seat.
From 2F there is then the Roissyval shuttle to Roissypole.
So far, so good. Of course there isn’t really all that much to say about such a short flight. It was okay, but I really do think that it makes no sense to offer a Business Class cabin on an aircraft of this size, at least not if the airline is unwilling to keep the adjacent seat empty. The meal service and the champagne I honestly don’t care about on a flight of 45 minutes. But the space is important.
Fourteen hours after I arrive home from my trip to Sao Paolo in Brazil, I find myself on my way back to Basel airport for my last overseas trip this year. I am on my way to Montreal again for another meeting with ICAO. When I checked my iPhone this morning, Montreal was reporting a temperature of -8 degrees. Why can they not have these meetings in summer?
Getting to the Airport
Transport: Bus line 50. Journey time: About fifteen minutes, depending on whether it is a nonstop bus or not. Departs from: Basel SBB, the main Swiss railway station. Arrives: Euroairport, departures on level 2. Cost: I think CHF3.50.
Location: Hall 1 in the French sectors. As you enter the terminal on level 2, which is the departure concourse, turn right. Facilities: Web check-in, App check-in, airport check-in counters, self-service machines. Counters: There is a dedicate counter for SkyPriority passengers. It is usually cordoned off, but a member of the ground staff will let you through on request. They do not even want to see your card or anything like that.
I drop my bag off. I have not really got that much stuff with me, I am only gone for two days, but it is just easiest to check-in a suitcase to make sure my suit does not get all crunched up.
In theory, passengers with Air France are allowed to use the Swissport SkyView lounge on the Swiss side of the terminal. However, since the events in Paris last week, the French side of the terminal has been hermetically sealed off airside from the rest of the terminal. So instead of visiting the lounge, I grab myself a Coke Zero at the self-service café and settle down near a power outlet to work on my computer (When you go through security in France, it is important that you make sure your battery is still charged).
SkyPriority have a separate queue and the gate dragons are strict in turning away passengers who are not entitled to use that queue.
Boarding is via the apron, which gives me the opportunity to snap a few pictures of my ride to Paris today. The flight is pretty full, from what I can tell.
I seem to have lucked out today and despite the heavy load, the seat next to me on this short hop to Paris will remain empty. Previously I had not noticed that the Embraer 170 does not appear to have any overwing emergency hatches.
There are two middle-aged female cabin crew working the flight today. They seem friendly enough.
The flight time to Paris is only 50 minutes. Hence, ‘the meal’ is limited to a cup of coffee and two tasty lemon flavoured biscuits.
Transfer in Paris Roissy
As usual, the regional flights arrive and depart from Terminal 2G, which is really way out in the sticks. My connecting flight will be leaving from the L concourse of Terminal 2E. As I enter the terminal, I simply follow the signs for 2E. Immigration takes place in 2G, before you step on board the shuttle to take you to 2E.
Type of Lounge: Salon Air France. Location: One floor up from the main transit area. Facilities: Two buffets with cold snacks, hot and cold drinks, desks to work on (but no computers), toilets are available in the lounge. Internet: Complimentary wifi, no password required.
The lounge is very busy when I arrive. Even so, there are still plenty of seats available as the lounge is rather huge. I will not be staying here for very long anyway.
I arrive at gate L42 about fifty minutes before departure and boarding has already started. There is a separate line for SkyPriority passengers. Before you join the queue, your passport and boarding pass are checked by a security office. Business Class and Premium Economy Class passengers board the aircraft through the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers board via the L2.
Configuration: 2 + 3 + 2 Seat: 1B. The Business Class section on this aircraft is located between the L1 and L2 doors. In total there are 35 seats on five rows. On today’s flight only three of the middle seats on the rows of three have remained empty. Other than that the flight is full.
The seat is of the angled lie-flat type. Other than that though, it is fairly comfortable. Obviously the biggest drawback is the configuration with seven abreast. Apart from the fact that I certainly would not want to be the guy stuck in the middle, the configuration is now pretty outdated and can hardly match the level of privacy that Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines offer in Business Class. Pitch: 79 inches. Width: 21 inches. Facilities: 110 volt ac power port is available at every seat, located at the bottom of the middle console. Audio and Video: The entertainment system has a 10 inch screen and uses some very basic touch screen technology, which works really badly. In fact, the same thing can be said for the entire entertainment system – during the flight is has to be rebooted no less than three times and still it does not work!
The crew on this flight is friendly but quite reserved. Everyone is professional in the way they go about their duties, but they are completely lacking of any personal touch or warmth.
When I board the aircraft, a pillow, a nice thick blanket and a pair of slippers have already been placed at each seat. Just a piece of advice: the covers for the earphones are inside the slippers.
While we are still on the ground, the crew first distribute the vanity kits, followed by a welcome drink and a scented hot towel.
I really like Air France’s vanity kits. Not only do they look chic, I also find they are well stocked and include Colgate toothpaste and mouthwash.
Welcome drink on the ground: There is a choice of orange juice, still water, champagne and fruit of the forest juice. Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel. Pre-meal drink: Ice tea, served with butter sticks and an amuse bouche of artichoke cream with beetroot and Jerusalem artichoke. Choice: There are four choices for the main course – fish, pasta, duck or lamb. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Late lunch. Meal:
Duck and goose foie gras terrine; a medley of yellow and red sun-dried tomatoes with zucchini, carrots, Permesan cheese sautéed black grapes.
Green salad with a choice of balsamic dressing or red pepper and olive oil dressing.
Filet of cod with a leek cream sauce, onion, carrot and saffron basmati rice.
Sainte-Maure and Camembert cheese.
Selection from the breadbasket with butter.
Praliné cream puff, lemon cupcake, pineapple parfait with vanilla cream and passion fruit sorbet.
Tea or coffee.
A piece of black chocolate.
The food is very tasty and filling, although I absolutely refuse to eat the foie gras. After the meal I spend my time reading in my Kindle. At some point the inflight entertainment does briefly work, and I watch an ancient episode of the Bing Bang Theory.
The Second Service
Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Light snack. Meal:
Cream of cauliflower with caviar.
A chicken muffin with tomato and basil, which tastes better than it sounds.
And a boursin cheese and cucumber roulade.
Lemon cream puff, raspberry and apple tart, fresh fruit salad.
Tea or coffee.
The meal is really just a snack, but it hits the spot nicely. After all, it is already gone 21h in Europe by this time. The meal is removed and shortly thereafter we start our descent into Montreal. Before the seatbelt sign comes on, the crew distribute another hot towel.
The airport is surprisingly quiet when we arrive. I am the first to disembark and in fact I am also the first person to queue for immigration. I head downstairs to collect my suitcase, which arrives a short while later. And then I step out into the freezing cold to grab a taxi into the city. And it really is freezing, with the temperature at -3 degrees Celsius. Well, at least there is no snow…
Getting into Town
Transport: Taxi. Journey time: 30 minutes. Fare: CAD40, it is a fixed rate from the airport to the city.
The journey into the city takes between thirty and forty minutes, depending on traffic and the driver’s driving style, which in this particular case can best be described as sporty.