HAM From Germany, joined Jul 2005, 254 posts, RR: 1 Posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 1 day ago) and read 11766 times:
This trip report covers my recent trip on AF to BOS and JFK. My plan was to attend the wedding of a friend in central Massachusetts. I had organised this trip in May, and since I thought I’d be living in Switzerland in September, I booked my flights from ZRH. In the meantime, I had moved to the Netherlands, thus an additional AMS-BSL flight and a BSL-ZRH train ride was required (AMS-ZRH is ridiculously expensive in most cases, mostly at least 240€). This pre-trip is not included here as it was just another ordinary intra-European journey. On the way back, the plan was to fly JFK-CDG on AF’s A380 (to be covered in another trip report) and then to skip the CDG-ZRH sector in favor of a separately booked CDG-AMS flight. The connection between Massachusetts and NY was done by Greyhound bus (not covered here – remarkable though: free WiFi on the bus!).
Seats were reserved at the time of booking – 64L on the 744, meaning an upper deck seat, and 82A on the 380 for the return (also upper deck).
Operated by CityJet
STD 09:55, STA 11:20
ATD 10:05, ATA 11:15
Seat: 8A (economy)
On a nice morning in Zurich, I got up at around 7:30 and left downtown Zurich soon after on the S-Bahn to ZRH airport. As I had only hand luggage (a trolley suitcase plus a laptop bag) and printed my boarding passes at home, I went straight through the boarding pass check. There was only a short queue as usual. Some chocolate had to be bought for those poor Americans without direct access to Swiss delights, and I took my time to get into some kind of vacation mood, even though it was going to be only a short trip. I like ZRH’s airside shopping area for its architecture and atmosphere and easy navigation (signs etc.).
ZRH airside shopping area
A look on the info display showed boarding or go-to-gate remarks for almost every flight except for mine:
I looked out of the window and saw that my plane had already arrived...
...and then proceeded through security to the area for Schengen bus gates (B gates), only to find out that boarding for my flight had already started. Fine with me, everyone was already lining up or in the fenced-off pre-boarding zone and once I passed the gate the bus opened its doors:
The bus took us around the construction site of the new B pier to the waiting Avro RJ85. My trolley had received a delivery-at-aircraft tag, so I put it on the cart next to the boarding stairs and went on board.
My seat, 8A, was right behind the class divider – this, in addition to the 6-abreast layout, the limited legroom and the obstructed view with the engines right next to me, provided a rather cramped surrounding. But the flight was only going to last an hour or so, thus I won’t complain too much.
The obligatory legroom shot!
The cabin crew consisted of one male and one female, which were both ok and efficient. After a 5-minute taxi and a not really powerful takeoff from Rwy 28...
...the cabin crew sprung into action and while one of them took care of the C class pax, the other started with the Y service (later, the C class attendant helped in Y). On offer today was a cookie or a savoury snack and a hot and/or cold drink. I took the cookie (not bad really) and an OJ. I guess one shouldn’t expect more on a short flight these days, it’s more to give the pax the impression that someone cares for them than to provide a real snack. I’d be fine with buy-on-board on intra-European flights as well, if this would keep the prices low. Anyway, the flight time passed quickly, with only limited views, thanks to the engines next to me and a lot of clouds. I always like the flap-movement experience on the BAe 146 / Avro series.
Today's inflight catering offer
Descent into CDG was over endless fields, and landing (soft as always on the Avro) was followed by an enormously long taxi to the most remote corner of CDG.
I remember having arrived at CDG once on easyJet at a separate terminal in the middle of nowhere, but I hadn’t expected that my AF connection would take me to another horrible terminal (2G) at the outskirts of CDG. Seriously, what I experienced now truly shocked me – I had expected to connect at a major sophisticated western European hub, but instead I had to walk to a kind of shed (they call it terminal 2G)...
...and arrived at a junction of two possible further routes – either to terminal 2E or to all other terminals – without any display showing the connecting flights (the terminal wasn’t marked on my boarding pass either).
Which way to go?
I thought, well let’s use common sense and follow the highest probability, so I went to the exit for all terminals except for 2E. Once I had exited and the door closed behind me, I was greeted by the displays I had missed earlier, only to find that my flight would leave from terminal 2E.
So I left the shed, found a bus (and a sign informing me that 2E would be the very last stop) and took a 15-minute ride through the wastelands around CDG and past some construction sites and some stops at the various terminals of CDG 2 plus the airport’s train station (where, by the way, the platform for the bus was located on the wrong side, forcing the pax to walk around the bus – what a masterpiece of engineering).
Scenery along the route
In the end, I safely arrived at terminal 2E which was somewhat impressive, but way too dark for my taste. I walked to an automated train which took me to my gate area, passed passport control (they divide the pax into color-coded lines, depending on their status / connection time and whatnot, I got orange) and walked on through some corridors to the security check (again the color-codes, again I got orange).
