Just made another of my regular MAN/CDG/MAN trips, always with AF, to keep my Frequence Plus Red level, but had the rather interesting experience to have both flights on substitute aircraft.
Out - MAN/CDG - usually this flight is operated by a 733 or 735 but a note on the boarding pass indicated that the flight would be operated by another airline.."to Air France standards".
As it turned out, the flight was actually operated by an MD83 of Air Liberte and was far better than I am used to on AF ! A very clean and comfortable a/c, dark blue seating with comfortable headrests throughout, seat pitch perhaps slightly better than the AF Boeings.
The main difference was in the catering though. The usual fodder in Tempo/Coach is a filled baguette with a choice of coffee/water/sodas - no cutlery, no crockery and next to no time to eat it anyway, but Air Liberte served a very acceptable tray meal consisting of a mixed pasta salad, a collation of beef and ham slices, chocolate cake, petit pain and brie. There was also a carton of spring water followed by two rounds with the coffee pot...
And all in 55 minutes flying time !
The cabin crew (1 guy and 3 girls) were very smartly turned out, the girls in attractive light blue shirts and jumpers, and I noticed that their name badges still carry the BA Speedmarque design.
My first trip with Air Liberte and also a first flight on an MD83, I was more than impressed with Air Liberte, and thought the MD83 good also.
Back CDG/MAN - the early 0750 flight is usually operated with an A320, which is my favourite type due to the wider cabin and overhead lockers. For some reason they switched the a/c to an A321, again it was my first trip on an A321 and I came away very impressed. The first impression was of a verrrry long tube, with almost no `breaks` from front to back. The seating was the usual AF, but I was lucky to get an emergency exit seat (door R3) and had a huge amount of legroom.
Very quick, smooth take-off, loads of power felt as we left the ground (we were no more than half full) and the whole 1 hour trip was smooth also. AF breakfast was a tray affair with croissant, pain chocolat and yoghurt, piping hot coffee (for a change...) and just time to catch quick nap before MAN.
The impression I got, maybe I`m wrong, was that the A321 appears wider than the A320 - could be an optical illusion of course, but it does give a favourable impression for a first time.
I guess next time I`ll be back on the 733 !
Vive L`Air France