Air France, Economy Class – Embraer 190: Basel to Paris

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

Introduction

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.

Boarding

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.

The Cabin

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 Meal

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.

The Crew

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.

Arrival

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.

First though, it’s time for breakfast!

Air France, Economy Class – Airbus A 321: Paris Roissy to Zürich

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 Lounge

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.

Boarding

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.

The Cabin

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.

The Meal

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.

Arrival

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.

Air France, Economy Class – Embraer 190: Basel to Paris Roissy

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.

Check-in

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.

The Lounge

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

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.

The Cabin

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.

The Meal

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

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.

Arrival

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.

Air France, Airbus A 320 – Economy Class: Zagreb to Paris Charles de Gaulle

Getting to the Airport

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.

Check-in

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.

The Lounge

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

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…

The Cabin

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…

This, in case you’re wondering, is to hang your jacket on the seat.

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 Meal

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.

Arrival

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.

Air France, Economy Class – Airbus A 318: Zürich to Paris CDG 2

Date: 10. January 2019
Origin: Zürich Kloten
Destination: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2F
Seat: 10F
Flight time: 57 minutes

Introduction

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.

Check-in

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.

Airside

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

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

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.

The Crew

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.

The Meal

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 good.

Arrival

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.

Air France by HOP, Economy Class – CRJ700: Paris Orly to Basel

Introduction

The last time I saw Tutankhamun was more than twenty years ago, when I was in Cairo studying Arabic. And so, when I read that there would be an exhibition with artefacts from his vast tomb treasure in Paris, I figured it was too good an opportunity to miss. Before you ask: no, the death mask is not one of the exhibits and I very much doubt if that will ever leave Egypt again. One way or another though, the exhibition is well worth seeing and provides a glimpse into the ancient Egyptians’ understanding of eternity.

Getting to the Airport

On Sunday morning I leave the CitizenM hotel at Gare de Lyon at 09h30 and walk the short distance across the Seine to the Gare d’Austerlitz, from where I want to catch the RER C to Rungis and from there the shuttle to Orly airport. My flight to Basel will be departing at 12h00.

Only, once I get to the Gare d’Austerlitz I find out that there are no trains running, and instead there is a replacement bus to take me part of the way. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have taken that bus, because quite frankly, none of the staff that were positioned along the way to help stranded passengers actually knew what was going on. And so, two busses and one Uber later, I finally manage to arrive at the airport 35 minutes before departure.

Check-in

Air France’s domestic and Schengen flights operated out of Orly 1, otherwise known as Orly Sud. Luckily, I’ve already checked in online. Originally, I was hoping to check in my bag. But by the time I arrive at the terminal, I figure that check-in is already closed.

Airside

There are people standing around everywhere and there’s literally no getting through. Eventually I have to climb over a whole row of seats with my suitcase to bypass all the passengers and reach the entrance for the priority security lane. And Indeed, I think if it weren’t for my status with Air France, which allows me to use the priority lane, I’m pretty sure I’d have missed the flight.

Finally, I arrive at the gate about five minutes before boarding begins. Enough time to visit the loos. The flight is boarding from gate A22, which is in a part of the terminal that was recently extended and renovated.

Boarding

Boarding starts with a call for SkyPriority passengers. The gate agent tags my suitcase for me to leave it at the bottom of the aircraft’s steps. I think she’s surprised that I thank her for that, rather than start complaining…

The Cabin

This is a strange bird. F-GRZL was delivered to Britair in 2006 and was later on transferred to the HOP by Air France fleet. But the cabin is different to that on the CRJ-900 and the CRJ-1000. The bulkhead is lavender coloured, the seats are in dark grey, the window panels look old-fashioned and there is no Air France branding inside the aircraft.

Other than that though, pitch is good on row two and the seats are properly aligned with the windows to give passengers a good outside view.

The Crew

There are two quite senior cabin crew on this flight. One male and one female. They’re not overly friendly, but they’re professional and polite.

The flight time is announced as 45 minutes. The cabin crew start their service and inform passengers that due to the rather short flight time, they will only be serving passengers one drink each to speed things up and to make sure that every passenger gets at least something.

The Meal

There is a choice of hot and cold drinks, including alcoholic beverages like beer. Passengers also have a choice between a sweet or a savoury snack. The gentleman sitting next to me asks for the savoury snack, which turns out to be a packet of Pretzels. I have the sweet snack, which is a Madeleine filled with jam.

