A few weeks ago, Air France sent me an email advising me that a booking I had pending with them had been cancelled as the result of the COVID19 pandemic. And then I promptly forgot about the booking.
At 10h30 this morning, I figured I needed to get myself and my reservations/cancellations sorted out. So I logged into my Air France account and requested a full refund of my ticket using the corresponding form in the PNR.
Just after 14h00 this afternoon, so the same day, I received two emails from Air France. One was an automated message confirming that the refund had been processed. The other was a message from an employee of the Air France Platinum hotline with more information about the refund process. My interaction with Air France was swift, efficient and very polite.
Thanks a lot Air France!
On 18 March 2020 I called Lufthansa to cancel a First Class ticket. It took me one hour of trying unsuccessfully to actually get on the line to Lufthansa, and then another hour before an agent could attend to me. Since then, I have called Luthansa three more times in this matter. The first time, I was told the refund was being processed as we speak, and I should expect to receive the money within days. Which evidently turned out to be a blatant lie. The second time I called, the agent told me she was “not trained well enough” to be able to tell be what the situation with the ticket was – but promised to call back the next day. Which never happened either, surprisingly. The third time I called, I had a really great guy on the phone – simply because I think he was the first employee of Lufthansa’s so far who was honest. Alas, he honestly could not tell me if and when I might get a refund… five months later I’m still none the wiser.
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Airbus A 318 From: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2F To: Genève Cointrin Departure: 13h03 Arrival: 14:33 Flight time: 1 hour 30 minutes Seat: 3A
This post marks the beginning of my sabbatical: my six months of paid leave start on 1 March 2020. Before I eventually do get on the plane to Oz though, there are still a few things that need taking care off. So I will still need to go to Luxembourg twice before I’m well and truly gone. This post and the next are of the positioning flights to break in the ticket, so to speak.
The first leg will be from Paris Roissy Geneva. The flight is operated by Air France, but also carries the codes of SWISS and Air Mauritius.
As such, the flight will operate out of Terminal 2F, which is the Air France Schengen terminal. Air France has a dedicated check-in zone for its SkyPriority and Business Class passengers.
During the check-in process I interact with three Air France employees and obviously they have all been properly trained in customer care. The first is a middle aged man at the entrance to the check-in area. I approach him and ask if I can check in here, even though I‘m booked on the LX flight number.
He welcomes me to Air France and tells that bien sûr, I‘m welcome to check in here, and makes a joke that with SWISS being located in the ‚flying saucer’ on the other side, by which I figure he means Terminal 1, boarding might be a bit cumbersome.
Next a young woman ushers me to a free counter, where another young lady welcomes me to Air France and checks me in. Of course, I know that this amount of staff is a luxury not many airlines can afford. And I know Air France isn‘t exactly in excellent shape financially. But seriously, from the perspective of the passenger experience, this is really how it‘s done. Lufthansa, are you even paying attention…? As I exit the check-in area, all three wish me a pleasant flight.
The two piers at 2F are very elegant and stylish, but also not very practical. Today it‘s okay because there aren‘t that many passengers. But when it‘s busy, it‘s difficult to get through.
The lounge is one level down from the main airside area and is spread out over two levels. In typical Air France manner, the services available on both levels are identical and include a fully stocked bar as well as a counter with savoury dishes and another with sweet dishes. I can highly recommend the crêpes sucrées. Although you probably don‘t necessarily need to have five like me…
Throughout the lounge the Air France branding is visible, from the posters on the wall to the pattern on the floor. The lower level is usually a little less crowded, by the way.
Boarding is strictly by zones, with Business Class passengers boarding in zone 1.
From the inside, the Air France A 318 is easy to distinguish from the A 319 because it has cloth seat covers instead of leather. On every row of three there are four USB ports. The aircraft also has wifi available and the crew will distribute information cards in Business Class with instructions how to log in.
On today‘s flight there are six rows ahead of the cabin divider for a total of 24 seats. I count 20 passengers in the forward cabin. Incidentally, on the port side, there is no row 1. So row 2 is the bulkhead row.
There are two cabin crew in the Business Class cabin. Both of them are middle aged. The female cabin crew is elegant in her appearance and very charming in dealing with passengers.
Once the doors close, packaged and scented wet towels are handed out. The flight time is 55 minutes.
Despite the short flight time, Air France does a full meal service on this flight. Given the size of the cabin, the trays are served from the trolley.
On the tray there is an asparagus salad and shrimps on a raspberry coulis, which taste much better than they sound.
