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…

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.

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.

SERVICE

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 HOP/Cityjet, Economy Class – CRJ-1000/RJ85: Basel to Paris Orly/Roissy

2000px-Air_France_Logo.svg

hop_logo

2000px-Cityjet_logo.svg

map

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.

IMG_0002.JPG

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…

IMG_0005.JPG

IMG_0006.JPG

IMG_0007.JPG

IMG_0008.JPG

IMG_0009.JPG

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.

IMG_0010.JPG

IMG_0012.JPG

AND THEN IT ALL GOES 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?

IMG_0014.JPG

IMG_0015.JPG

IMG_0016.JPG

IMG_0017.JPG

IMG_0020.JPG

IMG_0021.JPG

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.

SERVICE
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.

IMG_0024.JPG

IMG_0025.JPG

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.

IMG_0027.JPG

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.

IMG_0028.JPG

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

IMG_0030.JPG

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

PHO33247944-70bc-11e4-8b5a-134ccaaaf9f6-805x453

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.

IMG_0382

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.

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.

IMG_0383

IMG_0384

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.

IMG_0385

IMG_0387

IMG_0392

IMG_0388

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.

IMG_0394

IMG_0395

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.

IMG_0396

IMG_0398

IMG_0397

IMG_0400

IMG_0401

THE MEAL
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.

IMG_0402

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.

IMG_0403

IMG_0404

IMG_0405

IMG_0406

HOP!, Economy Class – ATR-72: Basel-Mulhouse to Paris-Orly

Folie1 map HOP_logo INTRODUCTION

Exactly one week after my return from Asia I’m off again. I have a meeting with the ICAO regional office in Paris, so at least it’s just a short trip this time.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: BVB bus line 50
Departs from: Basel SBB railway station, by the main exit
Frequency: Every 8 to 10 minutes
Journey time: 16 minutes
Fare: CHF4.20, one-way

It’s a lovely day for flying today, and it’s quite warm too. I’ve arranged to meet my colleague at 14h00 by the meeting point of the main railway station as he’ll be arriving from Zürich. Just in case you’re wondering, there are flights from Zürich to Paris, but they only go to Roissy, which is much further out of town, while we’re heading for Orly today. Secondly, my colleague has never been on a turboprop and simply wanted to give one a try. In any case, we make a brief detour to the Confiserie Bachmann for me to pick up a chocolate bun. And then from there we catch the bus line 50 to the airport.

CHECK-IN

Location: Departures level on the first floor, French side
Facilities: Self-service check-in machines and baggage drop counters
Counters: Dedicated Air France counters

Once we are inside the terminal we cross into the French side, which is where the Air France check-in counters are located. The flight from Basel to Paris Orly can be booked as an international service from Basel to Paris or as a domestic service from Mulhouse to Paris. Obviously the latter will only cost you a fraction of the price of the international service. Strangely enough, if you look up the flight on the Air France website, you will find that, according to the timetable, the departure from the Swiss side is two minutes earlier than the departure from Mulhouse. We arrive at the baggage drop counter. While we’re there, we ask if it might be possible to sit together. When I checked in using the KLM app the evening before, I was automatically placed on 3A, while my colleague was relegated to the last row of the aircraft on 16D. Apparently passengers with status are automatically assigned seats in the front of the plane at the time of booking, even though the website does not in fact allow you to select seats on flights operated by HOP. Grudgingly the check-in agent agrees to move my colleague forward to the seat next to me. Not however, before insisting that she’s only doing this exceptionally and only because of my status. How very gracious, Ma’am. Later on when we board the plane, it turns out the flight is only half full anyway, so we could in fact have sat anywhere and I don’t quite understand what all the fuss is.

LOUNGE

Air France does not have a lounge in Basel. And we’ve still got over an hour before the flight departs. So we decide to take advantage of the nice weather and visit the open air viewing gallery on the fourth floor until eventually our flight is called for boarding. IMG_1100

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: No priority boarding for Skyteam Elite members on domestic flights by the looks of it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just thick but I just don’t get it. Apparently we’re booked on a HOP flight. But so far this looks and feels a lot like the usual Air France. Check-in is done by Air France, the gate is manned by Air France staff and the aircraft standing at the gate has the full old Air France livery. IMG_1102 It’s cool though to have the opportunity to walk across the apron and board the aircraft the old fashioned way.

IMG_1104 IMG_1106 IMG_1108 IMG_1109 IMG_1110 IMG_1111 IMG_1112 IMG_1113

CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: Standard economy seat
Pitch:
Width:
Facilities: None
Audio and Video: Nil

The cabin on this bird is starting to look a bit tired, but at least it seems well maintained. There aren’t that many status card holders on today’s flight. The first five rows are empty, save for row three which is occupied by my colleague and me. The rest of the passengers are sitting clustered together further down the back of the bus. IMG_1115 IMG_1116 IMG_1117 IMG_1119 IMG_1120 IMG_1121 IMG_1123

The cabin crew are very strict about the use of electronic devices during take-off and landing. So the only pictures I have of our departure are during the climb out. I kind of like the droopy effect of the prop blades.

