This is my first try at a trip report - I've always been too lazy to put up with all the research.
Anyway, since I am flying Air France quite regularly, DUS-CDG-DUS has become some like my "trunk route", I felt it is about time to give you some idea about AF's service on such short European flight.
I've flown DUSCDGDUS at least 25 time during the last couple of years, so the following report is a mixture of both my the actual trips this August and some general observations about AF service on this route.
Date: Saturday, 10/08/2002
Flight number: AF1607
Scheduled block time: 1335h - 1450h
Actual flying time: 1400h - 1443h
Gate DUS: B54
Gate CDG: F29
(c/n 26454), delivered new to Malaysia 13/08/1993, leased to AF since 1999?
Photo © Erik Johannesson
Seat: 11F (Tempo)
From check-in to boarding
After arriving at the airport around half past eleven a.m., I tried to get to Air France's check in areas as quick as possible. Sounds like an easy task, but believe me, DUS in the middle of peak season is not the place where you will find your way around easily or quickly. Describing the check-in area as a beehive of activity would be grossly understated, because even in a beehive, all activities follow an orchestrated effort.
Anyway, after almost falling about several toddlers, evading baggage trolleys pushed by stressed-out mommies and daddies and climbing across mountains of suitcases and bags strewn all across the terminal floor, I finally made my way to the AF check-in desks, which are located at number 188 to 190 in the far left corner of the new terminal building.
One of the desks was dedicated to L'Espace (Business Class) passengers, while the other two were reserved for Tempo Challenge ("Economy Plus") and Tempo ("Economy Class") passengers. With no line whatsoever, checking in my fairly small bag was done in a breeze, which was a nice surprise after all the hustle and bustle in the other terminal parts. Just two minutes after my first "hello", the friendly check-in agent had checked-my baggage, confirmed my Frequence Plus number and handed me my boarding pass.
With still about two hours to spare, I decided to head upstairs to the new visitors deck on top of the new Terminal B and kill some time over there. Actually I found out that I can enter the visitors deck for free with my Fraport airport ID, so that was a nice surprise!
Location of visitors deck on top of Terminal B:
Photo © Florian Kondziela
I won't go into too much detail about the movements during the next hour or so, but there was the standard fare of German charter airlines (Air Berlin, Hapag-Lloyd, Condor, LTU) and Lufthansa aircraft filling the apron.
At about 1230h, I could spot "my" Air France Boeing 737-500 landing on RWY 23R in the far distance, which was the signal for me to finally leave the spectators area and return to the terminal.
Security itself was very well organized and it took just under five minutes of waiting time until I was able to pass through the check and use the escalator to the Schengen part of Terminal B, which is actually upstairs from the entrance level and the non-Schengen part.
Terminal B was conceived and built after the original terminal was contaminated during the disastrous airport fire of 1996, and the architects have done a fairly good job here. In the central part of the building, a travel value shop offers passengers a chance to kill some time and spend some Euros on fairly reasonably-priced perfumes and spirits. For some reasons, there are no tobaccos on offer in the travel value stores, does anybody know why? There is also a snack-bar and a newsagent in this terminal, so if you are not interested in (or too nervous to) watch planes take-off and land during the large windows, you can spend some time there.
Around 1300h, the first boarding call for Air France flight AF1607 was made, and a small line was quickly forming at the entrance of gate B54.
On an interesting side-note, Air France insists on checking your passport or ID when you enter or leave France on one of their flights. This check is usually conducted in the jetway or right behind the boarding card processing, so keep his in mind and your papers ready next time you fly AF within Schengen country! It's always interesting, how easily one can differentiate between frequent and not-so-frequent Air France passengers, because those are the ones frantically searching for their IDs in their backpacks and purses.
Today, our aircraft, F-GJNX, was parked on the apron adjacent to Terminal B, , so we boarded a bus and headed directly to our baby Boeing. Upon leaving the bus, I could not fail to notice, in what a bad shape the exterior of this airplane was! Paint was peeling all over the fuselage, and the silver of the 737's body was shining through at some of the spots, were large patches of paint had already fallen off! The following pictures give a pretty good indication of the sorry state of the aircraft.
