Air France, Business Class – Airbus A 319: Paris CDG to Zürich

TRANSFER IN CDG 2

I must admit that I am just slightly worried about my connection in Paris. After all, Roissy is a big place that sprawls over a vast area. Fortunately, it turn out that Terminals 2E and 2F are connected to each other and within walking distance. So I needn’t have worried, because the whole process is swift and effortless.

There are separate queues for SkyPriority passengers for both security and immigration, which make the transfer painless. Twenty minutes after I exit the aircraft from Singapore, I’m already sitting in the lounge in Terminal 2F. My flight will be departing from gate F50.

LOUNGE

The pier has been completely redone since my last visit. And the lower level, which is also where the lounge is, has been extended to create an entirely new floor.

The lounge is already busy. But I’ll only be here for about thirty minutes anyway, to grab a coffee and go to the loo before my onward connection to Zürich.

BOARDING

Boarding starts on time and it looks as though it’s going to be a full flight, because they’ve already started labelling the larger items of hand luggage of passengers sitting in Economy Class to take down into the aircraft’s hold.

CABIN

Today I’m seated on 2A. The pitch is fairly tight on the second row. Once boarding is completed, I notice that 1D and 1F are still available. But eventually I decide that 2A isn’t that tight and I can’t be bothered to move again. I’m tired.

This morning there are five rows of Business Class and it looks as though the forward cabin is full.

CREW

The flight attendant serving Business Class is this big, friendly woman and she’s either totally cool or has nerves of steel. Because her service is friendly and unhurried. She’s doing a full tray service, serving twenty passengers individually and on her own with a flight time of only 55 minutes.

THE MEAL

The meal consists of:

Cooked ham with pickled vegetables

A selection of cheese and a chorizo soufflé

Milk rice

Strawberry tartare

Selection from the bread basket

The breakfast tray has a good size and combines a nice selection of different tastes and flavours. No sooner has the flight attendant handed the passenger behind me their tray, the captain comes on and announces the top of descent. But our flight attendant is hardly impressed and just carries on regardless. Excellent!

ARRIVAL

Being early on a Sunday morning means we’ll be making an approach for runway 34. Which is good news, because it means they’ll be bringing us in over lake Zurich and closer to the Alps, which look lovely covered in snow.

Eventually we land at 08h40. By the time we taxi to the gate it’s 08h50. And that brings to an end my Australian adventure. Tomorrow I’ll be off again, but nowhere near as nice as Australia.

CONCLUSION

All I can say is that this trip has firmly established Air France as one of my favourite airlines. The consistency of the product, the friendliness and professionalism of their staff, as well as the very high quality and quantity of the food make it a real pleasure to travel with Air France. I also think that both Air France and Roissy airport have made an impressive effort these last few years to upgrade and improve their service and the customer experience. I shall look forward to my next trip with them!

Posted in Air France, Airbus A 319, Business Class | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Air France, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: Singapore to Paris CDG

2000px-Air_France_Logo.svg

INTRODUCTION

In Singapore I’m staying at the Changi Crowne Plaza Hotel, which has direct access to Terminal 3. I spend a blissfully lazy Saturday by the pool. I mean, what else could you possibly ask for? I have a room that opens directly onto the pool, it’s warm outside and all I have to do to watch the aeroplanes taking off is to look up from my Kindle whenever I hear one thundering by.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

To get from the hotel to Terminal 1, I exit the hotel on the second floor level and do two right turns, which brings me to the Skytrain station for the short trip across to Terminal 1.

CHECK-IN

The Air France check-in counters are on the very first row of counters when you enter Terminal 1 coming from the direction of the Skytrain. You really can’t miss them.

Online check-in is available, but it is not possible to save the boarding pass to Passbook or to have it printed. Still, it makes no difference to me, seeing as I’ll be checking in a suitcase anyway. There is one counter for La Première, four for SkyPriority and two baggage drop-off counters for Economy Class passengers.

There’s a bit of a hold up checking in. I’m not sure what’s going on, but the agents are taking their sweet time processing the passengers. Although admittedly, it probably doesn’t help that there’s one woman travelling on her own with, and I kid you not, five large Rimowa suitcases, four rucksacks, two laptop bags and one handbag. When the check-in agent breaks the news to her that, surprisingly, she’s exceeded her baggage allowance, she looks totally surprised…

LOUNGE

Air France uses the DNATA lounge in Terminal 1, which is fairly big but also very busy when I arrive. There’s hardly anywhere left to sit. The lounge has a good selection of hot and hold dishes and a wide selection of drinks. Other than that, it’s not a particularly memorable lounge.

BOARDING

The flight will be departing from gate D34, and on the boarding pass it says that boarding will commence at 22h30 for the 23h10 departure. I figure 22h30 indicates the time to report at the gate for the security check. Luckily, there is a separate and much shorter queue for SkyPriority passengers. Just as I’m packing away my things, boarding for the flight starts, with an invitation for SkyPriority passengers to board first.

CABIN

On the Boeing B 777-300ER Air France has a reverse herringbone configuration, with the window seats facing towards the windows for more privacy. The seat is fully lie-flat and has more than enough storage space. USB and electricity plugs are also available. The seat is quite wide, so that when in the fully flat position, there’s still enough space to toss and turn in your sleep.

There are two Business Class cabins, one forward of the L2 door and the other aft of it. I am sitting in the forward cabin on 4A, which is the second row in the forward cabin with four rows of seats.

The cabin and seat are kept in Air France’s colours – white, red and blue – and look very attractive and fresh. When I arrive at my seat, a pillow, blanket and slippers have already been placed at my seat.

CREW

The crew on this flight are excellent. They’re quite senior and they do an outstanding job. Throughout the flight they’re checking that the snack bar is replenished and the toilets are regularly checked, kept stocked and clean.

SERVICE

Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of champagne or fruit juice on the tray, but other drinks are also available on request. After that, scented hot towels are handed out.

The flight time is announced at thirteen hours and twenty minutes.

Once we’re airborne, the crew distribute the menus and pass through the cabin with a tray offering more champagne.

THE MEAL

Originally, the plan was that I’d eat in the lounge and just go straight off to sleep once we’re airborne. Which is why I nearly overdosed on the creamy mashed potatoes they had in the lounge. That and the fact that I’m just a sucker for a good plate of mash… In any case, I make the mistake of looking at the menu and decide that it does all sound rather interesting. And I’m not really tired yet anyway, so… bugger it. I’m in! The tray arrives with the first course, the salad and the cheese already on it.

First course

Semi-cooked tuna in a black pepper crust, served on quinoa salad and poached shrimp on a citrus salad with cucumber and a yuzu vinaigrette.

This is a tasty dish and the presentation works well. It’s also properly seasoned (which is something Singapore Airlines didn’t manage quite so well…).

Salad

The salad comes with a small bottle of balsamico mixed with olive oil. It’s mostly leaves but it’s still a fairly large salad. With that the crew offer a selection of breads.