In addition, there is a small plate of cheese. The crew offer warm bread from the basket to go with that.
For dessert there is a rhubarb tarte and a small piece of dark chocolate. The flight attendant is very attentive and goes out of her way to make passengers feel comfortable. If only flying could always be like this…
At 13h40 the captain comes on the PA to inform us that there will be a delay of about thirty minutes for our arrival, due to the fact that there was a dog on the runway and all arrivals had to be halted for forty minutes while they caught it.
As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of Air France. Even so, I have to say that on this trip they really impressed me. First of all, because I find it refreshing that the staff on the front line who deal with the passengers obviously seem to enjoy their jobs. Or at least are sufficiently motivated to deliver a seamless and rather pleasant customer experience.
Eventually, we land at 14h33 and taxi to our stand in the French sector of the airport. And that‘s when the culture shock sets in…
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Embraer 190 From: Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse Freibourg To: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2G Departure: 06h20 Arrival: 07h20 Flight time: one hour Seat: 7F, window
On Friday evening I receive an e-mail from Air France, informing me that HOP would be going on strike on Monday and that my flight to Paris may be affected. I should be routing Basel – Paris – Luxembourg. On Sunday morning I call Air France from Malta to ask them what to do. Air France customer service is really very good, at least it is if you’re a Platinum member. A Belgian friend of mine, let’s call him the big, friendly C., refuses to fly Air France because he says their frequent strikes make them unreliable. But I tend to disagree, because Air France is a professional striker, in the sense that when they do go on strike, it’s usually in a well prepared, very organised and civilised way. If BA or Lufthansa were to go on strike, it would be complete and utter chaos, because they’re amateur strikers and used to everything going according to plan. But I digress. So their customer relations are very good and within minutes I’ve been rebooked onto the KLM flight via Amsterdam and even have a new e-ticket confirmation.
On Suday evening I arrive back in Basel from Malta at 22h40, one hour later than expected. As we taxi in, I notice the KLM flight that nightstops in Basel is conspicuously abesent, even though it should normally have arrived by 21h45.
I get on the bus to take me home, which is when I receive a message from KLM informing me that the flight from Basel to Amsterdam has been cancelled due to severe weather in Amsterdam. So once I get home, in between unpacking and packing again, I’m on the phone again to Air France.
At least by now they already know that my original flight to Paris will not be affected by the strike after all, and therefore, I am rebooked onto the original flights I had selected for this trip. And that girls and boys, is how I find myself at 05h25 on the airport bus again after a really rather short night’s rest.
There are two early morning flights to Paris which leave within just a few minutes of each other. The one flight goes to Orly, while the second flight goes to Roissy. The flights board from gates 2 and 1 respectively. My flight to Roissy this morning is completely sold out, no doubt due to the passengers that have been reprotected from the cancelled KLM flight.
This is my first flight with Air France since the introduction of the domestic Business Class product. The first two rows are for Business Class passengers. Unfortunately, on row 7 I’m too far back to catch a glimpse of what the service is like. What I do know though, is that seating is the same as on KLM, meaning that the adjacent seat is not left empty.
The seat pitch on row 7 is good though. The only complaint I have, is that it’s right next to the engine and the noise is quite loud.
We take off towards the south and then make a right turn to point us in a westerly direction.
The service in Economy Class consists of a choice of hot and cold drinks and a small packaged madeleine, which hits the spot nicely. The flight attendant tells me to mix one creamer and sugar with my hot chocolate for the best possible result. And she’s right.
There are two females working in the cabin this morning, and both of them are really good. They’re very friendly and do a lot of smiling and chatting with the passengers as they pass through the cabin.
Eventually we land after a flight time of one hour. It’s wet and windy here in Paris this morning. At Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, terminal 2G is dedicated to small regional jets and turboprop operations and is the hub of Air France’s HOP operation.
It’s a bit remote from the main terminal complex at CDG2, but for me its very convenient, because the flight to Luxembourg will also be leaving from here, so I will not have to change terminals.
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Airbus A 321 From: Paris Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) To: Zürich Departure: 13h20 Arrival: 14h15 Flight time: 55 minutes Seat: 25A, emergency exit on the port side
Transfer in Paris Roissy
I disembark the Airbus A330-200 that brought me to Paris from Dubai and enter into Terminal 2E. My connecting flight to Zürich will depart from Terminal 2F, which sits opposite 2E. The route to take is clearly signposted for connecting passengers.
