Air France, Business Class – Embraer 170 and Boeing B 777-200: Basel via Paris to Montreal

Introduction

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.

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Check-in

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.

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The Lounge

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).

Boarding

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.

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The Cabin

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.

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The Crew

There are two middle-aged female cabin crew working the flight today. They seem friendly enough.

The Meal

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.

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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.

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The Lounge

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.

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Boarding

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.

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The Cabin

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!

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The Crew

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.

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The Meal

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:

  1. Duck and goose foie gras terrine; a medley of yellow and red sun-dried tomatoes with zucchini, carrots, Permesan cheese sautéed black grapes.
  2. Green salad with a choice of balsamic dressing or red pepper and olive oil dressing.
  3. Filet of cod with a leek cream sauce, onion, carrot and saffron basmati rice.
  4. Sainte-Maure and Camembert cheese.
  5. Selection from the breadbasket with butter.
  6. Praliné cream puff, lemon cupcake, pineapple parfait with vanilla cream and passion fruit sorbet.
  7. Tea or coffee.
  8. 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.

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The Second Service

Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Light snack.
Meal:

  1. Cream of cauliflower with caviar.
  2. A chicken muffin with tomato and basil, which tastes better than it sounds.
  3. And a boursin cheese and cucumber roulade.
  4. Lemon cream puff, raspberry and apple tart, fresh fruit salad.
  5. 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.

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Arrival

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.