Arrival

It’s a nice day for flying today and as we approach Basel the ground visibility improves further. Eventually we land after a flight time of only 42 minutes. We park on a remote stand, and there’s even a bus to drive us the 200 metres from the aircraft to the passenger terminal. Ten minutes after we touch down, I exit the terminal building on the Swiss side and head for the bus stop.

I now have a whole working week in the office ahead of me before my next trip on Friday. Woohoo!

Air France/Cityjet, Economy Class – RJ85: Basel to Paris Roissy

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Introduction

Ever since I saw the sketch about the Death Star Canteen on Youtube, I’ve been a big fan of Eddie Izzard’s. So much so that I thought it would be cool to see him live some day. And indeed, this year he was on a world tour to promote his new book and show. But unfortunately, there was never an opportunity for me to go see that.

Getting to the Airport

But then I saw on Facebook that Izzard would be doing stand-up comedy in Paris in December. And so it came about that I find myself on the way to Basel airport on a Saturday afternoon to catch the HOP by Air France service from Basel to the iconic Paris Orly airport. The flight should leave at 14h20, which should get me into Paris around 15h30. In other words, I should have enough time for some Christmas shopping and to grab a bite to eat before the show begins at 20h00. Or something like that…

Check-in

Check-in for Air France and KLM is in the French sector of the terminal building. There are four self-service machines. Strangely enough though, three of the machines have ‘Vol Paris CDG ou Amsterdam’ showing on the screen, while the fourth machine reads ‘Paris Orly’ only. For some strange reason, it is indeed the case that the flight to Orly is checked-in on a different machine on which the other flights to CDG and to Amsterdam do not exist. And vice versa.

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I’m not sure what this is about exactly, but I suspect it was something to do with the flight operating as a domestic flight rather than an international one.

Boarding

With my Platinum card I have access to the fast lane, which doesn’t really mean anything at all. Because just before the security checkpoint the fast track merges with the normal line. Which means you end up with everyone in the normal queue giving you the stink eye for – in their view – trying to jump the line. Which, of course, is a very grave case of serious misconduct in France, given their history of égalite, fraternité and all that nonsense.

One way or another, the truth of the matter is that I’m a bit of a wuss – I’m not a big enough asshole to simply not give a shit. And so, I try an apologetic smile. I’m hoping the smile conveys something along the lines of a ‘Mea culpa, I promise never to do that again, cross my heart and hope to die, Ma’am’. But then I catch my reflection in one of the glass doors and conclude that I have rather a pained expression and look more like I urgently need to go to the bathroom for a number two…

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The Cabin

There’s been an aircraft change, and instead of the scheduled ATR42, the flight is operated by a Bombardier CRJ1000. And oh, how I hate this aircraft! This really one of those cases where you look at a thing or use it and keep asking yourself ‘what on earth were they thinking’?

So what on earth were they thinking exactly? For a 100 seater I really do think the width of the cabin of this aircraft is insufficient. There is very little storage space, boarding takes for ever because the aircraft is just so long and basically, everything feels just a little cramped and tight. Even though I’m one of the lucky ones to be seated on 1F with the seat next to me empty.

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And then it all starts going to sh…

We push back ahead of schedule at 14h14. Although the term pushback is used somewhat liberally in this particular case. Rather, we jerk backwards and then come to a stop again. And then nothing.

After about five minutes the pilot comes on the speakers to inform us that the pushback truck as damaged the nose gear and the incident will need to be investigated before we can depart. But it’s really nothing to worry about…

At 14h45 the captain informs us that the Air France ground engineer is already in his well-deserved weekend. So it will take him at least another hour to get to the airport. I just finish saying to myself ‘this is so going nowhere’, when they inform us that we will have to disembark while they check the aircraft.

At 15h00 we finally are allowed off the plane. A ground agent tells us we will have to go down to arrivals, then back up through security again and then to return to the departure gate for further information.

So I do just that. Only, the system won’t let me go through security because, according to the system, I’ve already been through once already. Which is in fact true. But this would not be France if there weren’t a jovial middle-aged man with a friendly smile who gives me his best ‘mais non, allez-y. Je vous laisse passer…’.

So I return to the gate, where they’re now boarding the flight to Charles de Gaulle. I ask one of the gate agents what’s going on. But she tells me she’s busy. So I check on the Air France app, only to find that there my original flight has been cancelled.

By this time, the CDG flight, which departs at 15h35, has completed the boarding process, so Madame finally has a moment to talk to me. The next thing I know, il n’ya aucun problem, and I’ve been reprotected on to the CDG flight instead.