The security check is done in Terminal 2E and there is a dedicated queue for SkyPriority passengers. Right behind security is the passport control to enter the Schengen area. And then from there it‘s just a short walk to the main airside area of 2F.
Terminal 2F has two piers. And like the other terminals, it also has a striking desing.
By the time I get to 2F it‘s 12h, and I still have 50 minutes before boarding for the next flight begins.
The Air France lounge, le Salon, is located one floor below the gate area.
The lounge is very busy, which is why I don‘t take any photos. It has a good selection of hot and cold drinks and cold snacks, which are replenished and changed throughout the day.
At 12h35 I leave the lounge to find my gate. The flight is departing from F49, which is right next to the escalator coming up from the lounge. Boarding has just started for zones 1 and 2.
I‘m seated on row 25, which is the second emergency exit row on the A 321. Leg space is absolutely brilliant. What‘s more, the middle seat stays empty, so I have more than enough space to spread out!
On the down side, there is no window on row 25. But it‘s cloudy all the way to Zürich anyway, so that‘s okay.
As soon as we‘re airborne, the service begins. As a snack there is a tomato and egg sandwich. To drink I have a can of Perrier.
Eventually we touch down at 14h15. By 14h46 I‘m already on the train to the office, where I need to sign off a few documents. And then from there I head back to the airport.
On the four flights I took with Air France for this trip to Dubai, the airline provided a solid product at a consistently high standard. Unlike boring Lufthansa in its perpetual identity crisis and dreadful BA, flying with Air France is still a pleasure, firmly establishing them, in my view, as Europe‘s best airline right now.
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Airbus A 330-200 From: Dubai To: Paris Charles de Gaulle Departure: 07h00 Arrival: 11h10 Flight time: 7 hours 10 minutes Seat: 3C, aisle seat
Air France operates two daily flights from Dubai to Paris. AF655 is the night time service which departs Dubai at 01h30, to arrive in Paris at 06h15 in the morning. This flight is operated by a Boeing B 777-300ER and features Air France’s fabulous la Première.
AF659 is the day time service that leaves Dubai at 06h40 and arrives in Paris at 11h40. This service is operated by an Airbus A 330-200. Air France is currently in the process of refurbishing the Business Class cabin on its Airbus A 330s. In both the old and new versions, the seating configuration is 2 + 2 + 2, seeing as the aircraft are mostly deployed on mid-haul sectors only. The main difference between the new and the old seat is that the old seat is an angled lie-flat, while the new seat is also lie-flat but horizontal.
Theoretically, only aircraft in the new configuration are operated to Dubai. However, for operational reasons it may happen that you will find yourself sitting in an aircraft in the old configuration.
If check the seat map, in the new cabin the first row on the port side is row 1. Whereas in the old configuration, the bulkhead row on the port side is row 2.
Getting to the Airport
I leave the Sofitel Downtown near Burj Khalifa at 04h26. The journey to the airport takes exactly 14 minutes to complete – partly because there is hardly any traffic with it being the weekend, and mainly because the driver clearly has a pressing appointment with death and thinks I might fancy coming along for the ride.
Air France operates out of Terminal 1 in Dubai. Check-in is done in area 2 and there are seven counters open when I arrive.
When I arrived in Dubai a week ago, the immigration officer stored my passport data, so that I could use the biometric smart gates. As a result, passport control for departures is now very swift and painless.
At this time of the day, Terminal 1 is not very busy. As such, security only takes a few minutes and then I’m on my way to the shuttle that will take me to the D gates.
In Dubai Air France uses the SkyTeam lounge for its Business Class passengers. The lounge is very spacious. I’d like to say it’s also quiet, but that would be a lie, because there’s this beastly little squirt making enough noise for ten. Luckily the little creep soon vanishes when the Saudia flight to Jeddah is called for boarding. Peace at last…
Boarding starts at 05h55. It’s still dark outside and the location of the gate makes photos of the aircraft impossible.
Boarding is by zones, with Business Class passengers in zone 1 boarding first.
My first impression of the seat is good. The cabin looks tidy and the seat configuration is practical. There is a stowage compartment right below the video screen and in the side of the seat.
The inflight entertainment has touch screen technology and the picture is very sharp. Complimentary wifi for text messages is available. For more capacity, passengers can purchase individual packages.
The divider between the two seats is good, and in the open position offers at least some privacy.
On this service, Air France serves the main meal immediately after take-off, which I think is rather inconvenient, because most passengers have had an early start and want to sleep, more than anything else. And so I decide to skip the meal and go off to Noddy land instead. In the bed position the seat is very comfortable, and together with the thick blanket and plump pillow makes for a good few hours of sleep.