Main course

Penne with a mushroom ragout, roast tomatoes and garlic oil.

There is a choice of four different dishes for the main course. The pasta is good and has managed not to go all hard and rubbery as it sometimes tends to do on a plane. The ragout is flavourful and creamy.

Selection of cheese

Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anywhere what the cheeses are, but they’re very good!

Dessert

Chocolate praline éclair, violet mousse, yuzu meringue tart and strawberry sorbet.

For dessert there is a choice of either ice cream (banana, vanilla or strawberry sorbet) or three small pastries. I initially go for the pastries, but then the flight attendant tells me that the strawberry sorbet out of Singapore is usually rather nice too. Just in case I’m interested. Oh very well then, bring it on. Je souffre en silence…

After the meal, the crew set up a fairly substantial buffet in the galley with a good selection of some delectable French sweets by Fauchon, sandwiches, noodle soups and fruit.

And I go off to the land of nod for a solid seven hours. Incidentally, the blankets Air France provides in Business Class are lovely. They’re cosy and warm and fluffy.

AMENITIES

The amenity kit is some special edition to commemorate Air France’s 85th jubilee. It may not necessarily look like much, but at least it contains some useful items, including eye shades, ear plugs, a toothbrush and Signal toothpaste, a comb, and a pen.

SECOND SERVICE

The second service begins ninety minutes out of Paris. The lights come on and passengers are given a scented hot towel to revive.

The tray arrives with the hot meal and all the other items already on it. There are three choices for the hot meal. My meal consists of:

Fruit salad

Yoghurt

A selection of bread, croissants and pain au chocolat

Crêpes in vanilla sauce with a passion fruit and mango salsa.

The breakfast is quite substantial and the hot meal is simply divine. This is total comfort food. The vanilla cream is rich and not overly sweet and the pancakes are light and thin.

ARRIVAL

Just under forty minutes out of Paris, we start our initial descent into Paris. The captain comes on to inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing in Pairs because visibility on the ground is very bad.

We touch down, the mighty triple seven gives us one last impressive roar as the reversers open to slow us down, and then it’s done. We’ve landed and I’m back in Europe. By the time we arrive at our gate in Terminal 2E it’s already 06h10. I now have just slightly over an hour to make my connection back to Zürich from Terminal 2F.

Posted in Air France, Boeing B 777-300, Business Class | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore Airlines, First Class – Airbus A 380: Sydney to Singapore

Singapore_Airlines_Logo.svg

INTRODUCTION

I was going to start by saying that I’m on my way home. But given that I’ll only be home for something like 24 hours, let’s just say that, sadly, it’s time for me to leave Sydney and head back to Europe. I’ve enjoyed being here! Fortunately, I know I’ll be back next year and then I’ll be able to spend a bit more time here. Otherwise, I think I’d be seriously depressed at the prospect of returning to the cold, snowy weather!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

One last time, I make the journey on the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. And what a lovely day it’s turned out to be for it. At Circular Quay I change to the train, which pulls into the station just as I reach the platform. The only difference is that today I will be going one stop further, to the international terminal.

CHECK-IN

Singapore Airlines checks in on row K, which is the last row of check-in counters, farthest away from the escalators that bring you up to the departures concourse. There is a separate line with two counters for Suites passengers. When I arrive, both counters are already occupied, so I’m swiftly ushered to one of the Business Class counters instead.

From check-in, you have to make the schlepp all the way back to row C, which is where the entrance to the fast track is located. Although in this case, I might as well not have bothered, because the e-gate reader cannot read my biometric passport. As a result, I have to walk all the way back in the direction from where I came, because that’s where the staffed immigration counters are located. And then once I’m through immigration, I’m ushered all the way back again in the direction of the e-gates, because that’s where they’ve just opened a new queue for security that the queue manager wants to me to join.

With that done, I’m finally airside and head straight for the Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge near gate 61, from where my flight will be leaving. And that’s quite a schlepp too.

LOUNGE

Singapore Airlines operates its own lounges here in Sydney, and there is a dedicated First Class lounge. It’s a fairly big lounge, and I even manage to grab a seat by the windows overlooking the apron. Cool!

Once I’m seated, the waiter brings me a refreshing hot towel and the à la carte menu. There’s also a buffet with warm dishes to choose from.

The lavatories seem to be a bit of a problem at Sydney airport, in that they’re not exactly the cleanest. And those in the lounge are no different…

BOARDING

Boarding starts at 11h45. Suite passengers queue with the Business Class passengers for the upper deck.

All in all, I find the Singapore Airlines Suites experience on the ground somewhat underwhelming, especially if you compare it to Air France (sorry, I can’t help it…). In fact, it feels a lot more like Business Class than First Class, but maybe that’s just me.

CABIN

Currently, SQ 232 is the flight out of Sydney that is operates in the new First Class configuration. The key feature of the Suite is that there is a separate bed, in addition to the seat.

At a glance, the Suite looks very nice. There is a lot of storage space and the video screen is enormous. There are a few things which seem a bit strange though, such as the fake orchids in every Suite. I think either they should go for real orchids or nothing at all.

Another thing that strikes me, is that during the meal service, when the seat is turned towards the table, you’re facing the aisle, which means that during the whole meal service you and the person sitting in the Suite opposite are looking at each other. I suppose you could keep the door to your suite closed while you eat, but that just seems strange. You also can’t recline your seat when it’s in the forward facing position.

And finally, it should also be noted that the Suite is not really that private, because the dividers don’t reach that far up. I’m 184 cm tall, and could look over the top.

The Singapore Airlines Suite reminds me of what Etihad has installed on its A 380s. But I prefer Singapore Airlines’ solution, because despite the things I mentioned above, this still is a very nice product. What’s more, with all the available space it feels more like an actual room than a seat.

Oh yes, and the loos are huge…!

B&O earphones, the amenity kit and the menu are already at my seat when I arrive. There are also socks and slippers, which are stored in the large closet of each Suite. Once I’m seated, the crew come to welcome me on board and bring me, in short sequence, a glass of Perrier with lemon, a refreshing towel and the pyjamas. The lead flight attendant in the red kebaya introduces herself to me and explains how everything in the Suite works.

CREW

The crew seem friendly enough. They’re chatty and engage easily with the passengers. There’s not a hint of the robotic behaviour the Singapore Airlines crews are sometimes criticised for. I think what it is, is that the whole service comes across like a highly optimised process. As a result, it doesn’t exactly feel very exclusive.

SERVICE

As I already mentioned, while we’re still on the ground the crew offer refreshments and I ask for a glass of sparkling water with lemon.

Once we’re airborne, another crew member comes to take my order for lunch and asks me at what phase of the flight I’d like to eat. Given that it’s already gone lunch time, I tell her I’d prefer to eat straight away.

