I have to say first, I had some not so excellent flights with Air France in the past...so I didn't expect too much from these flights, especially on the European legs.
It was a Saturday morning when I had to get up and take the train to Zurich Airport (after a party-night...I haven't been at home before 4:30am). At ZRH I went directly to the Air France check-in. Three counters were open, one for F/C-class and two for Economy-class. There was quite a line behind all three counters. But it moved on quickly, after 10min I could check-in my bags to my final destination Dakar. The friendly (but surprisingly bad German speaking) agent handed out also the boarding pass for the CDG-DKR leg. I proceeded through passport control and security check. A bus brought us to the plane.
The BAe 146-200 EI-CWA arrived with a delay of about 1 hour from Paris. But this plane has a scheduled time on the ground in ZRH of 2 hours, so this delay wasn't the problem for the delay for our departure now, as we had to wait 20min in the plane before engines were started and we taxied to runway 32 (no explanation first...later the captain told us, we were delayed due to heavy traffic over French airspace).
The flight was about 80% full but only 3 rows C-class. About 10min after departure the F/A's begun serving food and drinks. We got a nice plate with two sandwiches (one ham and one cheese), a croissant and a cake. Quite impressive for economy on such a short flight (1h17min).
On approach we had strong winds => we touched down extremely hard and far away form the centre line as well with an angel to the runway of I would say between 10 and 20 degree. We just jumped again in the air and the second touch down was ok. But this was definitely one of the worst landings I've ever experienced.
We taxied to a remote parking where we arrived about 20min after scheduled departure time. In the plane they announced that people connecting to Bamako and Beijing should speak to the ground staff just outside the plane. We drove to terminal 2F. From there I had to take another bus which brought me to terminal 2C. About 30min after landing I arrived there. The terminal was full of passengers. Boarding was fast and there were about 20 people who got an upgrade.
I boarded the B772 F-GSPY and went to my seat 42L. The flight was absolutely full, at least in economy class. With a short delay we were pushed back and 10min later ready for take off. An F/A was not yet sitting on her seat when we begun our take-off roll. But the pilot didn't say anything like 'take-off in one minute'. During take-off I saw the new terminal 2E, it looks great!
Drinks were served and we got a menu for the diner they were going to serve us. When they served food I took the beef with rice, which was not really my taste. That's it, after food service you never saw a F/A again unless you went in the back of the aircraft to get a drink. A smart move of Air France is that they give you the earphones and you can take them home at the end. The amenity kit you get (even in Tempo) is nice. The PTV is rather small but it is a touch screen, which makes navigating in the system much easy if you ask me. The choice of films is not giant but sufficient, especially on such a short flight of only 5h30min. The IFE is not on demand nevertheless you don't have to wait 2hours or so until the movie restarts. There is a new start about every 10min. Overall a great IFE!
Our flight took us over Madrid into Morocco, West Sahara, Mauritania and finally to Dakar. We arrived at 9:25pm, so it was absolutely dark outside. Parking was just beside an Iberia B757 which must have arrived short before us. A modern bus brought us to the terminal building. And there I had to wait about 35min till I reached the officer who made a stamp in my passport. In the baggage claim area were two belts and on both a lot of bags turning. Beside was a huge amount of bags with TAP Air Portugal tags. Don't know how long they already have been there...but I'm sure more than just 10min...
I cleared customs and about one hour after touch down I stepped outside the terminal into the dark where a lot of people were standing/waiting/try to sell you something/... . To change money I had to go inside the terminal again, but take another door. There was again a crowd. But finally I managed to change money and get a taxi which brought me to my hotel where I arrived at 11:15pm. (On the way form the airport to the city centre we had to change a wheel.)
I spent 2 weeks traveling through Senegal and the Gambia. It was a wonderful time, interesting countries and I met a lot of friendly people.
BTW: The airport in Banjul (capital of the Gambia) has a looong runway. It's an emergency runway for the NASA space shuttle.
It was time to fly back home. Four days before I decided to confirm my flight with Air France (although AF says you don't have to, I usually do it at all African destinations). The agent there also told me that the check-in started already at 5pm for a flight leaving 11:45pm! I arrived around 5:45pm at the airport before it was getting dark. My impression of the airport was a lot better than on arrival in the night. I checked-in my bags at the Air France counter where I had to wait maybe 5min or so. They were also able to give me my boarding pass from CDG to ZRH.