The First Meal
I wake up halfway into the flight. One of the crew sees me and immediately comes to ask if I’ll have breakfast, which she subsequently brings me with an espresso and fresh orange juice.
The meal consists of a plate of smoked salmon and smoked turkey.
Fruit salad and yoghurt.
And a selection of bread.
There is also a choice of English breakfast or sweet crêpes. But seeing as I already had something to eat in the lounge, I decide to skip the hot meal.
The Second Service
A bit over an hour out of Paris the lights come on and a light snack is served.
It consists of three small canapés with cheese, salmon and grilled vegetables.
A bowl of fruit.
And a strange looking dessert I steer clear of…
The crew on this flight are truly excellent. Throughout the journey they are constantly passing through the cabin and even actively asking passengers if there’s anything they can do for them.
Eventually, we land in Paris ahead of schedule, despite the detour via Saudi Arabia. The flight ends at Terminal 2E. I now have to make my way to 2F for my onward connection.
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Boeing B 777-300 From: Paris Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) To: Dubai Departure: 14h00 Arrival: 23h50 Flight time: 6h50mins Seat: 3L, window seat
To date, the UAE’s three largest airlines, some of the country’s ANSPs and a few smaller operators use the tests my university is responsible for. Which is why I regularly travel to the UAE to train new assessors. Every time I come here, the flying Dutchman tells me it’ll probably be the last trip for a while. But that never really seems to be the case…!
I go through immigration in terminal 2G, at which I just arrived on a flight from Basel. Behind passport control is the stop for the shuttle bus, which pulls up just as I’m through passport control. The journey to terminal 2E(K) is nine minutes.
On the way I get a nice tour of some of Paris’ best sights (at least I think so…):
Once I enter the building at 2K, I head one floor up to the main concourse. My flight to Dubai is boarding from K41, which is the gate immediately next to the escalators.
I don’t recall having passed through this terminal before. And I must say, the architecture is spectacular.
Just as I step off the escalator, boarding for my flight begins, 55 minutes before departure. That seems rather early to me, but I figure I might as well skip the lounge and just get comfortable on board instead.
Well hello, gorgeous! Aren’t you a lovely big girl… in case you hadn’t realised, I seriously have a thing for the B777. Those engines…!
The Business Class cabin on Air France’s B777-300ER is configured in a reverse herring bone layout. There is a smaller Business Class cabin of four rows between the L1 and L2 doors, and then the larger cabin after the L2 door. Row 3 is the bulkhead row of the forward cabin, immediately behind La Première.
Air France has one of my favourite Business Class products. The design of the seat is great and the amount of privacy offered is also very good.
There is ample storage space and the layout of the seat is very practical.
When I reach my seat, a pair of slippers, a thick pillow, a nice, fluffy blanket, and a bottle of Evian have already been placed there.
A member of the crew quickly comes to greet me and then hangs my jacket.
Once boarding is completed, service begins with a welcome drink. There is a choice of champagne or fresh juice. I have the latter, which turns out to be a combination of apple, banana, orange, pineapple, spinach and something else I’ve now forgotten. It’s quite tasty!
This is followed by the distribution of the unscented hot towels, which are also very fluffy.
We take off heading westwards. Our flight today is routing via Switzerland, the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The flight time is six hours and 25 minutes.
After take-off, the vanity kits and menus are distributed.
The service begins as soon as the seat belt sign is turned off.
To start, I just have a glass of Perrier, which is served with the appetizer, which is smoked duck with a celery and hazelnut purée. There’s also a packet of cheese-filled crackers.
The tray is served with the first course and salad on it. The starter is foue gras, which I simply don’t like, and a lentil and cauliflower salad, which is very tasty and flavourful.
There’s a lovely selection of warm bread served with the meal.
For the main dish, I have the fish, which isn’t all that good and has a somewhat off-putting smell from the reheated mussels.
Next is the cheese course, which is served with more bread. There are three pieces of cheese, a camembert, a cantal and a goat’s cheese. All three are quite subtle and go well with a glass of port.
And finally, for dessert I have a small ramekin of mocha ice cream, which is a refreshing conclusion to the meal. Two hours after take-off, the service is completed.
For the rest of the flight I lounge in my seat, reading my Kindle. I can highly recommend Ian McEwan’s The Cockroach, which is a brilliant satire based on Kafka’s Metamorphosis but in reverse, in which a cockroach finds himself transformed into the British prime minister.
