The course with Flydubai was really good fun. The course participants were eager and keen to learn, which always makes my job a lot easier. I’ll be back in Dubai for another course with Emirates in three weeks’ time. But now it’s time to start on the journey back home. I have three classes I’m teaching at the university on Monday.
Air France currently operates two daily services to Paris out of Dubai. There is the daytime service which leaves at exactly noon. And then there is the night time service which leaves at 01h35, roughly around the same time as all the other European carriers. To be honest, I would have preferred the daytime service. However, that flight is operated by an Airbus A 330-200 which still has the old Business Class configuration and has no First Class. The night time service is operated by a Boeing B 777-300ER in the new configuration.
Getting to the Airport
On this trip I stayed at the Sofitel Downtown near Burj
Khalifa and the Mall of Dubai. I leave the hotel on Friday evening at 22h30.
Being the weekend here in the UAE, traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road is unusually
quiet and calm. As a result, the journey to the airport only takes twenty
minutes to complete by car.
To get to the airport, you can either take a taxi from the
hotel for AED50 or a Lexus limo for AED70 or the metro for AED20. The metro
obviously takes a bit longer because it stops a few times on the way. But there
is a metro stop about two minutes away from the hotel, with trains running from
there directly to the airport.
Air France serves Terminal 1 in Dubai. It’s a bit
unfortunate that the check-in rows for the various airlines are not marked
outside the terminal. As a result, drivers tend to just pull up to the first
vacant spot on the side of the road and offload you there.
Air France and KLM check in on row 1, which is at the far
end of the terminal. As far as I can tell, the whole of check-in row 1 is
dedicated to Air France and KLM and their flights to Paris and Amsterdam respectively.
There is one check-in counter for La Première passengers,
which is cordoned off. There is a DNATA representative standing by the entrance
to the SkyPriority counters. I approach him to ask if this is also the queue
for First Class. He asks my name and he’s obviously been expecting me, because
he immediately escorts me to the La Première counter and calls for a ground
agent to escort me from check-in to the First Class lounge.
As soon as my suitcase is labelled, the check-in agent
wishes me a pleasant flight and sends me on my way. The ground agent collects
my passport and boarding pass holder and off we go. We take the normal entrance
to immigration, but once we’re past the checkpoint, she guides me to the
diplomatic passports section and then from there to a separate, dedicated
security screening area. The process is very swift and efficient and just like
that I’m through immigration and security in no time.
Air France arrives and departs on the D concourse, which is
where pretty much all other airlines except Emirates operate from. The shuttle
to the D concourse takes only a few minutes to make the journey.
In Dubai Air France uses the Ahlan lounge for its La
Première passengers. The lounge is quite large, but rather oddly shaped around
the mezzanine level of the airside area. There is a separate dining area and a
large buffet with a lovely smell of Indian food coming from it.
Other than that, the lounge has showers but no area where
passengers can have a lie down and sleep. The wifi access code is available at
The ground agent leaves me at reception and tells me she’ll
be back to take me to the aircraft at 12h50.
At exactly 12h50, the ground agent appears in the lounge to
inform me that it’s time to leave. We go downstairs and from there board a golf
buggy to take us to gate D18. It’s actually not that far, but given that my
back is still painful, despite the painkillers, I’m definitely not complaining.
Rather embarrassingly, it turns out they’ve been waiting at
the gate for me to arrive so they can start boarding. The ground agent escorts
me past the long queues and no sooner has my boarding pass been scanned, one of
the gate agents announces that the flight is now ready for boarding. As it
turns out, I am the only passenger in La Première this evening.
The entrance to the L1 airbridge is cordoned off. A security
watchman opens it for us when he sees us approaching and then immediately
closes it again once we’re through.
As on my previous experience with Air France in Paris, the
ground agent steps aboard ahead of me and then introduces me to the flight
attendant who has been expecting me at the door. She then wishes me a pleasant
flight and leaves.
The flight attendant introduces himself to me with a
genuine, friendly smile. He takes my backpack off me and escorts me to my seat
on 1A. He stows away my jacket in my own personal cabinet and then leaves me to
As I’m the only passenger in La Première tonight, he
suggests making up 1D for me as a bed after take-off, so then I can switch depending
on what I feel like doing.
The Air France cabin really is a class act. It’s not just
that it looks nice, it’s also nicely finished and has been well thought
And I have to say, it is very cool to know I’ll have this
gorgeous cabin all to myself tonight!
In short succession the maître de and then the captain come
to introduce themselves and wish me a pleasant flight. They all stay and chat a
while, but without prying or being nosy. In short, they go out of their way to
make me feel at home and to make sure I’m comfortable.
While we’re still on the ground, the male cabin crew in
charge of the La Première cabin brings me the vanity kit, the pyjamas, the menu
and some fresh orange juice with a ramekin of nuts. The slippers and a pair of
socks, as well as a thick pillow are already at my seat when I arrive.
I change in to my pjs while we’re still on the ground in
Dubai. The flight time is announced as six hours and fifty minutes.
Given that it’s already approaching two in the morning by
the time the crew are released to start their service, I inform the flight
attendant that I’d rather sleep straight away, but that he should wake me with
enough time for breakfast. He makes up the bed for me and brings me a small
bottle of Evian and a box of chocolates. And then I go off to sleep.
Around 80 minutes out of Paris, the flight attendant gently
wakes me up to inform me that it’s time for breakfast. By the time I draw the
curtains to get up, he’s already set the table on 1A for breakfast. There is a
choice of two hot meals. I go with the banana pancakes and the apricot and
A lot has been said in many of the travel forums about the horrific instant coffee Air France serves in La Première. My suggestion is to go with the espresso instead of the coffee, because the former is made with a proper coffee machine and tastes much, much better.
The meal consists of:
a selection of breads and pastries, served with butter and jam
The pancakes are lovely and the accompanying compote is
sweet with a hint of vanilla. Catering is something I think they do really well
on Air France, even in Business Class.
The weather in Paris is cold and misty. In fact, the
visibility is down to 200 metres, which is why we end up doing an automatic
landing. Eventually, the aircraft comes to a stop at one of the gates on the M
satellite of Terminal 2E. When the doors open, there’s already an Air France
ground agent expecting me. The crew bid me farewell and hand me over to the
We take the stairs down one floor and then step outside,
where a BMW is waiting to take me to the main terminal building. Once we get
there, we take a separate, dedicated counter for immigration and then head
downstairs to the baggage reclaim area.
The ground agent retrieves my suitcase and then escorts me
out to arrivals. It’s nice to be back in Europe!
I shall be spending Saturday here in Paris, as I still have
an appointment with royalty that I haven’t seen twenty years.
On my way to the airport in Dubai, I was wondering if Air France would be able to live up to my expectations from my previous, exceptional La Première experience to Singapore in January. As it turns out, they certainly could. Once more, the service is flawless and opulent and the crew go out of their way to make me feel welcome.