I thank the gate agent for her flexibility and pass through the gate, thinking it must be my lucky day. As I do, I swear I can hear her sniggering. What’s that all about I wonder? And that’s when I realise: the CDG flight is operated by an ancient RJ85 in the 3+3 configuration. And…*this is the moment when I hear the music from the shower scene in Psycho in my head…*…and?

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The Cabin

And I’m on 4B, which means I’m stuck in the middle between two other people. This is really my worst nightmare. They can’t do this to me. Please Santa, I promise I’ll be good. I swear I’ll be nicer to my students. But please, not 4B.

The middle seat on 4B means the pitch is so tight that the only way I can fit into the seat is to sit there with my legs spreadeagled like a porno star, while Miss 4C sticks her elbow in my side.

Eventually we depart at 16h20. The flight was delayed so they could rebook all the passengers from the cancelled Orly flight.

The Crew

The crew on this flight consists of two men. The purser is in his early forties, I should say, and at least he obviously thinks he’s really hot stuff. What’s with the black leather gloves, dude? Even once the doors close, the leather gloves stay on and he even distributed the refreshing towels still wearing them.

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The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the meal service kicks in tout de suite. It consists of a selection of hot or cold drinks and a choice between a savoury or a sweet snack – or sucré ou salé, as we say at Air France.

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I decide to have the hot chocolate and a packet of really tasty apple biscuits. They’re really very buttery and full of flavour. The only problem though, is that being confined on either side by another passenger in such a tight seat, I’m actually having trouble reaching the food and cup without accidentally taking out one of my neighbours’ eyes and I start to wonder if this is what extinction must have felt like for the Tyrannosaurus Rex with their little stubby arms?

Arrival

By the time we land it’s already 17h15. And we still have to taxi all the way back to terminal 2G, which is out in the booneys. From 2G I have to catch a shuttle bus to terminal 2F and from there I have to walk to terminal 2E before I am finally at the counter for the busses that take you from CDG to the Gare de Lyon, which is closest to where I’m going.

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But still, I manage. There was no shopping and no lunch before the theatre. But I manage. In fact I arrive one minute before the curtain call.

Epilogue

I’m not going to write a report about the return leg. But just in case you were wondering: yes, that one was delayed by an hour too because of a technical problem. This was not one of Air France’s finest moments.

But all’s well that ends well. And so, for those of you who have managed to stick around until the very end,

I WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY HOLIDAY AND MANY HAPPY LANDINGS IN 2018!

Where ever your travels may take you, enjoy them and stay safe.

– William

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HOP by Air France, Economy Class – Embraer 175: Basel to Paris Charles de Gaulle

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Date: 05 March 2016
From: Basel Mulhouse
To: Paris Charles de Gaulles
Departure:
10:40
Arrival: 11:40
Flight time: 1 hour.
Seat: 5A
Aircraft type: Embraer 175

Introduction

I arrived home from a course in Luxembourg yesterday evening. Today, less than twelve hours later, I find myself back at the airport for a short flight to Paris. This is, as you may have guessed, just a positioning flight.

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Check-in

Location: Departures level, French sector.
Counters: Two SkyPriority counters and two Economy Class counters.
Facilities: There are four self-service machines available at the airport. Check-in on the Air France app is also possible.
The flight from Basel to Paris Charles de Gaulle is treated as a domestic flight. As the passenger you do not really notice any difference, save for the fact that you have to check in for the flight and pass through security in the French sector of the terminal.

The Swissport Skyview Lounge

Name: SkyView Lounge.
Type of lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Swissport.
Location: In the international Schengen area, right behind the duty free kiosk.
Facilities: Workstations, newspapers and magazines.
Internet: Wifi available free of charge.
Catering: Hot and cold snacks available throughout the day.
Behind security, the French sector is connected airside to the rest of terminal, which means that you can still access the duty free shop and, more importantly, the Swissport SkyView lounge. Admittedly, it is quite a trek from the French sector to the lounge, but at least that helps to pass the time.

The SkyView lounge is open to all passengers. If you are not holding a Business Class ticket and are not an upper tier member of any frequent flyer programme, you may still use the facilities for a fee of CHF38.- per person.

The lounge was recently refurbished on the entrance level. Apart from the new furniture, they appear to have planted new palm trees in the courtyard, which makes a huge difference. The palms that had been there before were starting to look rather sad.