A short while later, she returns with the Singapore Sling I ordered (I mean, what else…?) and a small bowl of warm nuts.

THE MEAL

The meal service on this flight is efficient and timed at a pleasant pace. Clearly, the crew want to make sure passengers have enough time to rest. About one hour after our departure from Sydney, the table is set for the meal. There is no amuse bouche to start, but there are so many courses that it’s probably better this way.

First course: seared salmon with pickled Kohlrabi with an edamame and wasabi purée.

The salmon is good, but the rest of the dish is a bit bland. I think maybe the food is still too cold, because I can hardly make out any of the other tastes.

Soup: sweetcorn and shellfish soup with herb oil.

Now this is a very flavourful soup with a hint of saffron. It tastes like summer on the Mediterranean.

Salad: honey roasted beet salad with feta cheese.

The salad is also very good, with the feta complementing the beets nicely.

Main course: Pan roasted grouper with salsa verde.

I chose this dish despite the fact that it’s served with fennel, which I can’t stand. I just don’t much feel like meat. The taste is good, it’s a nice piece of fish and they’ve managed to keep it moist. But again, I can’t really make out the taste of the salsa verde.

Dessert: chocolate marquise with caramelised pecans.

The dessert is okay. It’s your standard creamy chocolate airplane dessert.

Selection of cheese: Shadow of blue, Maffra cloth bound cheddar, Woombye triple brie, Savourine goats cheese.

The cheese is served with fruit bread and crackers. It’s a good cheese selection and I particularly like the Shadow of blue.

To drink I stick with the Perrier. I also have a glass of the 2004 Krug.

After the meal, I request for the bed to be made up for me and then I lie down to read.

AMENITIES

The amenity kit is by Lalique and looks rather nice. The only thing though, is that its content is utterly and completely useless. There is a small bar of soap, lip balm, body lotion… and a scented candle?

Things like tooth brushes or shaving kits are available in the toilets. Earplugs and eye shades are on request to the crew.

The slippers and pyjama that are provided are also by Lalique. I am given an XL for both the slippers and the pjs, which are just a bit too big for me but still comfortable.

SECOND SERVICE

For the second service, there is a choice of either an Angus beef burger or a selection of dim sum. Seeing as I’m not much of a carnivore anyway, I decide to go with the dim sum. The dish is served with a small bowl of a suitably spicy red sauce and something which I think the flight attendant said was a sort of mashed celery cake. Whatever it is, I like it.

ARRIVAL

After a flight time of seven hours and twenty minutes the flight draws to an end. I must admit, even though I still think the A 380 is ugly as sin, it’s always an experience.

After we land, we slowly trundle along until eventually we arrive on our parking stand at Changi’s Terminal 3.

CONCLUSION

In the sum of all things, I enjoyed the flight. But I think a lot of that also has to do with the A 380. As for Singapore Airlines, I like the new First Class cabin because it’s spacious and roomy, although perhaps not very private. The service was okay, I guess, but nothing more. And the food was rather bland.

Posted in Airbus A 380, First Class, Singapore Airlines | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Qantas, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Townsville to Sydney via Brisbane

INTRODUCTION

My time with Professor Bond is a real eye-opener. I think I was able to ask him all the questions for which I was seeking answers. Having said that, he also gave me a lot of answers to questions I wasn’t even aware I had!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

The journey to the airport takes about ten minutes by car. After all, it’s still very early and there are hardly any people on the roads.

CHECK-IN

The landside part of the terminal is disproportionately large, compared to the somewhat tight and narrow airside area at the gates.

Each one of the major airlines operating out of Townsville has its own dedicated check-in zone. I can bypass this today, because I’ve already checked in on the QANTAS app.

There is a queue for security, but it moves quickly. Of course it helps that in Australia they only want you to remove your laptop from your bag and not also your toiletries etc.

LOUNGE

Once I’m through security, I only have ten minutes before boarding starts. But I’m gagging for a coffee. Much to my surprise and delight, there is actually a fairly large QANTAS lounge, where the baristas will even make you a cappuccino to go!

BOARDING

So with my coffee in hand, boarding starts on time with an initial call for Business Class and frequent flyers passengers. It’s only once I settle in my seat that I realise it’s raining quite heavily outside.

CABIN

QANTAS has a dedicated Business Class cabin on its Boeing B 737-800 fleet. There are three rows of seats in a 2 + 2 configuration, which makes for a total of twelve seats.

Every seat is equipped with its own video screen, an electricity plug and USB port. There is also a footrest that can be raised when the seat is in the recline position.

The wifi on board works surprisingly well.

I think the Americans in particular tend to frown upon the European interpretation of Business Class seating, which basically means blocking the middle seat on a row of bog standard Economy Class seats. Which is, admittedly, pretty lame. But it seems to me that the average sector length in Europe is probably much shorter than in vast countries like the US or Australia, and which therefore hardly warrants the installation of a more comfortable solution with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat.

CREW

The maître de is serving the Business Class cabin and I have to say, this guy is really absolutely brilliant. His manners are impeccable! He addresses every passenger by name and no request ever seems too much for him.

SERVICE

The service on the ground consist of a welcome drink. There is a choice of still or sparkling water or apple juice. There are no towels, newspapers or anything.

The flight time is announced at one hour and thirty minutes.

THE MEAL

Once we’re airborne, the meal service begins. There is a choice of either Quiche Lorraine with bacon or an omelette served with a mushroom sauce, spinach and bacon. I go with the latter option.

The tray comes with two slices of sourdough bread, butter and apricot jam. There’s also some awfully healthy looking packed thingy, which I decide to steer clear of.

Later on, the maître de passes through the cabin offering cranberry muffins that are fresh out of the oven and taste lovely.

To drink with the meal, I have an orange juice, still water and a coffee. Oh yes, the coffee! Full and extra brownie points for QANTAS on the coffee front. Instead of that horrific instant stuff you get on most airlines these days, QANTAS serves a lovely brew made in a coffee press, which just tastes so much better!

Once the tray is removed, the crew pass through the cabin with small bottles of still water and ask passengers if there’s anything else they’d like. I order a Coke Zero and then settle in to read the latest book of the PC Grant series, which my friend the wiry R. and I both find quite entertaining.

Transfer in Brisbane

We land in Brisbane about ten minutes ahead of schedule. I disembark the aircraft through gate number 23. I check on one of the FIDS, only to find that my flight to Sydney in slightly over an hour will be operated by the same aircraft from the same gate.

The glorious beauty of the English language…

Language change is unavoidable. One of the key drivers of language change is exposure of the language as it is used in a specific area to the other languages in use around it. In which case there may be regional approximation of two or more languages coexisting in that region.

Why am I even bothering you with this? In British English a thong refers to a particular type of knickers or underpants. If you look up the term on onelook.com, it will give you as a definition: ‘a piece of underwear or bottom part of a bikini with a very narrow piece of cloth at the back’. So basically, it’s the type of underpants that look as though they need to be surgically removed from your butt crack.