Actually, I think this idea of posting some employees with boarding pass scanners at the beginning of the queues with these colors is a nice idea – as we all know, passengers like to leave their brain behind once they enter an airport, and this procedure makes it easy for everyone to maneuver around the terminal (plus the employees don’t have to discuss anything with the pax, as there’s no sign informing you about why you receive which color).
Anyway, after security I was greeted by a narrow and dimly-lit corridor with some shops and after walking around some corners I arrived at the gate area.
The floor was covered with carpets, a concept I never understood as it gives even the nicest terminal a cheap look. While terminal 2 isn’t that old yet, the carpet looked alreay very worn out. Anyway, I looked out of the large windows and found an A380...
...and a 744, the latter being be my ride.
As I had some time left (although my generous transit time of more than 2 hours had shrunk significantly by all the walking and bus riding), I wanted to get a drink, but I wasn’t willing to spend 3.80€ on neither a cappuccino nor a 0.5 liter bottle of Coke. Airport bars have always been expensive, but this is a true rip-off. No way. Thus, I sat down near my gate and had a look at the screens, which showed some nice pre-departure information (see the pics).
Operated by Air France
STD 13:40, STA 15:05 (+6h)
ATD 13:50, ATA 15:10
Seat: 64L (economy upper deck)
While waiting, it was fun to listen to various announcements – the gate staff for the Mexico-bound AF flight was desperately looking for some missing pax, and with every one of their at least 5 announcements, their voices became more angry and threatening (“Mr. X, Mr. Y and Ms. Z, IMMEDIATE BOARDING RIGHT NOW! WE WILL OFFLOAD YOUR BAGGAGE!“)
For some reason, the staff at my gate didn’t feel like making any boarding announcements today, so after a bit of reading and looking out of the windows, I realised that some people were already walking through the glass jetbridge and an enormous queue had built up at the gate. For once, the Flying Blue silver status had a purpose and I went to the much shorter priority lane. An agent checked my passport quickly, but didn’t ask any of the usual silly questions when you board a US-bound flight. Did they stop this procedure? At the actual boarding gate, my boarding pass set off a beep, prompting the agent to verify my passport info (APIS data). I was then allowed to proceed on board, where the friendly cabin crew at the door directed me upstairs. I dropped off my trolley at the wardrobe next to the stairs and found my seat 64L – the aisle seat was taken as expected, it had in fact been reserved already when I booked, thus I had hoped that the middle seat would remain empty. A bit of waiting led to my relief – the fat guy in the aisle seat and myself in the window seat were separated by an empty seat in the middle. I stowed my laptop bag in the nice little stowage compartment to my right, a great extra on the upper deck. Another – even more precious – advantage was the generous legroom of 34 inches (32 inches downstairs). There are also PTVs upstairs but not downstairs, so I had the airshow on most of the time to follow the flight’s progress.
Once boarding was completed, the aircraft was pushed back almost on time and we taxied for a while to the active runway 27L. Takeoff wasn’t overly powerful, and the 747 gently climbed over some fields and in direction of the clouds and the Atlantic Ocean.
As soon as the seatbelt signs went off, the cabin crew (one male, one female on the upper deck, both ok friendly – the girl seemed a bit tired but she did her best to accomodate all wishes) distributed the menus.
See the dirty tray table? Overall, the entire area around my seat was a bit sticky and dirty, and there was even some garbage in the compartment next to my seat...
What I read on the menu sounded nice, and I was starving, having eaten only a lemon cookie sponsored by CityJet until then. A drink round followed, and as I had read about the famous AF champagne in Y class, I decided to be decadent and asked for one. It didn’t taste too amazing…
The meal preparation didn’t take long, in fact their entire service was very quick and efficient. The presentation of the tray looked not too bad, but the hot meal (I chose the fish) didn’t look great and it was somehow a mash, though with an ok taste. The pasta salad was really nice but the gazpacho from one of those aviation packages (just like those infamous OJ packages) was a bit disappointing. As I had expected, half of the gazpacho couldn’t wait to get out once I opened the cover a little bit, but fortunately I had aimed at the table.
Since I was starving as mentioned and the food didn’t taste too bad (plus Mr. Aisle Seat had chosen not to eat), I asked the cabin attendant for another hot meal – she asked me to wait a moment, then forgot about it, but when passing through the cabin a bit later and looking at me she remembered, apologised and brought me an entire second tray. I thanked her for the effort and ate the entire second meal (again with half of the gazpacho ending up on the tray). I had some white wine with the meal (not too spectacular), then another one, and then the effect of the wine and the champagne kicked in – I fell asleep, also thanks to the generous recline of my seat.