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The main area of the lounge and the buffet are on the upper level. The food & beverages selection is pretty fair and, in my view, perfectly adequate for a lounge at a regional airport. Throughout the day, there is a good selection of hot and cold snacks to choose from. There is also an open-air terrace which doubles as the smoking area. You need not worry about the cigarette smoke though, because the terrace is fairly large.

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Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts on time. Air France/KLM does not have a dedicated line for status holders and Business Class passengers. However, the first boarding call is for SkyTeam Priority passengers only, who are invited to just push to the front of the line. I always feel a tad uncomfortable, although most travellers seem to be used to it by now and you rarely get any complaints any more.

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The Crew

The cabin crew on this flight is made up of two middle-aged gentlemen. I would not say they are rude or impolite, they are just not gushing either. Evidently, they are also refusing to speak anything but French.

The Cabin

There are two things that really elude me about the cabin of HOP’s Embraer 175. First of all, I cannot understand why there is a cabin divider when HOP only offers an Economy Class product. And secondly, why is it that HOP, like Alitalia, finds it so hard to align the passenger seats with the windows of the aircraft? On most rows the windows are rather inconveniently positioned. As a result, to look out you generally have to twist you neck round quite a bit.

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The Snack

The flight time to Paris is announced as 55 minutes. Given that this is really just a short hop and a domestic one at that, it is rather nice that HOP will offer you hot and cold drinks and a choice of either sweet or savoury biscuits. As a rule, I would try to avoid the savoury snack because it is usually not very good. The sweet biscuits on the other hand, I can highly recommend. They are lovely, sweet and have a rich buttery flavour.

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Arrival

We land in a westerly direction, which means we have rather a long taxiway all the way back to Terminal 2G, which is the easternmost terminal in CDG. Terminal 2G is where all the HOP/Regional flights arrive and depart, in addition to a few other carriers like Luxair. There is an airside and landside connection from 2G to the other terminals.

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Air France, Economy Class – A 319: Zürich to Paris-Roissy

Folie1

Introduction

Finally, it is time for my summer vacation. With only eleven flights, by my standards I have a very modest itinerary to cover in two weeks.

The first leg of this series sees me travelling on one of Airbus’s smallest aircraft – the Air France A319 – from Zürich to Paris-Roissy. This, of course, is merely a positioning flight. Originally, this flight should have been operated by an A318. However, I know from a reliable source that Air France has a tendency to swap aircraft on this route rather frequently.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Train.
Departs from: Basel Swiss Railway station (Being right in the corner between Switzerland, France and Germany, Basel has three railway stations).
Frequency: Every 30 minutes via Zürich main railway station, where you have to change. From there you have a train to the airport at 07, 09 and 37 and 39 past the hour. Alternatively, there is an hourly train at 40 past the hour, which runs directly from Basel Swiss Railway station to Zürich Flughafen.
Journey time: About 80 minutes.
Fare: CHF38 for a second class one way ticket. The fare is the same, whether you take the direct train to the airport or change at Zürich main station.

Rather than carting my suitcase all the way to Winterthur and then back again in the evening, I decide to hop off at Zürich airport on my way to the office in the morning. Lockers are located one floor up from the platform, to the left of the escalators leading up from platforms three and four. There are lockers in different sizes and prices range from CHF6 for a small locker that can take one piece of large hand luggage, to CHF15 for a locker large enough for two standard size suitcases.

Check-in

Location: Check-in 2, row 4.
Facilities: Check-in machines, Web Check-in.
Counters: One counter for SkyPriority passengers and two for all other travellers.

I always thought the KLM app was much better than the Air France one. However, recently both KLM and Air France released updates of their respective apps and I must say, the Air France one is now much better and more attractive. I think what I dislike the most about the new KLM app is that finding information is far less intuitive. Just try looking up a ticket number for one of your bookings!

During the check-in process, I am given the option to upgrade to Business Class for CHF125 or to select an emergency exit seat for extra space. The standard price for an emergency exit seat is CHF11 for regular passengers, CHF5.50 for Gold card holders and free of charge for Platinum card holders.

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The Lounge

Location: One floor up from the airside centre.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated SkyTeam lounge, operated by DNATA.
Facilities:
None to mention really. The toilets are outside the lounge, no showers.
Food: Sandwiches, biscuits, soup. The food changes throughout the day.
Bar: Selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and juices, including, somewhat surprisingly, cranberry juice.
Internet:
Free wifi, the code is issued at reception.