Which makes it all the more hilarious that when I enter the QANTAS lounge during my layover in Brisbane, the lounge dragon will not let me enter because they have ‘a strict no thongs policy’ in the lounge that she’s asking me to respect. Of course, what she’s referring are what we call flip flops in Europe that you wear on your feet.

THE MEAL

In any case, the only other thing worthwhile mentioning on the next leg to Sydney is that there are three options for lunch: a kale and spinach frittata, fruit salad or a smoked salmon salad. The tray comes with a large tub of blueberry yoghurt on it. The bread is served separately.

ARRIVAL

Our arrival into Sydney is stunning. We approach the city from the north. At some point, we make a gentle left turn for the downwind, which brings us in right over Manly. In the distance I can see the harbour bridge with the opera house and CBD. It just looks so spectacular from above! I shall miss this when I leave again for Europe tomorrow.

CONCLUSION

I rather enjoyed these two short-haul flights in QANTAS Business Class. My previous experiences with their Business Class product have all been on longer sectors, on which the meal concept was somehow always a bit odd. So it’s good to see that this is not the case here.

To me QANTAS’ biggest selling point are definitely their crews, which are friendly, properly trained and really do represent ‘the spirit of Australia’.

Posted in Boeing B 737-800, Business Class, Qantas | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Jetstar, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Sydney to Townsville

INTRODUCTION

In language testing, the Rasch model is used in psychometric measurement to determine the probability with which a minimally competent test taker will be able to provide a specific response to a particular test item correctly. This probability is interpreted as a function of the test taker’s actual language ability on the one hand, and the true level of difficulty of the item that the test taker is being submitted to and for which they must provide a response on the other hand.

As it happens, one of the leading experts on Rasch modelling is Professor Trevor Bond. Very kindly, Professor Bond has accepted for me to visit him in Townsville, QLD to pick his brain, and so that’s where I’m heading today. 

Currently, the only direct service between Sydney and Townsville is with Jetstar, QANTAS’ low-cost subsidiary. All other connections require a change of aircraft in either Cairns or Brisbane.

The booking process on the Jetstar website is tedious, especially if you’re using Firefox. In which case, you’re likely not going to be able to complete the booking. Safari works reasonably well though.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

To get to the airport, I make the same journey I did on Monday, when I flew to Melbourne. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Because the journey by ferry from Manly to Sydney is just so beautiful and tranquil.

CHECK-IN

Jetstar has an app, but obviously it’s not foreseen that people from outside Australia and a few Asian countries might also fly Jetstar. Which is why the app is not available for me to download onto my Swiss mobile.

You will receive a link to the web check-in page with the e-ticket confirmation you receive by mail and then one day before departure by SMS. But you will still have to print the boarding pass at home or at one of the self-service devices at the airport.

Jetstar operates out of domestic Terminal 2, along with all other domestic carriers except QANTAS.

AIRSIDE

My flight will be departing from gate 53, which is both good and bad. It’s good, because from gate 53 you have an unobstructed view of the aircraft on the approach. It’s bad, because really I should be reading up on objective standard setting in Professor Bond’s book without distraction, to brush up a little before I meet him. But it’s like a compulsion, every time I see movement from the corner of my eye, I have to stop and look up to check what airline/type it is…

BOARDING

Boarding starts with a minor delay. As I pass the gate, the attendant checking my boarding pass asks me if I’m aware of the fact that I’m sitting on the emergency exit. I tell her I am, but her next question catches me slightly off guard, because she asks me when was the last time I flew and sat on the emergency exit? I do a quick think and tell her that must have been two days previously. And for some reason that catches her off guard. Eventually though, she smiles and wishes me a pleasant flight.

CABIN

The cabin looks well-kept and clean. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, probably not, but the orange colour in the Jetstar logo, which also features in the cabin, seriously reminds me of easyJet. But maybe that just lies in the nature of the beast.

The seat is comfortable enough for a flight of more than two hours and the seat pitch on the emergency exit it good.

There are no video screens or electricity/USB plugs available for passengers on board this aircraft.

CREW

There are five cabin crew on this flight. The young man standing by the emergency exits is kind of strange, because he looks preoccupied and rather unhappy. But I think it must be just his normal face, because he’s actually rather friendly and accommodating once the flight gets underway.

THE MEAL

The Jetstar website allows you to purchase a whole list of ancillary services, including seat reservations, ‘comfort kits’, and food. I order the sandwich trio online, which comes with a hot drink included.

The sandwich is good. It’s probably one of the better sandwiches I’ve had on a low-cost carrier, actually.

ARRIVAL

The flight to Townsville takes two hours and fifteen minutes. The landscape on the approach is fascinating. It’s quite hilly and very green.

The airport sprawls over a vast area, mainly because it is a mixed military and civilian facility. The actual passenger terminal is rather small, with only a handful of gates and no segregation of arriving and departing passengers, which gets a bit tight during deplaning on a short turn around…

It takes me all of three minutes from stepping off the plane to arriving curb side, where I’ve arranged to meet Professor Bond.

CONCLUSION

There really isn’t very much I can say about Jetstar. They delivered me to Townsville safely. Other than that, the flight was unremarkable and calm. Pretty much like taking the bus actually.

Posted in Airbus A 320, Economy Class, Jetstar | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Qantas, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Melbourne to Sydney

INTRODUCTION

The meeting with the people at the language testing research centre is interesting and I feel quite excited about visiting again, even if that won’t be until next year. At least this will give me something to look forward to.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

The meeting ends just after 15h, which should give me enough time to leisurely make my way back to the airport for the return flight to Sydney. From the University of Melbourne, I first take a tram 19 back to Bourke Street and then from there a tram 86 or 96 to Southern Cross. The tram stop is right across the road from the entrance to the coach terminal at Southern Cross station.

CHECK-IN

There are four terminals at Melbourne airport that are connected to each other. QANTAS domestic flights operate out of Terminal 1, which is the last one of the two stops of the Skybus, although the distance is short and you might as well get off at the first stop and then just walk over to Terminal 1.

I’ve already checked in, which is a shame really, because QANTAS’ check-in and the whole departure area look very fresh and modern. Seems as though they’re trying to keep up with Virgin Australia in projecting the image of being hip and classy.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

Right behind security, there is the food court and the entrance to the QANTAS lounge to the right of that. I haven’t had lunch yet, so I figure I might as well treat myself to a snack while I enjoy the excellent views of the apron.

In hindsight, I have to say it was totally worth it for the view, but the egg and lettuce sandwich I got at one of the shops is just… meh!

BOARDING

Boarding is from gate 1 on the C pier, which is the gate closest to security and which, I guess, is why it is probably reserved for the Sydney flight. Both Virgin Australia and QANTAS operate a shuttle service between the two cities.

