For the last four months, I was constantly occupied with three fairly extensive projects, which took up a lot of my time. Fortunately, all projects were finally completed by last Friday, and I can now look forward to enjoying the beautiful spring weather at least a bit.
Anyway, after all this work-related stress, I really needed to "reset" my mind back to idle and get rid of my bad mood. When I checked the websites a couple of weeks ago, AF offered really great weekend specials from DUS to CDG for just 96 Euro, so I didn't hesitate one second and booked a daytrip to my favorite city (Paris), on my favorite airline (Air France). Another 2000 miles closer to the free Concorde trip!
I didn't plan to prepare a trip report about these flights, since I have already covered my experiences on AF's DUS-CDG-DUS sector, but due to popular request I have decided to write a couple of lines. Please excuse me if details are lacking this time around, because I did not take any notes.
Saturday, March 29th 2003
Dusseldorf (DUS) - Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
Scheduled block time: 1100h - 1215h
Actual block time: 1107h - 1220h
Flight time: 1115h - 1205h
delivered: Sepetember 1st, 1989
Photo © Florian Kondziela
At the airport (DUS)
Due to a lengthy 15 minute delay of our notoriously not-so-punctual Deutsche Bahn (German Rail), I arrived at the airport train station just about ten past nine in the morning, and was pleasently surprised to see the people mover between train station and terminal work. Ever since this about 3 kilometers long link between the railway lines and the central terminal complex was officially opened in July last year, there have hardly been a few weeks when this technological piece of cr@p has worked flawlessly.
Photo © Bernd Lawrenz
Upon arrival in the terminal a few minutes later, I was very suprised. how lively and crowded the place was during these times of war in Iraq. Seeing all those travellers, hurrying from check-in to their gates, sipping their coffee or glancing at the offers of the airport arcades, I felt some hope that this crisis will not have a devastating effect on airlines and airport operators like September 11 did.
Check-in took more time than usual - although three counters (including one for "L'Espace" travellers were open, there were at least five persons waiting in each of the "Tempo" (Economy Class) lines. Soon enough, another counter was opened, and within three or four minutes, it was finally my time to check-in. Printing my boarding pass for both my flights this Saturday was a matter of only few seconds, and since I didn't have any baggage to check, I was able to leave the check-in area not more than five minutes after my arrival here. My seats today were 21F on the outbound leg and 10F on the return flight later this evening.
Thumbs up to AF for such a good reaction to what could have possibly become a lengthy wait at check-in!
Weather wasn't really that good this Saturday morning, with a typical gray German winter sky obscuring the sun and making all attempts to take some decent photographs from the still-open visitor's deck on top of Terminal B futile. Thus I directly proceeded to Terminal B, where I spend the remaing minutes by browsing through the fairly minuscule travel value offers and watching the movements on apron and runway (BTW - I saw Sabena332's ARJ-85 take off from here).
First boarding call was announced by two gate attendants exactly at 1030h in both French and German, with passengers in "Tempo" cabin receiving the first announcement. Unusually for AF1307, the aircraft today wasn't parked on a remote stand, but docked at B53, which is a gate at the upper center of the photo below.
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Air France offers their customers a wide selection of internation newspapers and magazines, which are presented on a portable rack in front of the aircraft inside the jetway. Since the "Herald Tribune" wasn't available, and I am for several reasons not a fan of "USA Today", I spontaneously decided to test my French language skills to the max and grabbed "Le Monde", usually my second choice of newspaper when flying Air France.
Inside our Airbus, I was greeted by two very friendly female flight attendants in their early fourties, who directed my to my seat. Unlike what can sometimes be heard by some other contributors on this board regarding the lack of charm by "older" flight attendants - derogatorily calling them "SkyHags", I have never come across an unfriendly or impolite older flight attendant. I guess this has to with what attitude you as a passenger are offering to your counterpart serving you from the aisle...
The flight (DUS-CDG)
After stowing my small backpack in the overhead compartment and taking my seat at the window, I couldn't help but notice how the age of this Airbus was expressed by the state of the interior. The overal pearl-white walls had some scratches, and the blue-clothed seats were, although fairly wide and comfortable, still of the old-fashioned kind with no winged headrests like on the newer Air France birds.