The Second Service
90 minutes out of Dubai, the lights are turned on again and a light snack is served ahead of our arrival.
The snack consists of a chicken wrap and two sweet pastries and is perfectly adequate, given the short flight time.
Eventually we land after six hours and fifty minutes, including 25 minutes spent holding over Dubai. The airport seems very quiet and there are hardly any people on the shuttle to the arrivals building.
Immigration is deserted. I’m seen to by a friendly young guy, who tells me he’s now registered me in their system, so I’ll be able to use the eGates on my next visit.
I grab a taxi and make my way to the hotel. It suddenly starts raining heavily, and within minutes Sheikh Zayed Road is flooded is places. I’ve never seen Dubai like this. It’s still warm though.
Airline: Air France Aircraft: Embraer 190 From: Basel-Mulhouse To: Paris Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) Departure: 11:10 Arrival: 11:55 Flight time: 45 minutes Seat: 1A, bulkhead row, window seat
Getting to the Airport
Nine days into the new year my travel activities resume. I catch the 09h27 bus line 50 from in front of the Swiss railway station.
At the airport, I cross over into the French sector for check-in. There are three counters open: one for SkyPriority passengers and two for everybody else.
The check-in agent tags my luggage and issues my boarding pass for this flight and the next. I then head one floor up for security. There is a dedicated line with a separate entrance for priority passengers. As at check-in, here too there are no queues.
My departure gate is right opposite the exit from security. But I still have some time to kill and I’m hungry. So I figure I might as well make the schlepp to the Swissport lounge.
By 09:57 I’m enjoying a plate of eggs and beans in the lounge. I don’t take any pictures because the lounge is quite busy. But I really do think it’s still one of the most nicely designed lounges around, especially with the winter sun coming through the windows.
And what on earth is it with women that even the most untalented and uninspired among them all seem to think they know how to sing? For heaven’s sake! There’s this big, blousy American lady, by no means a spring chicken, belting out a Motown medley as she meanders in and out of the buffet section. She’s dreadful and sounds like somebody’s strangling the cat. But she just won’t stop!
By 10h10 I can’t stand it (her) anymore and head for the gate, where boarding should start soon anyway.
Boarding starts on time with a call for SkyPriority passengers to board first. But there’s a scrum for the gate the moment the gate agent picks up the microphone, making it difficult to actually get to the counter.
On the Embraer 190, Air France has two large storage compartments at the front of the cabin, which are great if, like me, you’re on the bulkhead row and the overhead bins are already full. Pitch on row 1 is brilliant!
Mr 1C is a fat guy in his late fifties, I’d say. He obviously think he’s hot stuff, the big shaker-mover. He’d also obviously already assumed the seat next to him would stay empty, judging by the unhappy look he throws me when I appear. I just think he’s a creep.
He literally spends the whole flight intentionally spreading out as much as he can and generally has the manners of a pig.
On domestic services, Air France does not have a Business Class product. Also, seats on domestic flights are assigned automatically and cannot be selected until check-in opens. Although in my experience, they make sure that status holders are seated as far up front as possible.
Service consists of a selection of hot and cold, non-alcoholic drinks and a choice between a savoury and a sweet snack. Which is not bad for a flight of 45 minutes.
I go with some Perrier and a piece of lemon and poppy seed cake, which tastes okay.
The crew on this flight consists of two gentlemen in their forties. They’re your typical Air France cabin crew. Friendly and professional but perhaps not very warm.
The flight passes quickly and eventually we land in Paris on schedule. The flight ends at terminal 2G, which is used for smaller commuter flights.
The facility is fairly quiet. Passport control for my next flight, so leaving Schengen, is done in terminal 2G, before I catch the shuttle bus to terminal 2K.
The journey from Zagreb to the airport takes 18 minutes by Uber. Within walking distance of the Canopy Hotel, where I was staying, is also the bus terminal, from where Croatia Airlines operates a bus service to the airport.
Zagreb airport has a terminal building that may not be very large in relative terms but seems somewhat excessive for the amount and type of traffic it handles.
The departures concourse is best described as a large, cavernous space. Air France checks in on counters C08 to C11 and there is a dedicated counter for SkyPriority passengers. Check-in opens only two hours before departure, so there’s really no point in arriving too early. There isn’t anything much to do either.
On a postive note, there is a fast track for security for SkyPriority passengers.