What I always find interesting with QANTAS, is that the cabin crew are also the ones who do the boarding at the gate. Because this is something that, to my knowledge, is not done in Europe even though, come to think of it, it’s not a bad idea.

CABIN

The seats are kept all in black, which certainly makes for a gloomy but elegant looking cabin. I guess it probably also saves on cleaning. In contrast to Virgin Australia, QANTAS has individual video screens installed in every seat back and there are also USB plugs. Complimentary earphones are available as you pass through the gate for boarding, and should you forget to pick up a pair, the crew will come by offering earphones just before push-back.

CREW

The crew is clearly what tips the scale in favour of QANTAS, as far as I’m concerned. First of all, they’re all older than the ones on Virgin. Perhaps that’s why they come across as having a lot more personality. Furthermore, the way they interact with the passengers is just a lot more professional. For example, on this QANTAS flight the cabin crew giving the safety briefing for the emergency exit row makes a point of giving a very detailed explanation and making sure that everyone seated on the exit rows feels that they are being addressed. In contrast, the crew on Virgin did the same briefing in about half the time and with a total lack of enthusiasm.

THE MEAL

Once we’re airborne, the smell of hot food starts wafting through the cabin and I kind of assume it’s for the Business Class section. Much to my surprise though, despite the flying time of only one hour and five minutes, QANTAS will actually serve a hot meal in Economy Class too. In fact, there appears to be a choice between either minced pork in gravy with pak choy and jasmine rice or a cold salad of grilled chicken breast on quinoa salad.

ARRIVAL

About 25 minutes out of Sydney, the pilot eases back the throttle and we start our descent. The approach into Sydney brings us in over the sea and it’s quite spectacular flying along the coast with the sun setting in the distance.

We touch down at 19h22. I then make my way back to the train station and then from there to Circular Quay. I arrive at the wharf at 20h02 and it looks like I’ve just missed the regular ferry back to Manly. The next one is not until 20h45. Fortunately, there is also the express ferry, which costs slightly more but only takes 18 minutes to make the journey. And as my luck would have it, that boat will be leaving at 20h15. A single ticket for the express boat will cost you AUD9.80.

CONCLUSION

QANTAS wins this round hands down. While the cabin and branding of Virgin Australia are all modern and glitzy, you somehow can’t shake the feeling that they’re trying just a bit too hard to be different. Which is okay, as long as you don’t forget that what makes the passenger’s experience is not only the hard product but also the soft product. And that’s where I think QANTAS has the advantage. First of all, as I already mentioned above, the crew came across as being a lot more polished, professional and experienced. In addition to that, the meal service on QANTAS is definitely way superior to that horrific portein bar served on Virgin Australia.

Posted in Boeing B 737-800, Economy Class, Qantas | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Virgin Australia, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Sydney to Melbourne

INTRODUCTION

Next year I’ll be going on sabbatical for six months. Right now, the plan is that I will spend at least part of those six months working and living in Melbourne – if they’ll have me, of course. So today I’m on my way to Melbourne to introduce myself to the people at the language testing research centre of Melbourne University.  

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

This has got to be just about the coolest commute to an airport ever! My day starts at 06h00 in the morning, when I leave the house I’ve rented in Fairlight and make my way down to Manly wharf for the 06h35 fast ferry to Circular Quay. The journey into Sydney takes roughly thirty minutes to complete and includes some of the most beautiful and spectacular vistas of the Opera House and Hanger Bridge.

At Circular Quay, I transfer to the railway station for the suburban trains to Sydney airport. The station is just opposite the wharf at Circular Quay and the journey to the domestic terminal at Sydney airport takes just over fifteen minutes. The trains run to the airport run frequently.

CHECK-IN

I alight at the station for the domestic terminal, which is one stop before the international terminal. There are two domestic terminals. Terminal 3 is for QANTAS, while Terminal 2 is for everybody else. I’ve already checked-in online using the Virgin Australia app, which is a good thing, because the Virgin Australia counters look very busy.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

And so I head directly for the security checkpoint. Access to the Virgin Australia lounge is on the right side, just as you exit from security. I’m not entirely sure to beginn with, but upon inquiry with the very friendly and helpful receptionist in the lounge, it would appear that as an Etihad Gold member I’m entitled to use the Virgin Australia lounge, despite the fact that I’m travelling on an Economy Class ticket.

But it turns out that a) the lounge is way too busy anyway, and b) the views outside the lounge are much better, with the sitting area of the food court located right by the windows overlooking the domestic apron.

BOARDING

Boarding starts exactly on time, thirty minutes before departure. There is a separate lane for Business Class and priority passengers. If this were Europe, the moment the gate agent announced that boarding had started, there’d be a scrum to get on the plane. But here in Australia, passengers obviously have much better manners and just wait until their group for boarding is called.

CABIN

The cabin of this aircraft is nice. It looks and smells new and with the grey seats it looks rather elegant. The aircraft also has those new style overhead bins that drop down, instead of the old-school bins you still find on many narrow-bodies, where the lid opens upwards.

There are non power sockets and no inflight entertainmennt screens either.

Seat pitch on the emergency exit is good. In addition, the flight is not completely full, which means that by the time boarding is completed, the middle seat next to me remains empty.

And then we have a problem. The captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that Melbourne tower has had to be evacuated and it is unclear if they will be receiving traffic any time soon. Eventually though, we push back with a delay of one hour. The flight time is announced as one hour and five minutes.

CREW

The crew on this flight consists of five attractive, slightly oriental looking young females. Whoever selects the female crew for Virgin clearly has a type, because they all look the same and they’re all wearing way too much make-up. Other than that, they seem okay, if not exactly very warm.

SERVICE

In Economy Class, Virgin has a strange mixed service concept, the merit of which escapes me. Tea, still water and a protein bar are complimentary. In addition to that, there are various items to eat and drink which can be purchased on board. Payment is possible in cash or by credit card.

I order a Coke Zero to drink, which costs AUD3. The protein bar is a total abomination. It’s disgusting, which makes you wonder why on earth they even bother in the first place? Having said that, the bulging biceps on 13C seems only too eager to demolish his bar. Wouldn’t want to start losing muscle mass would we…?

ARRIVAL

Eventually, we land in Melbourne at 11h35, only slightly behind schedule. I step outside and catch the Skybus heading for the city centre to Southern Cross station. The journey to the city takes about thirty minutes, and a return tickets costs AUD38.

CONCLUSION

This was my first time in Economy Class with Virgin Australia. While I like their branding and the design of their cabin, overall I thought they were a bit of a let down on this flight. Admittedly, the cockpit crew was proactive in keeping passengers updated about the situation in Melbourne, but perhaps that’s just it: I somehow got the impression that the cockpit crew seemed far more service oriented than the cabin crew, which somehow can’t be right.