The seatback pocket design on the older A320's is also quite unusual. It is basically just a piece of strengthened cloth in the same dark blue color like the rest of the seat, fixed to the front seat with elastic bands. Therefore it is not recommendable to store small and/ or important items in this "Pockets", because they are very likely to fall out as this is a pocket without a bottom!
Inside the seat pocket were the usual gadgets and items - a fairly worn "Air France Magazin", a safety card and an an airsickness bag.
Photo © Philippe Gindrat
Pushback commenced a couple of minutes after eleven a.m., and soon enough our averagely-booked flight (2/3 full) was on its way to the treshhold of RWY23L. During our taxying, the usual safety demonstration was conducted in French, English and a very "creative" interpretation of what remotely sounded like German. (No offense, my French most likely sounds just like this the other way around.)
A fairly robust take-off commenced at a quarter past the hour, and after hardly half of the 3000m long RWY was used, the Airbus thundered into the graw German skies, banking sharply to the north and following the Rhine for the first couple of miles until we turned to the left in order to take a direct westerly route across a cloud-covered Northern Belgium to Paris.
Inflight service commenced about ten minutes after take-off, and much to my pity, Air France had once again decided to cut costs and serve a snack mix or a bag of cookies instead of my long-time catering favorite on the Duesseldorf route, i.e. a selection of small, but nevertheless delicious baguettes.
The first time this service cut was implemented came just after Septemebr 11, but fortunately, by mid 2002, the little baguettes were back. Therefore the change must have come fairly recently during the last couple of weeks.
Also included in the service program was a full selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. This was my first day off in a long time, so I talked myself into spoiling me a little, so I orded a small bottle of - complimentary - Bordeaux (again, another favorite of mine). IMO, AF has one of the better selections of inflight wines even in Economy, and this time around, the Pointe du Grave was not exception.
Maybe it was due to the wine or related to the stress of the last few weeks, but soon after finishing my bottle, I dozed off for the rest of the flight until about ten minutes from arrival.
I had expected to touch down on one of CDG's southerly runways, since these are a lot closer to Air France's Aérogare 2 (see lower terminal on the photo below), but soon enough and much to my surprise, the A320 soared over the airport fence, and our flight captain "greased" the great white bird onto the northern RWY (27).
Photo © Walter Pietsch
Well, I didn't have to catch a connecting flight today and just wanted to have a good time, so I didn't mind the lengthy taxi just parallel to Aérogare 1 towards one of the new north-southerly taxiways, which connects RWY27 with the Air France terminal complex. Actually, it gave me a good opportunity to check out some of the more unusal visitors on the apron of Terminal 3, which is mainly used by charter, lowcost and some fairly colorful (and sometimes dubious) African carriers. The view of an LTU A320 on this apron was one of the most more movements here - does anyone know why it was here? I know that LTU has conducted a lot of Hadj charters this year, but AFAIk, the season for this is over now?
Every time I come back to CDG, I am amazed on how much construction at Aérogare 2 has advanced, and sure enough this time, a new remote apron had been dedicated, which was filled with an impressive line of Air France A340 and B777 being readied for their flights to North America and Africa during the noon and afternoon banks.
Photo © Alain DISSEAU
By 1220h, our A320 was finally parked on a remote stand east of the terminal, and since deboarding took only a few minutes thanks to our light passenger load, we were quickly on the way to the dropoff at Terminal 2F.
Ahhh...Paris, my favorite place on earth. Spend most of the time taking a stroll along Rue de Rivoli towards Les Tuileries and from there to my favorite park, the Jardin de Luxembourg. After two hours of relaxing, watching spring evolve on this wonderful and sunny March day, I walked a few meters to RER-Station "Luxembourg" and arrived back at the airport within 40 minutes at 1630h.