There is only one lounge at the airport that is used by all carriers operating into Zagreb. The Primeclass lounge is located right behind the duty free, between gates 33 and 32.
On my way to the airport, I kept trying to remember what the lounge looks like. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember. As it turns out, that’s likely because the lounge really is not particularly memorable. Although I must say, the food offerings are great. And I can highly recommend their vast selection of Burek.
I’m not sure what’s going on with my booking. So far, all I’ve managed to do on the app is check in. And when I finally managed that, I found myself suddenly seated on 3A, which is not the original seat I reserved.
What’s more, when I tried again at the self-service kiosk at the airport, the screen wanted to know if I had a visa for France. When I selected ‘no’, the system crashed and the screen went black…
Boarding for the flight starts thirty minutes before departure from gate 31. SkyPriority passengers are invited the board first. Alas, taking pictures from inside the terminal is slighly problematic…
Row 3 is the first row of Economy Class, which means I have the divider curtain right in front of me. The seat pitch is very tight, but still okay. Not sure I’d want to do a longer flight in this seat though…
Boarding happens very fast. The next thing I know, we’re already pushing back while the crew scramble to get all passengers seated.
Fortunately for me, by the time boarding is completed, the middle seat on 3B remains empty.
As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew start preparations for their service. The flight time is one hour and forty minutes.
The service consists of a complimentary snack and drinks from the bar trolley. To eat there is a choice between a tuna, parsley and lemon bagel or a hummus and grilled vegetables sandwich. The crew pass through the cabin twice offering sandwiches.
To drink I ask for sparkling water. What’s really nice on Air France is that even in Economy Class they will give you a complete can of Perrier.
The rest of the flight passes quickly and pleasantly enough. We land in Paris just a few minutes ahead of schedule. But there’s a delay reaching our gate, because the stand is still occupied by a Tarom B 737. By the time we make onto the stand, it’s 20h07. I now have 53 minutes to make my connection from terminal 2E to 2G, which is pretty much out in the booneys.
The Sheraton at Roissy Terminal 2 is not a bad hotel. And without
a doubt there’s hardly a hotel here with a better view of the apron and the
runways beyond. The hotel’s main entrance is located right above the railway
station. From here it’s just a short five minute walk to Terminal 2E, from
where the flight to Beirut will be departing.
Air France checks in on rows 4 to 8 at Roissy 2E. The
SkyPriority counters are on rows 6 and 7. There is a separate exit from the
SkyPriority check-in area, which leads passengers directly to the priority lane
for passport control. As my flight will be departing from one of the M gates at
the satellite terminal, I will first have to catch the automated shuttle. Security
checks for the M gates are carried out in the satellite.
This is the same lounge I visited about three weeks ago when
I last flew to Dubai with Air France. The lounge has been designed in such a
way that it looks and feels like walking through a small park. It’s very bright
in the sunshine, and the lounging areas are all set in green carpets that
really do make it look a lot like a stylised park.
Air France tends to start boarding for its
flights early. Today’s departure to Beirut is scheduled for 09h05. But boarding
already starts at 08h10, according to the boarding pass. By the time I finish
writing a few e-mails and make my way to gate M24, it’s 08h30 and I figure
they’re probably just about to start boarding. But in actual fact, by the time
I reach the gate they’ve already made the final call and the aircraft is in the
final staged of boarding.
The flight to Beirut is operated by a Boeing B 777-300ER.
There is a small mini cabin ahead of the L2 galley with four rows, from 4 to 8.
And then there is the main galley from row 9 onwards. I’ve already reported on
this seat in a post from January. I think this is the best business class seat
Air France currently has in the fleet. It’s comfortable, private and has ample
storage space. And it looks good too.
Service on the ground begins with the welcome drink. There
is choice of water, champagne and water melon juice – which is what I have.
Next, the vanity kits and the menus are distributed. A pillow, blanket and
slippers are already at my seat when I arrive.
By 09h00 the doors are closed and we’re ready to go. We slowly start to push back from our stand, when suddenly there’s a loud thump and we come to an abrupt standstill, right there on the taxiway. For a few minutes, nothing happens. But then the one engine that had already been started up is shut down and we start moving forward, back onto the stand.
A few minutes pass, then the captain informs us
that the tow truck oversteered the nose gear and that therefore, we have had to
return to the gate for inspection. At around 09h45, the doors close, and we are
informed that everything is fine. We push back again, only to stop in more or
less the same position on the taxiway. Once more we stop, and then start moving
forward again. Once we’re on stand again, the captain informs us that the nose
gear is leaking hydraulic liquid, and that therefore, we’re going to have to
swap aircraft. At 10h15 we are allowed to disembark the aircraft. The gate
agent tells me it’ll be a while before something happens, so I might as well go
to the lounge.