Upper deck cabin in flight
Over the Atlantic
I must have slept more than 4 hours (also owed to some sleep deprivation caused by lots of university work etc.) as when I woke up the pre-arrival snack was already being served. It consisted of a nice cheese sandwich, some cookies, an "Actimel" drink and the orange juice version of the earlier gazpacho package, again under high pressure of course. Quite a decent pre-arrival snack, especially compared to the piece of sloppy “pizza“ I had received on an AA flight some time ago.
A look out of the window revealed that we had already reached the American coast...
...and the airshow showed that we were not far from Halifax:
Descent started not much later and we flew along the Boston bay...
...then turned 180° and approached BOS over the water, past some prison (?) island and some boats and landed softly at Logan airport.
Taxi didn’t take long, and we parked at the terminal next to some other European arrivals:
BA, AZ (in this case Air One) and LH at BOS
Not my seat, but another one on the upper deck during deboarding
Upper deck galley
F-GEXA at BOS
Deboarding was quick and I was luckily out before the majority of the other pax, thus the wait at immigration was rather short. For a change, the agent was very friendly this time, only one or two quick questions about the reason of my stay, the usual photo and fingerprints and even a smiling „enjoy your stay“ – all you other grumpy and bossy US immigration guys, this man should be your role model! No need to wait at the baggage claim as I had only hand luggage, the customs officer didn’t want to know any more details about the contents of my bags than what I had provided on the declaration form, and I left the airport a mere 20 minutes after deboarding. I met my friends outside and we drove to our destination.
Overall, the flight itself was nice – the upper deck is really the best you can get in Y class, food was ok (I have never tried Emirates, which might be better – but the offering on AF was by far the best I have had on a transatlantic flight in a long time) and the service was efficient. However, my experience at CDG was not satisfactory. The connection from a regional to a longhaul flight is ridiculous. I will not use CDG for connections again when I know that I‘d arrive on a feeder flight on a regional carrier. Or… maybe when the price is too tempting. However, being based near AMS now, there really is no need to connect in most cases, and AMS is a rather convenient airport for both connections and O&D flights. The main reason to choose CDG this time was the aircraft deployed on the routes I needed – the 744 with upper deck Y class and the 380 on the way back.
I hope this was of interest; comments are welcome as always. The report on the return flight on the A380 will follow in a couple of days.
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6183 posts, RR: 79 Reply 1, posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 1 day ago) and read 11600 times:
very interesting report, definitely a good choice of (long-haul) aircraft and seats. The 747's upper deck is nice, I once enjoyed sitting there on a mostly empty JAL domestic flight. Bad to hear about the condition of the cabin.
Quoting HAM (Thread starter): The meal preparation didn’t take long, in fact their entire service was very quick and efficient. The presentation of the tray looked not too bad, but the hot meal (I chose the fish) didn’t look great and it was somehow a mash, though with an ok taste. The pasta salad was really nice but the gazpacho from one of those aviation packages (just like those infamous OJ packages) was a bit disappointing. As I had expected, half of the gazpacho couldn’t wait to get out once I opened the cover a little bit, but fortunately I had aimed at the table.
A generous and well-presented AF meal as usual - but I agree that the main course didn't look very good.
Quoting HAM (Thread starter): I asked the cabin attendant for another hot meal – she asked me to wait a moment, then forgot about it, but when passing through the cabin a bit later and looking at me she remembered, apologised and brought me an entire second tray. I thanked her for the effort and ate the entire second meal (again with half of the gazpacho ending up on the tray).
That's quite impressive. How was the load factor?
Quoting HAM (Thread starter): Overall, the flight itself was nice – the upper deck is really the best you can get in Y class, food was ok (I have never tried Emirates, which might be better – but the offering on AF was by far the best I have had on a transatlantic flight in a long time) and the service was efficient.
EK's Y Class meals belong to the best in the business, but AF's long-haul meals aren't far behind.
Quoting HAM (Thread starter): However, my experience at CDG was not satisfactory. The connection from a regional to a longhaul flight is ridiculous. I will not use CDG for connections again when I know that I‘d arrive on a feeder flight on a regional carrier.
I can only agree, it's recommended to have at least two hours for the transit.
The upper deck was almost completely full, and judging by the huge amount of people at the gate I guess there was also a good load downstairs. As I didn't go to have a look there, I can only speculate, though.
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 1): I can only agree, it's recommended to have at least two hours for the transit.
Exactly - but this didn't stop AF selling me a 1h15 connection on the way back. I'm glad I will not take that connection but another flight to AMS instead. 1h15 including immigration and that bus connection seems hardly possible to me.
Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Reply 5, posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 22 hours ago) and read 11121 times:
Thanks a lot for this very nice trip report and the great pictures. Travelling on the upper deck of the AF 744 sounds like a great experience. AF is one of the few airlines that offers Economy seats on the upper deck so I think you did well not to miss this chance.