Saturday, March 29th 2003
Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) - Duesseldorf International (DUS)
AF2306 (originally planned: AF1006)
Scheduled block time: 1830h - 1945h (originally: 2035-2150h)
Actual block time: 1830h - 1946h
Flight time: 1847h - 1943h
Airbus A319-113 (originally planned: A321-211)
delivered: November 15th, 2002
Photo © DIGITALEX Wiecka
The airport (CDG)
I had already checked in this morning for my return flight, so I was able to proceed directly from the RER station to the security check-point at Aerogare 2F. My original itinerary comprised a return much later this evening on what was supposed to be the first regular Air France A321 flight to DUS, but unfortunately, a few days before my trip, the flight was cancelled due to low demand. This change actually turned to my advantage, since I got to fly on the only Air France short haul aircraft still missing from my collection - the A319!
Waiting inside the newest addition to the Air France terminals at CDG is not much of a chore - I am always amazed by the architectural beauty of the large glass-and steel dome when I have passed from security into the waiting area. It is just a pity that the Germany services will be moved back to the 80's style Terminal 2D in mid June, when Terminal 2E is opened and most of AF's services get shuffled around Aérogare 2.
Photo © Walter Pietsch
Funny for me, I was subject to a passenger survey by ADP (Aéroports de Paris) while I was waiting for my flight at gate F27. Testing my French skills once again to the extremes, I actually managed to comprehend most of the questions, which were directed at me. Seems like ADP is trying to optimize the layout of their retailing and passenger service installations inside the terminals, since much emphasis of the survey was put on the amount of time spend at the airport, the route taken through the building and so on. Reminded me a lot of the time I worked on my thesis - part of it was a passenger survey at Leipzig-Halle airport. Nice to see a "colleague" of mine at work - I am always happy to help out fellow ingeneers.
Boarding commenced at five past six, and was completed within ten minutes. This flight was even lighter booked than my earlier leg this morning, with only 40% of the seats filled.
The flight (CDG-DUS)
I won't go into detail here, because the service was just the same like on the outbound leg. It was interesting to note however, how much passenger cabin comfort has evolved over the last 12 or thirteen years; this brand-new and shiny A319 didn't look worn at all. The walls were in a slightly creamier white, but carpet and seat color remained the same compared to my 1989-vintage A320 on the way out the same morning. My biggest seat-related gripe, i.e. the insufficient seat-pocket, has been solved on the seat configuration: there is actually a real seatpocket with a bottom. Another plus, the seat has the new ergonomically pleasing fomr and features winged headrests, whcih come in quite handy for a weary traveller like me!
Pushback was ontime at 1830h, and within ten minutes of taxi time, we arrived at the threshold of RWY28R (the inner runway of the two southerly RWY's. Most poeple would give me a funny look for this, but being totally relaxed by now and having no appointments to catch, I totally enjoyed watching the line of Air France 737's and A319/ 320/ 321 of the evening bank constantly taking off into the intensive red evening sun in front of us. I guess that's one of the magic beauties of aviation!
After take-off, F-GRHY turned northbound after a few minutes of climb, reaching the cruising altitude of 23.000ft soon afterwards. Our route this evening was different from the morning flight - leading us via Luxembourg and Noervenich towards DUS.
Another snack-mix and cookie service and another bottle of dry red (this time fromt he Medoc region) assisted my enjoyment of the return flight, and all too soon the familiar lights of Wuppertal were visible below, while our Baby Airbus decended over Barmen, the outskirts of Essen and led us right across Ratingen into DUS's RWY23L, where were on-block at Terminal B only a few minutes late.
Photo © Stephan Tophoven
I know that rating an airline from a passenger standpoint is a highly subjective procedure, but from my point of view, Air France has never let me down in almost a hundred flights so far. Unlike my personal experience with certain of their Lufthansa colleagues, Air France FA's have always been courteous and friendly, although they certainly lack io foreign language skills. I don't mind, because I always crave for a chance to apply my rather rusty French, but certainly this deficiency can be a setback for other travellers.
If you get a good deal, be it on AF or another airline, I can only recommend to go to Paris! For me, it is the place we I "recharge" my "batteries", be it by staying for a few hours or by meeting friends or my family in the "City of Lights".
Thanks for bearing with me, I acutally enjoyed writing this report, although I hadn't planned to do so. And thanks to Sabena332, for giving me the virtual kick in the butt. You got me motivated to write this text!
[Edited 2003-03-31 21:21:01]