The summer season of 2010 was getting closer and closer and it was time to travel again. I had more time to travel this time so I would be combing Florida, South Carolina and another US city. On this trip I wanted to add an aircraft that was on my must-fly list which consists of the MD11, A310 and the B753. I finally decided to fly KLM’s MD11 between Amsterdam and Montreal (covered in the first part of this series trip reports.). After a one night stopover I flew down to Fort Lauderdale via Toronto on Air Canada (covered in the second part of the series). On my journey back up north I chose to opt for the US Airways flight to Charlotte and continuing on to Boston (See part 3 and 4 of the trip report series) for a nice weekend before heading back home to Europe
For my trip back home I would use the return portion of my Antwerp-Amsterdam-Montreal (see part I of the trip report series). The cheapest options from Boston where on Delta from Boston to Amsterdam (A330 or 767) to continue on the train to Antwerp. Not being so a fond of an 6/8am arrival in Europe I looked further, for a small price extra I was able to fly on Air France’s 1700 departure (A340-300), but this did not seem interesting either. Thank goodness there was for about 25 euros extra a final option, this would be flying Air France to Paris CDG on their 2300 departure giving me a full extra day in Boston and my first flight on the queen of skies, the 747-400. Without even thinking I selected the late night 747 back to Europe. On most 747’s, only the upper deck haves PTV’s in Economy which you can select for a small extra fee. However, the first 4 rows where free of charge so I selected seat 63A on the upper deck.
A nice thing about this late departure was having that full extra day which was used quite well, started in the morning with some whale watching and some visits to the library and the Trinity church before packing up and leaving to the Airport. I noticed that they offered water taxis, which was only 3 dollars more expensive than a normal taxi. I taught that would be a nice ending to the trip, and booked me a water taxi. At 1900 my water taxi was ready to bring me across the bay straight towards the HYATT airport hotel to change to the shuttle bus. By 1930 I was inside terminal E. Terminal E handles Boston’s international arrivals and most international departures. On our way to the E-terminal I could see DL 230 to Amsterdam push back from the A terminal.
@ the Airport
I arrived in the arrivals hall of the airport, since I did not have any Internet connection I had no idea how the inbound flight (AF322) was doing, so I went up to the arrival screen and noticed the plane was 45 minutes late and due in at 21h15, no worries since this is way ahead of our schedule. Next stop is up at the departure level to check in, despite the massive que for the SATA flight to Terceira it was very calm at the Air France desk, by 2000 I was checked in all the way to Brussels. The load on tonight's flight would be very light, the aisle would be occupied but the middle would remain empty. Next stop was the security checkpoint, I passed that at 2010. Air France 321 would be using gate E6 tonight, but at our gate I found D-AIHX an Lufthansa A340-600 bound for Munich as LH 424. It was due to depart at 2025. A quick stroll around in the crowded terminal with passengers awaiting for FI 630 to Keflavik and BA 214 to London Heathrow where G-BNLX was standing. In a corner there was a Lufthansa A340-300 D-AIGD operating LH 422 to Frankfurt. Then I started my walk to the other end of the terminal, on my I passed the BA crew which looked quite nervous. On the other end of the E-concourse there was CS-TGV arriving from Lisbon as S4 211 and being prepared for S4 230 to Teceira only 6 months later I would be on board this plane. Further there was a SWISS A340 flying as LX 53 to Zurich, HB-JMF would be operating LX53. I noticed the crew board, also quite nervous. Then it was back to gate E6, where there where preparing the arrival of AF 322 from Paris CDG. At 2115 there was an Air France 747 in sight. It was F-GITI, one of the newest 747’s equipped with AF’s newest IFE system. I was looking forward to this flight. But there was one thing missing, the Soyez-le bienvenues bord with basic information concerning the flight, after seeing this on many ATL-CDG flights I really missed this, but no big matter. I still had about an hour to kill before my flight and all shops where closing already and having explored the E-terminal I sat down and made some last minute phone calls to say goodbye. Personally I found the terminal to be a bit crowed, even with only 6 flights leaving the terminal felt cramped, I don’t know how it would be with the major bank of flights leaving at 1700-1800. However, It was nice to see the big diversity in airlines parked here. At 2200 the crew boarded, strange enough they looked as nervous as the British Airways and SWISS crews. Only a few days after the flight I would learn that earlier this day jetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had deployed the slide of his aircraft after a nervous meltdown. I guess this had some impact of the departing crews. At 2225 the boarding began for Affaires passengers, at 2230 for all upper deck passengers.