I inform her that I only have a connection of two hours in
Beirut, which I’m not likely to make. She gives me a reassuring smile, tells me
not to worry and instructs me to go to the lounge. At 12h05 one of the lounge
agents pages me. I go to reception, where the staff inform me that the Beirut
flight has been cancelled. Passengers for Beirut have been reprotected onto
tomorrow’s flight. And I have been put on the Air France nonstop service to
Dubai. Well crap. Don’t get me wrong, I think Air France handle the situation
very well. But I was just rather looking forward to my flight from Beirut to
Dubai on MEA. Maybe next time…
The nonstop service will be departing from gate L48, which
means I’m going to have to make my way back to the main terminal. Fortunately,
I find a friendly and very helpful security agent. He explains that if I take
the train, I’ll have to go through security again. However, if I take the
shuttle bus, the journey might be longer, but at least I will not have to go
through security again. I figure the shuttle bus is the better prospect, mainly
because that will give me a complimentary tour of the airport and the aircraft.
Eventually, by the time I arrive at the L concourse, it’s
just gone 12h30 and boarding is expected to start at 12h45. I figure I might as
well make use of the food voucher I was given by Air France and get myself a
smoothie from a place called naked. Only, the voucher is for EUR26, but my
smoothie is only EUR6.90. I explain to the young lady that it’s okay. But she’s
not happy and before I know it, she’s prepared a bag for me with a large bottle
of Vittel, two cookies, the smoothie and a packet of cheese and onion crisps –
which brings the total to EUR23.90. She clearly looks happier now…
At 12h45 boarding starts by zones from gate L48, starting with zones 1 and 2 for SkyPriority passengers.
The service on the ground pretty much follows that of the
previous flight. The departure of the second flight goes well. Although by the
time we enter the runway for take-off behind a Thai Airbus A 380, we’re running
45 minutes late. But the flight time is announced at six hours and 25 minutes,
so we should be arriving in Dubai on time after all.
The meal service begins with a glass of champagne, a glass of sparkling water which are served with a packed of Cranberries and cashew nuts. For an amuse bouche there is a smoked scallop in a velvety vanilla and parsnip cream.
The good thing about the change of my travel plans is that
the menu for the flight to Dubai is more appealing than that for the Beirut
shrimp tartare with fresh ginger and a lemon and mango salsa & edamame with pea cream
Goat’s cheese, Cantal & Camembert
The Main Course
And for the main course, I have the cod fillet with a creamy Noilly Prat sauce and artichoke cooked in two different styles (grilled and puréd)
For dessert I go wit the pâtisserie: wild blueberry clafoutis, opera cake and a cannelé cake
All the dishes are excellent. The smoked scallop is an unusual but tasty combination with the vanilla and the fresh ginger with the starter is refreshing and goes well with the shrimp. The main course is a signature dish created by Air France’s chef, and I have to say, this dish is outstanding. It’s a really nice, chunky piece of fish and the glazing on it is lovely.
The crew on this flight were only so so. They’re friendly,
but they don’t really seem to be in the mood to work. As a result, the meal
service is uncoordinated and chaotic and takes forever to complete. Later on
during a flight, I ring to ask for a coffee. Eventually, I ring five times, at
the end of which still nobody had showed up. So I stand up and go to the galley,
only to be told off because of ‘the turbulence’ and the fact that the fasten
seatbelt sign is on – despite the fact that we haven’t experienced any
turbulence at all for the last ten minutes. Of course, this is just a minor
thing and I guess it had to happen sooner or later. There are only few airlines
that you can consistently rely on with regard to their staff. And I should also
say that so far my experiences with Air France have always been very good.
The Second Service
An hour out of Dubai, the lights in the cabin go on for the
crew to start the second service, which consists of a small plate with a smoked
salmon wrap, an apricot tart and a profiterole. With that I finally get to have
the coffee they wouldn’t deliver.
Eventually we land in Dubai at 22h50. In the end, the flight time was longer than originally anticipated because we had to fly around a thunder storm. Because of our later arrival, the queues for immigration are something nasty, and I end up queueing for 35 minutes to have my passport checked. And it looks as though Air France has prepared a little parting gift for me. Because in addition to the delay, they’ve also managed to make my suitcase vanish…!
