Today marks the beginning of my summer vacation. And Rennes will be my first stop. Originally, I was booked to fly from Basel to Rennes via Paris. However, that connection was cancelled and rebooked via Amsterdam. The originally rebooked departure from Basel to Amsterdam should have been just after 10 in the morning. But then another schedule change meant that I was rebooked again to depart from Basel to Amsterdam on the morning departure at the ungodly time of 06h30. This also meant that I would have a layover in Amsterdam of about six hours.
Normally, I would have jumped at the opportunity to use that layover to go into Amsterdam for breakfast at De Bakkerswinkel in the seedy part of town by the central station. However, given that KLM is currently advising passengers to show up for security screening four hours (!) before departure, I figured I better not risk it.
I’ll be making a separate post of my stay at the Yotel Air at Amsterdam Schiphol. This post is about the flight from Amsterdam to Rennes.
The flight to Rennes departs at 13h40, with boarding expected to start at 13h13, which is an oddly specific time… And of course our aircraft is on a remote stand, so we’ll have to be bussed there.
There are two rows of Business Class, but the forward cabin remains empty on this flight. I’m seated on 3A, the first row of Economy. As I’ve already mentioned, and complained about in previous posts, properly aligning the seat rows with the windows appears to be a bit of a problem on the E170 aircraft. And this includes the configuration Air France has them in. I do have a window seat on 3A, but I seriously need to crank my head back to be able to look out.
I count a total of 68 passengers.
The cabin crew are two females in their mid- to late thirties, if I had to guess. They’re both business friendly. Not gushing, but not rude or unfriendly either.
The flight time is announced at one hour and ten minutes.
The service consists of a small and very tasty, buttery biscuit and a cup of Perrier. Air France have stopped using plastic cups and serve all their drinks in Economy in cardboard cups instead.
After the meal I’m still tired. I quickly doze off and only awaken again when the captain comes on to announce the “début de déscente”, the top of descent.
The landscape below is very flat, green and lush. And not exactly densely populated.
Our arrival is a bit shaky because of the wind. We land on runway 28 and then have to backtrack up the runway, as the only taxiway doesn’t reach all the way to the end.
There are only open stands at Rennes airport, which is very small and really quite dinky.
I completely forget that we’ve arrived on an international service. In as much, it takes me by surprise to find myself in front of an immigration counter upon entering the terminal. The check is not really so much about the passport or ID, but about checking the vaccination status of arriving passengers entering into France.
Getting into town
To get to the bus stop, make a sharp left upon exiting the terminal and just keep on walking until eventually you will see the bus stop. Both the C6 and 57 bus lines run to the centre of town. The journey takes about thirty minutes and costs EUR1.50. Apparently, you don’t need to buy a paper ticket and can normally just badge in with your credit card. However, when I try that, it doesn’t work. So I have to buy a ticket from the driver, who can only accept cash.
I had a really early start this morning, which didn’t exactly give me the warm and fuzzies – even if it was to get on a plane to Amsterdam and then on another to Rennes. However, that quickly changed the moment I stepped of the plane when we arrived in Rennes. This place is just so nice, and the weather is stunning! And tomorrow, I’m off to Mont St. Michel!
On Sunday morning, just after eight, I have an early breakfast and then head out for the palace. I want to make the most of my stay and visit the palace grounds again. The palace building does not open to the public until noon on Sundays, but the gardens are open already and they are deserted at this time of day, save for a few keen joggers.
Getting form Versailles to Paris Roissy airport
For the next leg of my grand tour, I will be taking a flight from Paris to Copenhagen. As Versailles is to the south of Paris, while Roissy airport is to the north, I figure I better spend the night at a hotel close to the airport to avoid an early start. Normally, the journey from Versailles to Roissy is quite straightforward: first, take an RER C train from Versailles Les Chantier to Massy-Palaiseau and then from there catch an RER B train to Roissy airport. The journey should take about 90 minutes. However, this summer somebody had the bright idea of doing maintenance works on both the RER B and C lines simultaneously. As a result, parts of both lines are disrupted. And so, I end up alighting at Massy-Palaiseau but then taking a replacement bus service to Les Baconnets, and then from there catching another train to the airport. I depart from Versailles Les Chantiers just after 16h. All in all, the inconvenience is minimal and only adds thirty minutes to the whole journey, so that I arrive at the hotel just after 18h.
Getting from the CitizenM Roissy to Terminal 2
At Roissy airport I spend the night at the CitizenM, which is located at Roissypole – the airport’s main transport hub that is located midway between Terminals 1 and 2. An automated shuttle runs frequently between the terminals.
I like the CitizenM hotels. They’re easy to use and very convenient. I also like that their lobbies are a nice showcase for Vitra design furniture.
The hotel is only a short three minutes walk from Roissypole station.
And from there, the journey to Terminal 2 takes about four minutes.
I’ve already checked in online, but I still need to drop my bag at the SkyPriority counter. The check-in agent is friendly and swift. Access to the fast track security line is right next to the SkyPriority check-in area.
The Salon Air France in Terminal 2F
I just love the design of the airside area of Terminal 2F. By the time I’m through security, I still have a little less than an hour to go before boarding, so I figure I might as well visit the lounge.
The lounge is quite busy, which is why I don’t take many pictures. They have removed some furniture to make space for more socially distanced seating. And I also think they’ve reduced their buffet offerings, because the buffet area is looking decidedly empty!
Other than that, I am considering writing a letter to Air France to suggest they ban families with children from the lounges. The kids usually aren’t even that much of an issue, but sometimes you get the impression that their parents just don’t know how to behave around their own kids in the presence of strangers.
There is a separate lane for SkyPriorty passengers to queue for boarding, which is nice and helps to avoid the usual rush once the flight’s departure is announced. Today’s flight is operated by an Airbus A 318 and it appears to be full.
The cabin looks neat and tidy. I was able to secure a window seat on the exit row. So the leg space is simply brilliant on row 10.
On each row of three seats there are four USB powers sockets. The aircraft is also equipped with wifi. The use of the network for receiving and sending messages is complimentary. For writing mails or surfing, there is a charge of EUR15 in Economy Class.
As usual on Air France, the three cabin crew members are very nicely turned out and put together. It always impresses me how much more professional they manage to look than some of the vapid flight crews you get on SWISS sometimes. I mean, the ugly SWISS uniform is not really their fault, but I do think that somebody should tell them that a foulard around the neck is really not the height of sophistication, and neither is the lipstick laid on so thick that it ends up sticking to their teeth and makes them looks as though they have a severe case of bleeding gums.
Upon entering the aircraft, the crew hand out surgical face masks to all passengers wearing one made out of cloth. Apparently, it is a legal requirement in France for it to be a bona fide surgical mask that has to be worn aboard an aircraft. The cloth masks won’t do.
The flight time is announced as one hour and 25 minutes.
The meal service consists of a packaged croissant and a very limited selection of hot and cold drinks. As airline coffee in Economy on European short-haul flights usually leans towards the crap instant variety, I only ask for a cup of water. Other than that, I think the only other cold option is orange juice.
Eventually, we land in Copenhagen on time, just before 10h30. Unlike Paris, Copenhagen airport looks fairly quiet. What’s more, half the shops appear to be closed, which makes the whole place really look kind of sad.
Fairly quickly my suitcase arrives on the luggage belt. And then I’m off to explore the city.
Getting into Copenhagen city
Probably the most convenient and cheapest way to get into the city is via the Metro line M. The station for the metro is located right at the far end of the main terminal building. Trains run frequently and only take about 20 minutes to make the journey from the airport to the city centre, the sights and the shops.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.