Boarding happened thru the 2L door and made my way up the stairs immediately where I was greeted by a bonjour, seat 63A is the 2nd row ahead of the emergency exit. I was immediately overwhelmed by the calmness of the upper deck, compared to the usual hassle when boarding a long haul flight. While I was getting settled in my neighbour in 63C was getting seated as well. Later he moved to 63L, which gave me 3 seats to myself. Besides us there was the SATA A310 parked bound for Terceira. In the airport there where passengers still waiting for a delayed flight (until 300!!) to Praia. Soon thereafter the captain came on introducing himself before apologizing for the delay (which did not exist, but rather hear someone apologizing for a non-existent delay, than not hearing anything from a real delay.) and announcing the flight time to Paris would be just under 6 hours. Just before our pushback the purser made his announcement in French, English, Spanish and Italian. He did not introduce himself and after this announcement he would never be heard again trough the whole flight. By 2256 we pushed back and made our way to runway 15 where the big beast started roaring her engines before releasing the brakes for an overnight trip to Paris. After takeoff a right turn away from the Boston area continuing towards Canada. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_POKXfBLok http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4m_kOzBYd8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIaI59HGLu8
Soon the entertainment program was switched on, and I started to explore the systems. Air France uses several different entertainment programs Red, Blue and Green. While the red and blue programs are used for most of the 747 flights (Red as for the main screen in Voyageur, Blue for individual IFE in Affaires and Voyageur seat+), F-GITI, F-GITJ and F-GITH are equipped with Air France’s newest AVOD system (like the rest of its longhaul fleet). It offers a various selection of movies, short programming, audio books, radio stations, games… I selected the NRJ radio selection and the moving map on the adjunct seat (later to be turned off by the F/A). Here, unlike on KL the system is user-friendly and there is a guide to use it.
Meal selection was the following, before meal the meal service we received an amenity kit:
All flights from America to Paris CDG
45 minutes into the flight.
Orzo pasta with curry and grilled chicken
Beef with wild mushrooms and mashed potatoes.
Provençale-style penne pasta
Cheese, Entremets, Cheesecake, Coffee and Thea
I chose for the pasta which tasted good, the presentation was better than KL, the quality of the food was on par.
While the meal service was in deploy, I spotted the purser passing trough from time to time. Every time he passed he made some mad signals to the 2 F/A’s to know he had to pass. Not a professional impression for someone who is in a lead position. After the meal service finished I used the advantage of having 3 seats of myself and having a lie-flat seat in Y. even better than the angled seats in Affaires.
After 2 hours I needed to use the restroom and found it to be hotter than usual, after using the lavatory and turning on the air vents I tried to sleep again but after 30 minutes I gave up, by this time we where still 2,5 hours away from Paris and the sun was rising, I made some pics and made a walk trough the cabin and was quite impressed by the size of the 747. I then realised how much more space there was on the upper deck comparing to the cramped lower deck. For one that is thirsty you can usually find multiple bars set up with drinks, however tonight there was only one bar set up at the 5L/5R door. I did not mind at all but found it a quite inconvenient walk to the upper deck. Passing by the crew who where very distant on this flight (with an exception of the 2 F/A’s working on the upper deck, whom at least still smiled a little during the flight). Another detail I noticed when walking around was a F/A telling a passenger rudely to close his window, a few minutes later I found the majority of the F/A having a meeting at the 5L/5R galley (and half in the cabin after that) before disappearing into the rear crew rest. I taught it was first time for a switch of crews, but with only 2 hours to go (and 1 hour prior to breakfast) it seemed a little late AFAIK. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2X_YkhY-4o
About 1 hour prior to our landing in CDG breakfast was served
‘Depending on the flight, we will serve breakfast or a light meal before arrival’
I was a bit disappointed by the offering, after flying US carriers for almost 5 years I was excepting to get a bit more than that (did not need a 5-star meal, but noticed the downsized meal compared to my last AF flight immediately).
After the breakfast was served the captain came on announcing the beginning of the decent into the Paris area, so I started to make my final stretch and lavatory visit, after that I sat back and realized how wonderful a 747 upper deck can be with a seat pitch of 34”. We would be arriving 30 minutes prior to schedule which was good for me since I only had an hour to go before my train connection to Brussels. After a nice scenic tour of the Paris area we touched down on 27R at 10h58. We then started a long taxi towards our gate, passing terminal 1 with my first A380 sighting of Singapore Airlines parked besides an A330 of US Airways pushing back to Charlotte. When passing that A330 It really made we want to stretch my legs again thinking how much legroom they would have over the pond today. Before reaching terminal 2 we passed by various aircraft standing at terminal 3 and the concorde stand. Once we reached terminal 2 traffic was mainly Air France and Delta, accompanied by some American Airlines, Air Canada, El al and Vietnam Airlines jet. We stood next to the VN 777 VN-143 at the older terminal 2C and shut down the engines at 1115, still 20 minutes ahead of schedule. While disembarking I thanked the two flight attendants for the trip and went downstairs where the purser was just madly nodding when everybody passed by. Disembarking happened thru the 1L door. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHgTnWhPlGs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVAqj-7G5MU
Another thing I don’t get of the CDG operations is that every gate has dual aerobridges, but yet to have the first AF flight that uses both aerobridges while in quite a few outstations AF uses both aerobridges, there was quite a line at passport control with passengers from our flight and AF 349 from Montreal. Once we passed the line I had to claim my luggage in Paris. I got my suitcase and cleared customs by 1155, a full 40 minutes after landing. Thank goodness for the early arrival, otherwise I would have to run to make the train connection. A quick check on the FIDS confirms AF 7183 is running on time. On my way between the overcrowded terminal 2C and the train station I could get a last sight of F-GITI being prepared for her next journey to Havana. When I arrived at the train station I exchanged my boarding pass for another boarding pass and gave my luggage to but in the cargo compartment. A few minutes later I looked on the board and noticed a 20 minute delay on the board. At 1235 an announcement came announcing that there was a 25 minute delay, followed by Mika’s Relax, take it easy. Finally at 1255 the train arrived.