The lounge has been done up since my last visit. There are new bistro style tables and chairs to match. It is a vast improvement over the chairs there used to be in the lounge. The entire bar area is new too. They also appear to have expanded their food options. Apart from the soup and sandwiches there are now also small bowls with different types of salad available.

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Boarding

Our flight is delayed arriving from Paris, and so boarding starts about thirty minutes late. The first call is for Business Class and status card holders only and I am quite impressed by how the sequence is enforced, with passenger not falling into either category being turned away and asked to wait.

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The Cabin

Seat: 10D, aisle seat on the emergency exit.
Configuration: 3 + 3
Pitch: 32 inches
Width: 17.5 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp and an air vent, adjustable headrest.
Audio and Video: None.

Air France’s A319 have a seating capacity of 125 in a two-class cabin, with an Economy Class and a Business Class section. Although it should also be mentioned that Air France operates the A319 in two different configurations. On domestic routes the aircraft only has one class and is configured for a capacity of 142.

The cabin is comfortable and spacious. The seats have leather covers and look fairly new. In fact I do not think I have every been on an Air France aircraft with this type of cabin.

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The Crew

The cabin service is provided by four cabin crew, one male and three females. I did not have any interaction with the male, but the three ladies were all very charming, friendly and chatty.

The Meal

  1. Brioche bun with salted butter and Emmental cheese
  2. Coke Zero
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This makes for an interesting comparison. As far as the quality of the sandwich is concerned, I think KLM has the upper hand. Their cheese sandwiches are tastier because the bread they use is not as rubbery as the bun provided by Air France. Furthermore, KLM have some Dutch cheese in their sandwiches, which is a nice local touch. Given the vast number of delectable French cheese, it is somewhat alienating that they should use a Swiss Emmental instead!

Having said that, Air France certainly has the better drinks selection. Whereas in KLM you have a choice of orange of apple juice, coke or still water, Air France offer a nicely stocked bar even in Economy Class.

Arrival

Terminal: 2F

Terminal 2F is where most of the Schengen flights of Air France and their partners arrive and depart. Like everything else in Roissy Airport, the facility certainly looks very sleek and stylish but not very user or passenger friendly. In particular, transferring between one terminal and another can be quite a nightmare in Paris, which is why I have decided to spend the night here before starting on the journey proper.

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Getting to the Hotel

Transport: Complimentary Roissy-Val shuttle train.
Departs from: Terminals 1 and 2.
Frequency: Every few minutes
Journey time: About 15 minutes door to door.
Fare: Free of charge.

I am only spending the one night in Paris, so I figure I might as well stay near the airport. This time, I shall be staying at the CitizenM. To reach the hotel from Terminal 2, first take the complimentary Roissy-Val shuttle train, which links the three terminals. Alight at Terminal 3, then take exit 1 and follow the signs. The CitizenM is about two minutes on foot from the Terminal 3 stop.

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Air France, Economy Class – Airbus A 318: Zürich to Paris Charles de Gaulle

Folie1

Introduction

I have a meeting to attend at the ICAO Regional Office in Paris. Originally the plan had been for me to fly with HOP! from Basel to Orly and then to return with KLM via Amsterdam. Eventually though, this proved too expensive because the airport of Basel is de iure on French territory. As a result, the flight from Basel to Orly is operated as a domestic service. As far as the fare is concerned, to combine that flight with a return on KLM would have meant a combination of a domestic oneway with an international oneway, which made the ticket very expensive. So eventually I had no other choice but to get myself a ticket from Zürich to Paris Roissy with a return on KLM via Amsterdam for less than half the price and which then qualifies as an international round trip.

No sooner had I booked the ticket, the Air France pilots decided to go on strike over management’s intention to strengthen Transavia in Europe. And so my original flight to Paris at 16:40 was eventually cancelled and I was reprotected on to the later flight at 18:00. In the sum of all things, I think Air France handled the situation very well. Given the amount of strikes the carrier’s staff has staged over the years though, that is hardly surprising…

Getting to the Airport

I leave Basel on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Probably this is going to be one of the last nice days before autumn sets in. I take the 15:07 ICE to Zürich, which is surprisingly punctual today. German trains are notoriously late. The journey to Zürich main station takes fifty minutes. At the main station I cross the platform and board the airport train. The journey to the airport only takes eight minutes.

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Check-in

Terminal: Check-in 2
Row: 4
Counters: Dedicated SkyTeam check-in counters. There is a separate queue for SkyPriority passengers

I drop my bag at check-in and collect my boarding pass. I’ve already checked in using the KLM app but the Add to Passbook functionality is not working – again. The airport is pretty busy in the retail area above the railway station, while the check-in area is fairly quiet.