After that I went outside the terminal to see if I can find a good place to watch the planes because the viewing area doesn't exist anymore. It was not easy to get a good view of the tarmac but I saw a Lufthansa Cargo 744, the SNBrussels A330 departing to Conakry and a Air Senegal International B732 along with some smaller aircraft. Later I had a coke a bit away for the terminal. It was 5 times cheaper than in the airport-restaurant. But the view from the restaurant to the tarmac is best (I just realized that too late and it was already dark).
The terminal begun to fill up with people and I decided to go through passport control which resulted in a 15min wait in line. There are only two boarding areas (A and B) in Dakar. That evening 3 flights departed to CDG, one to BRU and one to MAD all within 30min. So the small areas get pretty crowded. Anyway the waiting before security was horrible long. I thought that 45min before scheduled boarding time should be far enough to go through security check. But it was just exactly the time I needed there. Some people tried to avoid the long waiting...that resulted in some (not so nice) talks between passengers. Also a lot of late SNBrussels came and had to go in front, because their flight was departing 30min earlier than Air France and Iberia. Anywayz, when I finally passed security I was just able to board the bus which brought us to the plane. Before entering the bus a man checked all passports if the picture was the original one. It took again some time. But we finally arrived at the aircraft and were able to board...so my advice for all pax out of Dakar: go as early as possible to the airport, through customs and security check. It's just easier and you don't have a stand in line for long time.
Another thing funny about that whole procedure: how many time I had to show passport and ticket/boarding pass: to enter the check-in area, to check-in, to go through passport control, to go through security, to leave the terminal building, to board the bus (here in between were about 5m, resp. 10 seconds!!), to get on the stairs for entering the plane and finally when I entered the plane the F/A wanted to see my boarding pass again, although I knew where my seat was (42L). So that makes a total of 8 times...
I had to wait quite a long time in the B772 (F-GSPR) until all pax were onboard. The captain gave us some route information this time: The flight would be less than 5 hours and the delay we had won't effect an ontime arrival in Paris. We were airborne 30min after scheduled departure time. Service was extremely quick to let us sleep after, I like that. The food this time was also good. After everybody was served they dimmed the cabin lights and a lot of people were sleeping. The seat is comfortable. Nevertheless I wasn't able to sleep and iso I watched again a movie on the small screen in front of me. An hour before landing they served a coffee/tea service. Our route this time was a bit more east, over Mauritania, Morocco (Tanger) and Barcelona into Paris. We landed in CDG almost 30min ahead of schedule!
Once on the ground we taxied along terminal 2E and surprisingly we didn't park at terminal 2C as they told us in Dakar as well as on the plane before landing! We parked finally at a gate on terminal 2A. Well, I didn't care because I had to change to 2F anyway.
We had to show the passport again just after leaving the plane. This fact resulted for me in a 25min wait, because I was sitting in the back of our plane...well, I have no complain when France wants to make an additional passport control, but (and that's a huge but) they should send more than just two officers for a fully booked 777! It just takes too long.
After that check I proceeded directly to the transfer bus. About 20people were already waiting. But it took another 10min until a bus arrived, half full of course. At this time about 50-60 pax were waiting to get on that bus for changing terminal. Not everybody was able to board that bus and who knows how long they had to wait for the next! In the bus there were no announcements in which terminal we would arrive next. I think that's rather lousy. Not everybody is familiar with CDG. Anywayz, I managed to get out at the right stop because I knew how (wonderful!) 2F looks like.
My connecting flight seemed to be ontime as there was nothing special written on the screen. I went through security and finally arrived at my gate exactly 56min after touch down and this is without going to toilet, standing around, drinking a coffee or anything. Well, my flight from DKR was almost 30min too early in CDG but what happens if it is 10min or so delayed?
Boarding hadn't started so I went to toilet and when I came back it had already started. The bus which brought us to the remote parking was filled up quickly, but we were only about 40 pax on that BAe146-200 (EI-PAT). In the plane we had to wait about 30min because of slot problems in ZRH. The captain welcomed us and in French, English and German!
We got a nice breakfast with hot croissants. I can't say much more about the flight, the weather wasn't too good and I was only sleeping. Landing in Zurich was smooth after a flight time of one hour. In ZRH we had to show our passport again at the aircraft...
Baggage was already there when I arrived at the belt about 10min after leaving the aircraft. That's what I call good service. I took the train back home.
Overall: The Air France flights were a lot better than expected. I like their product on the 772, the only complain is the quality of food on the CDG-DKR leg. The shorthaul flights operated by CityJet were also good.
But the connection@CDG on the way back home was not comfortable and smooth at all.
Cu in Timbouctou