A nice thing about the Air-rail system on the Paris-Brussels segment is that regarding your ticket you will have a 1st class seat on the CDG-ZYR (or ZYR-CDG) sector, back in the train someone had occupied my seat, after a little discussion he finally realized that he was in the wrong coach. We pulled out the station a full 25 minutes late, a few minutes later I received a drink and a small bite to eat upon showing my boarding pass. If someone wanted more he or she could go to the bar carriage. The rest of the ride passed by uneventful, dozed off several times during the ride and awoken brutally by a noisy kid in the seat behind me. During our stop in Lille there was an announcement made that there would be a Eurostar service leaving to Brussels earlier, but did not care to much about that. Arrived about 35 minutes late in Brussels just missing my connection home. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6XEcEq2vr4
After a quick stop in the Newspaper store to buy the newest Airlinerworld I bought my train ticket and made the connection thru Ghent. Not a shorter way but a way to just kill some time. I arrived home at 1710.
This trip had it’s ups and downs, while Air France has a better and more user friendly entertainment system than KLM. I still found KLM to be a bit better than AF, this Air France experience made me remember why leaving skyteam. The mediocore crew set who worked AF 321 (especially the purser) and the arrival experience in Paris made this trip to be more on the average side. I found Boston’s terminal E to be quite crowded and don’t want to know what it’s like in the 1800 bank where most flight leave from. Catering was on par, was a bit disappointed by the quantity of the breakfast. Overall it was an average experience, however there are not many airlines who have Y (34” seat pitch) on the upper deck. That’s a very nice way to fly and would opt this choice above the dense 3-4-3 Boeing 777 configuration. The air rail system was much better organized than KLM’s from Atlanta
Air France 0321: (Total: 70%)
Departure: 60% (Crowded and very few to do at this time of day)
Aircraft cleanliness : 80% (Kept nice and clean)
Seat Comfort: 90% (34 inch seat pitch and 3 seats for myself, what more can a man wish)
Crew: 60% (mediocre, especially the purser)
Catering: 70% (A bit disappointed in the breakfast.)
IFE: 80% (user friendly system, much better than KL’s)
Arrival: 50% (Small, overcrowded… ah, I really missed the CDG terminal 2C…)
As a bonus I would like to give a list of regs I spotted in BOS and CDG
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6486 posts, RR: 78 Reply 1, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 11296 times:
nice report about your AF 744 flight, good to hear you enjoyed it. Upper deck seating is indeed great.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): I chose for the pasta which tasted good, the presentation was better than KL, the quality of the food was on par.
Generous and well-presented meal!
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): I was a bit disappointed by the offering, after flying US carriers for almost 5 years I was excepting to get a bit more than that (did not need a 5-star meal, but noticed the downsized meal compared to my last AF flight immediately).
Unfortunately, that's what you get on most of these shorter transatlantic routes.
OA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 26018 posts, RR: 58 Reply 2, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 11247 times:
Hey nice report some nice pics there also , shame your AF experience with the crew was not more favourable , its my experience also one reason I would never jump to Skyteam , they just dont offer the product and I rarely look at AF for travel these days except the A380 LHR-CDG experience but that was not the norm so an exception.
AEGEAN-OLYMPIC AIR - ΟΛΥΜΠΙΑΚΗ " μέλος στη Star Alliance
akhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2421 posts, RR: 53 Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 7980 times:
A great insight review about AF long haul product. Too bad about the less personal service of the crew members. I was kind of attracted by AF since my experience last year was wonderful.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): On most 747’s, only the upper deck haves PTV’s in Economy which you can select for a small extra fee. However, the first 4 rows where free of charge so I selected seat 63A on the upper deck.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): there was CS-TGV arriving from Lisbon as S4 211 and being prepared for S4 230 to Teceira only 6 months later I would be on board this plane
Cool, I look forward to it!
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): Only a few days after the flight I would learn that earlier this day jetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had deployed the slide of his aircraft after a nervous meltdown
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): Just before our pushback the purser made his announcement in French, English, Spanish and Italian.
MSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2472 posts, RR: 15 Reply 6, posted (2 years 5 months 6 days ago) and read 7305 times:
Quoting akhmad: A great insight review about AF long haul product. Too bad about the less personal service of the crew members. I was kind of attracted by AF since my experience last year was wonderful.
Thanks, yup AF-crews can be really hit or miss, have had some 'hit' crews. But this one is definitely 'Miss'