Posted in Boeing B 737-800, Economy Class, Virgin Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

China Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 350-900: Taipei to Sydney

China Airlines logo 2011
map.gif

TRANSFER IN TPE

My flight to Sydney will be departing from the D concourse, which is either new or newly renovated, because it doesn’t look quite as drab as the arrivals concourse my flight from Singapore ended at. Taipei has two Terminals and technically, the D concourse belongs to Terminal 2, which is not the China Airlines terminal. There is a China Airlines lounge on the D concourse, but from what I understand, their main lounge is over in Terminal 1. But that seems like just too much of a schlepp right now.

If you’re transferring between international flights in Taipei, you will not need to go through either immigration or customs, but you will have to undergo security screening.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

The entrance to the lounge is right opposite from gate D4, which rather conveniently happens to be the departure gate for my flight to Sydney.

The lounge looks new and well maintained. Like the rest of the D concourse, it’s basically one long and narrow room. It has all the basic facilities, including computer work stations, toilets, showers and a dining area with a noodle bar. The lounge is located in the basement, so there are no windows.

It’s not a bad place to wait for your connecting flight. But my layover is nearly five hours and for that both the terminal and the lounge are not really very pleasant.

BOARDING

Boarding starts with a slight delay due to ‘ground operation’ issues – whatever that means. Never mind, it’s only a minor delay and all I plan to do on the flight is sleep. There is a separate air bridge to the L1 door for Business Class passengers. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN

China Airlines has a herring bone seating configuration on its A 350-900, which provides direct aisle access for every passenger and a lot of privacy. On China Airlines, the seats are staggered, so that once you’re seated, you can’t actually see your neighbour on the other side of the aisle unless you lean forward.

The colours China Airlines has gone with in the cabin are very dark. And admittedly, that does make the cabin look elegant and stylish. But with the dimmed lighting during boarding for one, and the fact that I have seriously deteriorating eye sight for another, the upshot is that it’s rather difficult for me to actually see anything much as I stow away my things and settle in for the flight. It also strikes me that the colours they’ve gone with for the carpets, upholstery and the shell of the seat do not reflect the livery or the logo of the airline.

Storage space on the seat is somewhat limited though. There is a small compartment in the armrest adjacent to the aisle, but that already contains the amenity kit and a bottle of still water. Then there are two small compartments by the window for storage, but one of these contains the slippers and the earphones. And then there’s another compartment by the side of the seat, but this is not very large either and couldn’t hold more than a kindle, and certainly not a laptop.

But there is more than ample storage space in the overhead bins, even if there are only bins on the sides of the cabin but not in the middle.

CREW

The crew on this flight is much better than the previous one. They’re welcoming and go out of their way to make sure passengers are comfortable. They also make a point, I think, of interacting with the passengers and chatting with them about little things. And it seems quite natural.

SERVICE

While we’re still on the ground, a welcome drink with a packet of nibbles is served. To drink, there is a choice of still water, orange juice, champagne and smoked plum juice. Of course, it goes without saying that I try the plum juice, because it sounds interesting.

Having tried it, I’m guessing it’s probably an acquired taste. More than anything, it’s just very sweet.

While we’re still on the ground, I quickly nip into the loo and change into my shorts to be ready to sleep once we’re airborne.

THE MEAL

The flight’s scheduled departure time is 23h55 and the flight time is announced at eight hours and forty minutes. Even at this time of night, the crew are planning on doing a full meal service after take-off and a breakfast service later on. But I tell one of the flight attendants that I will not be having anything, despite having pre-ordered my dinner, and will be going straight to sleep. And indeed, the last thing I remember is the crew handing out the wine list. And then I’m off to the land of nod for nearly seven hours.

When I awaken, I’m feeling rather hungry. The maître de spots me and says ‘oh, you finally woke up’ with a laugh. She also asks me if she can bring me something to eat ahead of the breakfast service. I may perhaps agree to that a little over eagerly, because she laughs again and a short while later returns with plate of fruit, cheese and crackers.

About thirty minutes later, the cabin gradually starts to dawn and the crew start preparing the cabin for the breakfast service. The breakfast is served on one tray. It includes:

A croissant with butter

There are no refills though, and no jam either.

Müsli

A small ramekin of müsli with fruit and nuts.

Fruit

A bowl of fruit salad.

Hot breakfast

A hot dish with frittata, tomato, bacon and polenta.

The meal is tasty and hits the spot nicely. It’s quite a large meal for a second service, especially considering that the flight is not that long.

AMENITIES

The vanity kit comes in a nice hard shell case I may actually be able to use. What’s more, this one also includes a small bottle of Moroccan mint oil, which I can use to keep my beard from drying out the skin on my face. And there’s also an A 350 Sticker! So full brownie points to China Airlines for that!

The slippers are of the same fluffy variety as those on the previous flight. Other than that, China Airlines does not provide pyjamas or bedding for the seat. 

ARRIVAL

Much to my surprise, the weather’s really shitty in Sydney. It’s overcast with a chance of rain and visibility is limited. I know for a fact that we flew past the Sydney CBD with the opera house and the bridge on the approach, but I very much doubt the passengers on the port side were able to see anything much.

We come to a stop on the last stand on our pier and from there it’s a long schlepp to immigration and customs. China Airlines provides its passengers in Business Class with express immigration vouchers, which give passengers access to the fast track. However, if you have a biometric passport, you probably needn’t bother, as the e-gates are much faster and more efficient than the fast track.

I’m taking public transport into town. I exit through customs and do a sharp right turn. Then I continue to the end of the arrivals concourse where the entrance to the railway station is marked out. To purchase your ticket, you can either queue at the counter or at a vending machine, or you can just badge in and out with your credit card.

The T8 line will take you right into the heart of Sydney, with stops at the central railway station and Circular Quay. I’m staying in Darling Harbour tonight. Normally, I think I’d probably take the train to Town Hall and then walk to Darling Harbour from there. But with the rain, I decide to get off at Central Station and then take the 501 bus instead, which more or less drops me off right in front of my hotel.

CONCLUSION

I rather enjoyed my China Airline experience. I think their product is solid and makes for a pleasurable journey. The crews were good and especially the crew on this second flight were very pleasant. Of course, it also helps that the A 350 is a pretty mean machine. It’s quiet in the cabin and the interior design of China Airlines’ aircraft is very glitzy – even if the seat could do with a bit more storage space. As I already mentioned above though, next time I transfer through Taipei I think I would try to get a shorter connection, because the airport really isn’t very pleasant for a longer layover.

Posted in Airbus A 350, Business Class, China Airlines | 3 Comments

China Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Singapore to Taipei

China Airlines logo 2011
map

INTRODUCTION

I spend 22 hours in Singapore, which just gives me enough time to have a rest, get some food and have a shower. And now I’m off again. This is one of those slight detours I mentioned previously… The reason why I’m taking it, or rather, one of the reasons I’m taking it, is that I’ve been wanting to try China Airlines for some time now and it’s also been a while since I logged a new airline. As I write that, I can literally just see my friend, the wiry R. doing an exaggerated eye roll.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

In Singapore, I’m staying at the Sofitel City Centre, which is on the MRT line that goes to Changi. It’s twelve stops from the hotel to where the line branches off for the airport. The journey from the Sofitel to the airport takes me close to an hour to complete.