Date: 10. January 2019 Origin: Zürich Kloten Destination: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2F Seat: 10F Flight time: 57 minutes
Considering he’s an aerospace engineer, and rather a good
one at that, it really is quite astounding just how little my friend, the wiry
R., is interested in aviation and aircraft. As such, it is hardly surprising
that when I tell him about my itinerary for my upcoming trip to Dubai, all he
can muster is the kind of mournful ‘why’ that is usually reserved for parents
to use on their four year old kid when he decided to drop a whole box of
detergent in the toilet to see if the flushing would create bubbles. Not of
course, that I got up to that sort of thing as a child…
But in any case, the answer really is quite simple. I’m on
my way to Dubai. This is my third trip this year to the UAE, after having
visited Abu Dhabi in February, and Dubai in March. And so, as the routine
starts to get a bit long in the tooth, I figured I might as well take the
opportunity to try some of those airlines I’ve always wanted to try but which
somehow were always just a bit inconvenient or out of the way.
Getting to the Airport
I catch the 16h24 train from Winterthur to the airport. The Swiss Federal Railways recently started to introduce new rolling stock on the network. I have to admit, even though trains really don’t do it for me in the same way that planes do, that the vehicles do look rather good from the outside. They’re sleek.
From a passenger’s perspective though, they’re somewhat problematic. After a series of technical issues which delayed their introduction into service, the Swiss association for persons with disabilities filed a complaint, quite rightly, because the trains were in fact inaccessible for passengers with reduced mobility, because although they have level access, none of the doors has a ramp with an inclination of less than 15 degrees. All I can say as an able-bodied passenger is that there isn’t much storage space and the cabin is rather cramped.
Just as we pull out of the station, I receive a sms from Air
France informing me that the flight is full, and that therefore they’re willing
to check in my luggage free of charge. Which is admittedly a bit useless, seeing
as I have a luggage allowance anyway with may status. The flight is operated by
an Airbus A 318, which is admittedly rather small and has limited storage space
too. So my first stop is the SkyTeam check-in counters on row 2 of check-in 2,
where my suitcase is tagged to Paris and then sent on its way.
It’s the week before the big Easter weekend, and it looks like the whole world has elected to travel today. At the exchange office there’s a guy ahead of me inquiring whether they’ll accept Euros in Sri Lanka, because he’s just changed Swiss Francs into Euros and now has two crisp looking EUR500 notes in his hands…
The queue for security is endless and stretches all the way back to the entrance of the security area. The vapid Japanese chick behind me is on the blower, complaining to her bestie because Iberia forced her to check in her suitcase. ‘I mean, I thought they were, like, a normal airline, like, if they’re in the Star Alliance…like…’. She also doesn’t quite see why Iberia wanted her to check in the bag in the first place, even though, in her own words, there were so many shoes in the suitcase that the wheels collapsed.
Boarding starts about ten minutes ahead of
schedule. And it really is quite amazing just how many passengers you can fit
in to this puny little aircraft. Fortunately, we started boarding early,
because it’s taking for ever to find space for the copious bags passengers are
bringing into the cabin, despite the gate agents’ best efforts to put as many
bags as possible in the hold.
The cabin of the Airbus A 318 looks the same as that of all the other Airbus narrow bodies. But it is striking just how short this little airplane is. It’s kind of cute… I’m sitting on row 10, which is the emergency exit, and the legroom is excellent.
There are four cabin crew on the flight today. They’re very
professional, but these guys are also very friendly and seem totally unphased
by the luggage issue. Thanks to their excellent effort, we manage to push back
just a few minutes behind schedule.
Once we’re airborne, the meal service begins. Much to my
surprise, given the flight time of only one hour, this consists of a selection
of hot and cold drinks as well as a sandwich. There is no choice for the
sandwich. It’s filled with cream cheese, apple and celery and tastes quite
We land in Paris after a flight time of less than 60
minutes. Visibility is not too good, which is a shame, because we fly right
over central Paris on the approach.
Eventually, the flight comes to an end on a remote stand. Which means a cool picture of my chariot – hurrah! I figure I might as well wait for all the passengers to disembark, so as not to have wait on the bus. The good thing about large airports like Roissy is that by the time I finally make it to the luggage belt, I only have to wait two minutes for my bag to arrive.
In Paris I’ll be staying at the Roissy Sheraton, which is perched right over the main railway station for Terminal 2 and within easy walking distance of Terminal 2F, where I just arrived, and Terminal 2E, from where I shall be leaving tomorrow.