Photo © Vincent de Koning
Photo © Jacek Zlotnicki
Fortunately, once inside our Boeing, we were greeted by the regular friendly AF cabin crew, which offered us a selection of French (Le Monde, Liberation, L'Equipe), English (Herald Tribune) and German (Die Welt, S?ddeutsche, FAZ) newspapers. Other reading materials provided in the seat pockets were the Air France Magazine, the safety card and the barf bag.
The interior of Air France fleet is designed with an emphasis on blue and the French national colors. Actually, the headrests contain the three colors of the Tricolore, which are also - not surprisingly - AF's corporate colors. The following cabin shot, although taken inside an Airbus A320, is an exact representation of the materials used on "our" Boeing 737-500.
Photo © Philippe Gindrat
On our flight this afternoon, there were only a few passengers in L'Espace and Tempo Challenge, so the cabin dividers were moved in front of rows 4 and 8 respectively. Especially the Tempo cabin was absolutely packed with passengers though, the majority being German tourists heading for their summer holidays in all parts of the world.
By 1335h, our scheduled departure time, the flight attendants closed the front doors and the maitre de cabin welcomed us aboard Air France and introduced us to our flight crew, as well as gave some information about our flying time, which was scheduled to be 50 minutes. All announcements were conducted in French first, and then in English.
Cabin announcements in German are not the rule on Air France flights from Germany, and it seems like the airline is severely lacking German language flight attendants. Doesn't really bother me, since their German announcements are usually quite funnily pronounced (possibly just like MY French sounds the other way around), but it could certainly be some help for the not-so-frequent German travelers.
Unfortunately, the purser also informed us about a slight delay, because some baggage had been misplaced inside the baggage compartment and had to be moved before take-off.
Finally, by 1350h, we got our go-ahead and our Baby Boeing left its stand (we did not get any pushback) and taxied to the threshold of RWY 23L, which is the regular runway used for take-offs at DUS, since it is the parallel runway situated away from the airport perimeter.
Take-off thrust was fairly strong, and we left the ground after just 30 seconds exactly at 1400h. After flying across the Rhine, the flight deck crew retracted the flaps and made a sharp left turn towards Norvenich VOR.
Leveling off some 10 minutes after take-off, cabin service was started by the two flight attendants assigned to Tempo cabin today. And this is actually the only gripe I have about my Air France flights this time. As a regular flyer, I have seen a degradation of the food service on the Dusseldorf-Paris flights during the recent years. AF changed from a full breakfast-style service to a choice between ham/sausage or cheese baguettes in 1997. These were always quite tasty, and I was looking forward to this small but nevertheless welcome representation of French cuisine. But much to my dismay, food service this time was reduced to choice between biscuits ("Le Guillot") or peanuts! I wonder if Air France is excusing this cutback with September 11, too?
BTW, inflight entertainment on Air France's European fleet is down to looking out of the windows or reading your newspapers and magazines. There are no plugs for earphones, and no TV monitors whatsoever, so longer flights, e.g. from France to Spain or Eastern Europe can become somewhat tedious.
Some minutes after receiving my cookies and washing them down with a can of "Minute Maid" orange juice, descent was started. Once again, the announcement was made to fasten seatbelts, put the tray table back into upright position and prepare for landing.
Northern France was actually very sunny this afternoon, with only 3/8 overcast, so I had a very good view of the approach and landing at CDG's runway 26L. This is the southernmost parallel runway, almost exclusively used for arrivals, since it is much shorter than CDG's two original runways. Today, however, 26R was closed for refurbishment, so a long line of departing company Airbusses and Boeings were very evident when we crossed the threshold and touched down at 1443h.
RWY 26L is the one at the very bottom of this picture:
Photo © Walter Pietsch
A lengthy taxi roll (those of you familiar with CDG will know what I mean!) ensued, but by 1450h, and absolutely on time, F-GJNX was on-block at gate F29 of AF#s newest and architecturally stunning terminal "A?rogare 2F".
This concludes my report of the outbound journey. As soon as I find some time, I will post the return trip from August 14.
All in all, AF offers a fairly good European product. Service in Economy class is not very different from its European competitors, however the main reason for me to give AF the edge of other airlines are their friendly and helpful ground and cabin crews, who have never failed to be polite and cheerful and their very good fares out of DUS. Something I cannot really say about Lufthansa!
Personally, I also like the "French touch" about their service; in my opinion this makes Air France stand out from their competitors. However, you should probably better have some basic knowledge of French if you want to get around at CDG.