My first stop of course, is at the MRT service desk, where I return my travel card and have the depot refunded in cash.

CHECK-IN

China Airlines checks in at Terminal 3 in Changi and their counters are located on row 11, right in front of the escalators that bring you up to the departures hall from the station.

I’ve already checked in online, but seeing as I’ll still have to go to a counter to pick up my boarding passes, I figure I might as well drop off my carry-on suitcase so at least I won’t be carting that around with me.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

China Airlines is one of only four carriers to use the DNATA lounge in Terminal 3. In all honesty, it’s not a very pleasant place. That last time I visited was with the tall, blond M. and it hasn’t improved much since. It’s also very hot inside. So I leave the lounge after only spending about ten minutes there and head one floor down to the food court for a bowl of noodles.

The views downstairs are much better too, as the windows in the lounge are covered in dots. What kind of cruel soul does that…?

BOARDING

The flight is late arriving from Taipei, which is why boarding is delayed by about thirty minutes. In Singapore, the security check takes place at the gate. In other words, there is no centralised security checkpoint. This can be a bit of a nuisance at times, but seeing as the flight is delayed, most passengers are already in the holding area by the time I reach the gate.

Oh yes, and there are no loos in the holding area. So think twice before you enter… The first boarding call is for passengers in Business Class and passengers with children and other disabilities. There’s a separate air bridge for Business Class passengers leading to the L1 door. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN

As it happens, I’m the first to enter the aircraft, so I take the opportunity to take a few photos before the masses arrive. Initially, I’m on 1A and there’s another person sitting on 1B. But the seat pair on the other side of the aircraft is still empty, so once we’re airborne, I pack up my things and shift to seat 1K, which is also a window seat but has nobody sitting on the aisle seat. So now I can really spread out!

The Airbus A 330 is one of my favourite aircraft, because I think it’s just so elegant to look at. This example though, is clearly starting to show its age on the inside. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration and the inflight entertainment system seems almost prehistoric! The flight time is announced as four hours and ten minutes, so I think I’ll live…

There is one feature of the seat that’s quite irritating: the position of the armrest between the two seats is awkward. On the one hand, it’s uncomfortable to rest your arm on it. But also, more than once I accidentally hit one of the buttons to extend the seat into a bed or raise the footrest inadvertently.

CREW

There isn’t really very much I can say about the crew. Their English language skills appear to be much better than those of crews working for the airlines of mainland China. But other than that, interaction with the crew is limited.

SERVICE

The service begins on the ground with a welcome drink, served with a packet of nuts and Japanese crackers. To drink there is a choice of champagne, water or orange juice. Once that has been cleared away, the crew distribute cold, scented towels.

After take-off, thick slippers and the menus are distributed for those passengers who haven’t already ordered their food. I should perhaps explain that the China Airlines app is really good and allows you to pre-order the meals for all your flights, even if you do not have any special dietary requirements.

THE MEAL

As I already mentioned, the flight time is just slightly more than four hours. This means that in Business Class the first service consists of a drink and three small canapés. The main meal is served about ninety minutes out of Taipei.

The canapés are: duck, crab meat with apricot and bell pepper with tomato pesto.

Exactly two hours out of Taipei, the lights in the cabin are turned on to bright again and the smell of hot food comes wafting through the cabin.

The meal consists of:

Starter

Prawns with a ginger and mango salsa and salmon with crème fraiche and capers.

Main course

Herb crusted fillet of beef in a red wine sauce with mashed potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin.

Dessert

Bowl of fruit and a choice of either ice cream or a coffee and chocolate mousse cake.

I’m not really sure what exactly I was expecting from the meal service on China Airlines, but this is actually very tasty and much better than what I was expecting. The salmon and the prawns are not at all fishy, the beef is perfectly cooked for my taste and tender, and the mashed potato is divine and so creamy!

ARRIVAL

I finish the meal with another cup of black tea from the Sun Moon lake region of Taiwan and then close my eyes until it’s time to land.

Eventually, we arrive in Taipei at 18h50, with a delay of only five minutes. The last time I was in Taipei was exactly 11 years ago. Alas, the airport hasn’t really changed much during that time. It’s still an odd layout, old and gloomy and seriously unattractive. I now have nearly five hours to make my connecting flight.

Posted in Airbus A 330-300, Business Class, China Airlines | 2 Comments

Air France, La Première – Boeing B 777-300ER: Paris CDG to Singapore

Date: January 2019
Origin: Paris Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2E
Destination: Singapore Changi, Terminal 1
Seat: 1A – window on the port side
Flight time: 12 hours 10 minutes

TRANSFER IN CDG 2

The driver takes me to Terminal 2E, which is where the First Class lounge is located. He explains that afterwards, he’ll also be escorting me to the aircraft when the time comes.

Along the way, the driver chats pleasantly about this and that. Funnily enough, his curiosity gets the better of him and he cannot help but ask how my experience so far compares to the First Class product of other carriers.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

Once we arrive at the terminal, he takes my passport and boarding pass and tells me he’ll return them once the police have checked them. After that, he leads me upstairs and gives me a brief explanation of where everything is in the lounge.

There are a few passengers in the lounge, but I would not go so far as to say it’s crowded. Quite the contrary. The lounge is large and the way it is laid out, there is plenty of room for passengers to disperse.

The lounge is well equipped with everything the travel-weary passenger may seek or desire to relax and revive from the labours of modern air travel. There are large showers with toiletries, a dedicated dining area, a relaxation area and a small spa.

But apart from all that, the lounge is very elegantly appointed and both the facility and the staff have a lot of style about them. The lounge is not flashy, but it’s definitely comfortable.

BOARDING

Around forty minutes before departure, my driver comes to pick me up and drive me to the waiting aircraft. Theoretically, I could have walked. But to be honest, I figured that if we took the car, that might give me a better chance of taking a picture of the aircraft carrying me to Singapore tonight.

CABIN

As I step aboard the plane, the driver welcomes me aboard and introduces me to the First Class flight attendant, who is already expecting me. The driver then bids me good bye and wishes me a pleasant journey.

I then make the right turn into the cabin and I’m really speechless. Of course, I’d already seen pictures of the new First Class cabin, but seeing it for real is something else. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the design of Air France’s First Class cabin, both in terms of the comfort and functionality of the seat, but also with regard to branding.

The little seahorse, Air France’s trademark, is omnipresent in the cabin. You will find it on the lamp, pillows, pyjamas, slippers, etc.

But I think what surprises me the most, is the mint condition of the cabin. Either this is a fairly new aircraft, or Air France just takes excellent care of its fleet.