IMG_1122 IMG_1124 IMG_1125 IMG_1128

SERVICE

There are two male flight attendants working the flight. I’m not really quite sure if one is more senior than the other as both of them have no stripes on their uniform. Both the crew also demonstrate the same apparent lack of interest in their customers – the passengers. But somehow, this being Air France I’m not even surprised by that. Before departure cold towels are passed around which have a rather overpowering odour.

IMG_1126

THE MEAL

Drinks:

  • A selection of hot and cold drinks (I have a coffee and a still water)

Meal:

  • A choice between sweet biscuits or some strange looking salty snacks with dried sage (I decline)

IMG_1129 IMG_1130

The meal is nothing special for sure. However, given that HOP was conceived as a kind of low-cost carrier, one really can’t complain. The complete lack of warmth, personality or friendliness by crew on the other hand, makes any Ryanair crew seem positively gushing with enthusiasm. The meal ends with one of the flight attendants passing through the cabin with a brown paper bag for passengers to throw their rubbish in. I mean, at least they could have had the decency to use a rubbish trolley like every other self-respecting airline.

ARRIVAL

The flying time to Paris is just over one hour, which is good as the seats really aren’t that comfortable. The crew distribute sweets before the landing. There is a slight delay for our arrival once we land, because the marshaller takes a while to arrive to wave us onto the stand. Domestic flights arrive and depart at Orly West. IMG_1132 IMG_1133 IMG_1134

GETTING INTO TOWN

Transport: Orlyval to Anthony, then the RER line B to the city
Departs from: Departures level of Orly West
Frequency: Every few minutes
Journey time: 6 minutes from Orly to Anthony on the Orlyval, then ca. 25 minutes on the RER B to the city centre
Fare: EUR9.- from Orly to Anthony, EUR3.50 from Anthony to the city centre

ICAO’s Paris office is located in Neuilly, roughly half-way between the Arc de Triomphe at Etoile and the new arch at La Défense. I’m staying at the hotel Foch, which is a very nice and small hotel near the Palais des Congrès at Porte Maillot and Etoile metro stations. To get there I have to take the Orlyval to Anthony, change to the RER B to Châtelet and then from there take the metro to Neuilly – Porte Maillot. IMG_1136 IMG_1137

THE RETURN

Don’t worry, I’m not doing a full report on the return. After all, a flight with HOP is hardly that exciting. But I still want to share with you the experience of checking in at Orly West, and how my colleague singlehandedly managed to destroy one of the automatic check-in machines with only very little help from me. It’s all rather complicated. In fact you cannot help but feel that somebody really must have put a lot of effort into making things just that little bit extra complicated to spice things up. We arrive at Orly West for the return flight and check our flight on the FIDS, which shows up as checking in at sector D. That’s all it says. The only problem is though, that there is a Hall 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Orly West. And each Hall has a check-in sector A, B, C and D. Which effectually means that there’s no means of guessing where to go unless you ask one of the friendly staff at the information desk. IMG_1215 IMG_1212 IMG_1214

So we finally find our check-in sector. I scan my boarding pass and out comes the baggage tag for my colleague’s suitcase. We figure like that it will get a priority label and might arrive as one of the first bags in Basel. My colleague then proceeds to one of the many baggage drop facilities and places the suitcase inside. He scans his boarding pass and then the door closes. And then the alarm sounds, the machine starts blinking in shades of green and yellow and slowly we begin to wonder if he will ever see his suitcase again. IMG_1209 And then an Air France ground hostess arrives. Oh dear! She looks like she might be la présidente of the French general worker’s union. She also looks like my colleague is the only thing standing in the way of what she probably thinks is her well-deserved break. So she stands there looking at the machine, seemingly clueless about what to do next. Her mood does not improve any as she realises that we’re finding all of this rather funny. Eventually we manage to explain to her that the alarm probably went off because there was a mismatch between the name on the baggage tag and the name on the boarding pass that was scanned at the baggage drop. Well at least now she knows what went wrong, but she’s still not a happy bunny. Eventually some guy working for Aéroports de Paris arrives and finally manages to free the poor, frightened little suitcase from captivity. IMG_1211

And then the baggage drop process is repeated, this time however using my boarding pass. And off the little suitcase goes on its big journey home. And so do I. I now have the rare privilege of spending a whopping three weeks in a row at home before my next journey. I’m going to enjoy this. Oh yes, and just in case you were wondering: no, HOP! by Air France did not really impress me. IMG_1146 IMG_1154 IMG_1156 IMG_1204 IMG_1174 IMG_1165

Uhm…this was a poster in the metro station. What can I say? I’m a fan!