The Lounge

Type of Lounge: Air France branded lounge
Facilities: Small area for work and two work stations with computers, the toilets are outside
Wifi: Available for free on request at reception
Catering: A small selection of cold snacks and drinks, the only hot item is a tomato soup which looks as though it has been there all day

Security is easy. Here too there is a dedicated queue for First Class and Business Class passengers and Priority card holders. The security check point will eject you straight into the duty free shopping area. To reach the Air France lounge walk through the shopping area and turn left. Keep walking past the Swiss restaurant and then do a sharp left turn. Go up the stairs and you arrive at the combined reception area of the Air France and OneWorld lounges, both of which are operated by the same company.

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Boarding

My flight is boarding from gate A05, in one of the oldest parts of what used to be Terminal A. This is a bus gate, so I should be able to take some decent pictures of my chariot to Paris this evening.

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The gate agent scans my boarding pass and informs me that I have been upgraded to Premium Economy Class. And so has my colleague M. I do not get a chance to check out the back of the bus, so I am not sure if the flight was really that full – presumably because of the strike – or if this is simply a sign of goodwill on Air France’s side to apologize for the strike.

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Our bus pulls up next to the aircraft. The A 318 really is a strange bird. Somehow the proportions just do not seem right. Obviously it has the overall dimensions of the other Airbus narrow bodies. But it is just so short!

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The Cabin

Seating: 3 + 3 with the middle seat left empty
Pitch: 32 inches
With: 17.5 inches
Facilities: none

There are four rows of Economy Premium, although initially the seating seems a bit strange. There is one person sitting on either side of row one. Rows two and three are empty and then on row four there is a couple sitting on the left side and three of us sitting in the right side. I am not sure if perhaps the gentleman at the window should have been on row three instead. But it does not really matter. The flight is on fifty-five minutes.

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The Crew

There are three cabin crew on today’s flight. The purser is a middle aged gentleman who has obviously decided not to let the strike dampen his spirits. He is actually quite funny and interacts easily with the passengers.

As I enter the plane, there are refreshing towels laid out by the entrance for passengers to take. Even so, once the doors close one of the crew passes through the cabin offering larger, better quality towels to passengers sitting in Premium Economy. No offence BA, but those flimsy little things you offer in First Class as towels are really no match for these rather substantial things Air France provides in European Economy!

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The Meal

Type of meal: snack
Choices: none
Meal:

  1. savoury maccaron filled with salmon mouse
  2. something with olives, fennel and aniseed
  3. roll of cream cheese
  4. fresh fruit salad
  5. dessert
  6. bottle of mineral water
  7. sweets bag from Fauchon
  8. coffee

I have never bothered so far to try Premium Economy Class in Europe on Air France. So perhaps that is why I am all the more surprised when shortly after take-off the service begins and one of the crew places a tray with food on it in front of me. Goodness!

What’s more, the food is rather tasty. Of course it is only a small snack, but on a flight of less than an hour I was not really expecting any much other than perhaps a cup of water and a forced smile.

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I am just about finishing my coffee when the cockpit crew announce that we have started out descent.

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Arrival

Schengen flights operated by the mainline fleet arrive and depart from Terminal 2F. The airport and terminal are surprisingly deserted this evening, and I can only imagine it having something to do with the strike.

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Getting into Town

Mode of Transport: suburban train
Fare: EUR20 for a return ticket
Journey time: 30 minutes to Châtelet Les Halles

There are various options to reach the city from Charles de Gaulle. The cheapest way and probably the quickest is the RER train. Not all the trains stop at all stations on their way into the city. Fortunately, tonight I am in luck and the next train will only be making a brief stop at Terminal 1 before going direct to Les Halles.

There I change to the Metro, from where it is another eleven stops to my hotel in Neuilly. The good thing about the Paris metro is that the stations are very close to each other. So even though there are eleven stops, the journey does in fact not take that long.

All in all, this was another good experience with Air France – despite the strike. The service was very good and I think the way the airline handled my booking was very good and proactive. Even so, a strike is always inconvenient and leaves a bad impression. What good are nice service and good food to me if I cannot even rely on the airline to operate the flight I have booked? I can appreciate that the pilot’s union may be a tad unhappy about the way things are going. But the moment your passengers start getting the full brunt of it, I think you are on a slippery slope.