In the take-off and landing position, the seat doesn’t offer much privacy. However, there is a screen that can be raised around the back and side of the seat. In addition, there are curtains that can be drawn and which provide a lot of privacy and darkness.

The seat has an ottoman, which could also be used for a second passenger to join for the meal, for example. Below the ottoman is enough storage space for a large laptop bag, the slippers and a blanket.

In the sum of all thing, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience the First Class product of quite a few of the world’s leading airlines. But the Air France hardware is definitely my new favourite.

CREW

The First Class cabin is served by a very charming and very professional middle-aged lady. I really cannot express how good she is at her job. I know it probably sounds like a horrible stereotype to say this, but she’s just so very French in the best possible way. Her manners are impeccable and her attention to detail is flawless. For example, it strikes me during the meal service that whenever she brings a new dish, she always makes sure the seahorse logo on the crockery is the right way up. I know this may sound like a small and unimportant thing, but I still think it’s a nice feature that enhances the First Class experience.

SERVICE

While we’re still on the ground, the crew bring me my pyjamas and a vanity kit and check to make sure I’m comfortably settled in my seat for the next twelve hours. With that out of the way, I am offered and subsequently brought a glass of the Krug Champagne and a small ramekin of mixed nuts and dried fruit. The menus are not handed out until after take-off.

AMENITIES

The amenity kit contains the usual collection of mostly useless items. There is no toothbrush or toothpaste in the kit, but these are available in the lavatory, where there is also mouthwash.

The pyjamas come in a nice felt folder. They have a nice, comfortable cut. The cabin crew will ask you what size you would prefer. I’m 184 cm tall and the size L fits me perfectly.

Slippers are also provided and can be found in the drawer underneath the ottoman.

THE MEAL

The meal service is definitely one of the highlights of the Air France First Class experience. The table is set up nicely, with a choice of either balsamic olive oil or tomato infused olive oil and a choice of both salted and unsalted butter. Throughout the meal, the crew replenish the bread and drinks. For each dish, a new set of cutlery is provided.

And I must say, in terms of the quantity and quality of the food, it’s excellent:

Amuse bouche

Caviar with a crêpe and sturgeon cream.

Soup

Cream of chicory soup.

Mixed salad

Made to order – it contains chicory, mushrooms, smoked haddock and beets.

First course

Pan-fried scallops with potato rose and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Main course

Chicken breast glazed in a rare pepper and citrus honey, with caramelised pineapple and mango and vegetable sticks.

Selection of gourmet cheese

Beaufort, Pérail and Langres.

Dessert

Blueberry tarte by Lenôtre, served with two scoops of gingerbread sorbet.

Drinks

I stick to Perrier with the meal, and for dessert I have a mint tea, which is served with a box Michel Cluizel chocolates.

The meal is excellent, and with every new dish that she brings out, the flight attendant makes a point of explaining to me what I’m eating and what the dish includes. By the time the service finishes, I’m totally full and completely and utterly impressed. I think, if I compare this service to the Garuda First Class experience for example, the Air France service just seems a lot more polished. Furthermore, because all the dishes have a very European or French touch, the crew just come across as being very authentic in their explanations of what the food is.

SECOND SERVICE

I actually manage to get about five hours of sleep. When I wake up, we’re still about three hours out of Singapore. As soon as the flight attendant notices I’m awake, she comes to ask me if there’s anything I need. So I request a cup of coffee and ask her to remove the bedclothes while I change back into my clothes.

About two hours out of Singapore, I decide it’s time for breakfast, which the flight attendant thinks is a brilliant idea.

The breakfast is quite extensive, and all the dishes are brought more or less at once, instead of having them served as different courses. My breakfast consists of

Coffee and orange juice

Fruit

A small bowl of grapefruit and orange.

Yoghurt

Served with granola.

A selection of pastries and bread

I have a small bun and a brioche, served with butter and jam.

Choice of hot dish

I go with the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and a mushroom sauce.

Everything tastes excellent and the presentation of the hot meal, which is served with the lid still on the dish, is just so elegant.

Once the meal is over, the flight attendant clears my table and we have a nice little chat about flying and travelling until it’s time for her to start preparing the First Class cabin for landing.

ARRIVAL

We land at 16h30 local time, five minutes ahead of schedule. It’s either just been raining or it’s just really very humid outside because the ground is wet.

Air France serves Terminal 1 at Singapore Changi airport. The doors open, and there’s already a young lady expecting me to guide me through immigration. The flight attendant bids me good bye and hands me over to the ground crew. And with that, my La Première experience comes to an end.

EPILOGUE

To get into town, I will be taking the MRT. The MRT departs from Terminal 2, so I first need to take the Skytrain from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. The Skytrain is a complimentary service.

Purchasing a ticket for the MRT is not as straightforward as one might assume in Singapore. A single ticket into town will cost you SGD2.80. However, you can only purchase a single ticket if you buy it at the machine and only if you pay in cash. If you’re not paying in cash, you need to go to the counter, but there you can’t only purchase a single ticket. So instead, I buy a two-days card for SGD10 plus SGD16. The SGD10 are a deposit that is refunded when you bring the card back…

Only the green line runs into town from the airport. At the second stop, which is Tanah Merah, passengers alight and connect to another green line train heading into the city from the opposite platform.

CONCLUSION

This experience with Air France’s La Première has impressed me. First of all, I think the overall quality of the product is very high and also very consistent. From the car they sent to pick me up in Winterthur, to the very elegant experience in the lounge in Paris and the beautifully appointed cabin and amenities aboard the aircraft, clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design of the product. Not only of the cabin and seat, but also of the ancillary products.

I think Air France’s interpretation of the First Class seat with the curtain is brilliant – because it offers a level of privacy that most other carriers simply cannot match. Even with Garuda for example, where you have a fully enclosed suite, you are not completely concealed from view because the doors of the suite do not reach all the way to the ceiling.

I also just love the branding of the First Class product with the little seahorse, which is omnipresent in the lounge and in the cabin and promotes this sense of consistency of the experience and in the product.

And finally, there is the professionalism of the staff, who have all clearly been trained well for their roles working with the First Class product. The maître de on the flight from Zürich to Paris went out of her way to provide as much of a First Class experience, even on a short sector of 50 minutes. Then the driver, who managed to make pleasant conversation but without being either tedious or prying and who had excellent manners.

And finally, last but certainly not least, there is the fabulous, splendid and simply formidable flight attendant working the First Class cabin. I think she did a really outstanding job. I know I already mentioned this above, but her attention to detail and the fact that she made sure the seahorse logo was always the right way up says everything about her work ethics and the service standard she delivered.

It’s difficult to say from memory which First Class product I’ve enjoyed the most over the years. One thing’s for sure though, of the four European carriers that still offer a First Class product, to my mind Air France’s is definitely the best one.

Posted in Air France, Boeing B 777-300, First Class | 2 Comments