Transferring at CDG, on the other side, doesn't sound too promising.
Quoting HAM (Thread starter): Thus, I sat down near my gate and had a look at the screens, which showed some nice pre-departure information (see the pics).
A very nice feature indeed - I haven't seen this anywhere else yet.
Far from it! I have once connected at CDG (rather: had to, because of a missed connection) and the whole experience was unsatisfying. Changing terminals is okay, although it takes fairly long. The airport/AF employees were not helpful at all, it's difficult to receive any directions unless you speak French.
That's quite useful – something I've never seen before, though.
Quoting HAM" class="quote" target="_blank">HAM (Thread starter): Another – even more precious – advantage was the generous legroom of 34 inches (32 inches downstairs). There are also PTVs upstairs but not downstairs, so I had the airshow on most of the time to follow the flight’s progress.
So, in short, the upper deck is very much better than the lower one. Do they charge more for it or make it available to frequent flyers only?
No. But it could be you weren't asked because you weren't flying on an American carrier, or because you had printed out your boarding passes at home and were boarding an intra-European flight first. From my experience, they usually ask these questions at the check-in counters.
Thanks for sharing!
PS: Sorry for the messy quotes. This forum software is doing lots of annoying things lately.
[Edited 2010-09-14 12:35:39]
Et là tu montes encore plus haut et ça persiste, alors on vole
767747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 1748 posts, RR: 26 Reply 8, posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 10392 times:
Hi., HAM -
Thanks for sharing your flight to BOS with us! The food on AF always looks to pretty good in Y; that french baguette provided with the meal makes me hungry!
Nice to catch a 747-400 on your way to BOS. I remember when AF used to operate a lot of flights out of the US with 747's, now it seems to be mostly 777's. Good to get on board the Queen of the skies when you have a chance!
Quoting Kappel (Reply 4): An hour and a half seems to be the absolute minimum at CDG indeed. Any shorter than that and you are at risk of missing your flight, or at least arriving completely out of breath!!
I don't find it a great idea that AF even sells such connections! If you're a less experienced traveller, you'll be prone to miss your connection...
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 5): Travelling on the upper deck of the AF 744 sounds like a great experience.
It was - even better than the A380 on the return flight, at least as far as personal space is concerned.
Quoting Luftfahrer (Reply 6): Do they charge more for it or make it available to frequent flyers only?
I have read different info about this, not sure...
Quoting Luftfahrer (Reply 6): But it could be you weren't asked because you weren't flying on an American carrier, or because you had printed out your boarding passes at home and were boarding an intra-European flight first.
Well, then the entire procedure is pointless - why ask some people and others not?!
Quoting 767747 (Reply 8): Nice to catch a 747-400 on your way to BOS.
I was surprised to see it in the schedules!
Quoting jlbmedia (Reply 9): OK, what am I doing wrong? I see lots of comments about the great pictures, and all I see is something saying to upgrade to PRO today, Why can't I see the pictures?
The pics are back now, there was some Photobucket issue.
cgnnrw From Germany, joined May 2005, 1074 posts, RR: 3 Reply 11, posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 9216 times:
Nice report. How did you get a seat on the upper deck? Last year I flew AF from MIA to CDG on a B747 and as hard as I tried I couldn't geta seat on the upper deck! I heard its reserved for upper tier FFMer, I have Silver status with Delta. Just curious.
Luftfahrer From Germany, joined Mar 2009, 965 posts, RR: 5 Reply 12, posted (2 years 8 months 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 9191 times:
Quoting HAM (Reply 10): Well, then the entire procedure is pointless
You don't say! I wonder if it crossed the US authorities' mind that people can just lie without turning red?! I've never had reason to do so but I'd rather lie than possibly making things complicated. (No, I don't have any mal intentions)
Quoting HAM (Reply 10): I have read different info about this, not sure...
I've heard that the exit row seats on the A380 cost extra. Reasonable policy when everyone can book them, legroom is one of the only things I care for when flying Y-Class.
[Edited 2010-09-15 07:21:41]
Et là tu montes encore plus haut et ça persiste, alors on vole
HAM From Germany, joined Jul 2005, 254 posts, RR: 1 Reply 13, posted (2 years 8 months 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 8346 times:
Quoting Luftfahrer (Reply 12): You don't say! I wonder if it crossed the US authorities' mind that people can just lie without turning red?! I've never had reason to do so but I'd rather lie than possibly making things complicated. (No, I don't have any mal intentions)
Well, of course I'm aware of the pointlessness of the entire procedure - what I meant is that treating passengers differently just makes it even more ridiculous.
Quoting Luftfahrer (Reply 12): I've heard that the exit row seats on the A380 cost extra. Reasonable policy when everyone can book them, legroom is one of the only things I care for when flying Y-Class.
Yes, exit rows cost extra ("Seat Plus"), also on other A/C.