I seemed to have lost the paper with aircraft registrations...
Photo © Stuart Haigh
19 March 2005
Valencia Manises-Paris Charles de Gaulle
Flight AF2077, Airbus A320-200
STD 16.05, STA 18.10
We arrived at Valencia´s Manises airport around three o´clock and proceeded directly to check-in, which was done swiftly by the handling agent. I had sent Air France an email to ask whether it would be possible to reserve seats for the CDG-BKK leg, requesting a window seat and the aisle seat next to it for the A340 flight, and got a reply with a confirmation two days later. I love flying but hate to sit in the middle of a wide-body on a long haul flight, so that was a good arrangement. At check-in I indeed got the requested seats.
This first leg was quite uneventful. The Airbus A320 was quite comfortable, and during the flight we got something to drink and a snack. In Paris we parked at a gate of Terminal 2E. The transit area was astonishing: dozens of passengers packed together, a lot of them sitting on the floor, waiting to be attended by Air France´s customer agents. It looked like a rock concert crowd rather than travellers, with a lot of empty cans and other rubbish lying around in the area. Luckily we already had the boarding passes for the connecting flight, later that evening.
We took the transfer bus shuttle to Terminal 2C, passed passport control and had a long wait before us. Normally I don´t mind to wait for a couple of hours in a terminal as long as there is enough to do and to see, but the amount of shops and places to eat or drink here was quite disappointing I must say. Anyway, we bought a pile of magazines and settled in the uncomfortable metal chairs, now and then also watching arrivals and departures through the windows. Around eight thirty we had something to eat, and after that enjoyed ourselves watching what seemed to be thousands of Koreans boarding their Korean Air flight to Seoul. One moment they moved around like nervous ants and the next they were standing neatly in the queue like obedient soldiers. Once the Boeing 747-400 pushed back and started to taxi, our Airbus A340-300 was towed into the gate. Our flight was one of the last departing from this terminal, together with Air France Boeing 777´s to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Photo © Santhosh Fernandez
19 March 2005
Paris Charles de Gaulle-Bangkok Don Muang
Flight AF166, Airbus A340-300
STD 23.25, STA 16.35
Boarding commenced at a quarter to eleven and went quite smoothly. We settled down in our reserved seats on the right-hand side of the plane and made ourselves comfortable for the long flight. I found the seat to be ok, with a footrest below the seat in front, but the box for the PTV system located on the floor between the two seats took away some leg space. Once everyone was seated we were greeted by the purser and then by the captain, who told that the flight would be 10 hours instead of 11 due to favourable tailwinds. We took off in easterly direction and climbed into the dark night with the A340´s famous “pregnant duck” climb rate: from the info on the moving map display I calculated that we were climbing with about 1400 feet per minute.
Dinner was served around one o´clock French time, we were the very last row to get our meals. One could choose between chicken or beef. My dad flies Air France from Paris to Port Harcourt in Nigeria every two months in Business Class, and always complains about the food service, especially the timing and the amount of food given (just one croissant and some jam for breakfast). But I thought on this flight the food was quite alright and plentiful.
The PTV system didn´t work correctly, I could follow the moving map display with flight info and see the news, documentaries and cartoons, but couldn´t watch any movies. My partner had the same problem. We told this to the flight attendant but she simply said there was nothing to do about it.
I slept for a while and woke up shaking wildly, we had entered a turbulent area just upon reaching the Caspian Sea. On the moving map I saw that we had crossed the Black Sea right through the middle of it, from Rumania to Georgia. A next moment I saw on the flight info that we were cruising at 37,000 feet with a ground speed of 1085 kilometres per hour.
The cabin started to wake up while overflying Delhi in India, but it took a very long while before breakfast was served. Actually we got our breakfast about 45 minutes before landing, so we started our descent while eating and needless to say, the flight attendants were now nervously roaming through the cabin to collect the trays. I don´t understand why breakfast wasn´t served about half an hour earlier, which would have made it much easier for all.
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
We landed at Bangkok´s Don Muang airport around 15.45 local time. It had been nine years since I was in Thailand for the last time and during the approach I could clearly see that a lot had changed in the meantime, especially in infrastructure. Immigration went smoothly and we were soon on our way to our destination Pattaya after picking up our rental car. During our week there we visited a small new airfield near Pattaya, where the club house was still in construction, and U-Taphao air base near Rayong, at 35 kms south of Pattaya. U-Taphao air base was used by the American forces during the Vietnam War, is now a combined Thai air force and naval base and has scheduled services by Bangkok Airways to Samui and Phuket. Furthermore there are occasional charter flights from Germany and Russia, especially. We had a hard time explaining the guards at the entrance that we just wanted to visit the airport to have a look around in the terminal, and after a long phone call with the supervisor and quite some questions they finally let us through after taking our passports and giving us an access permission.
Not that there was anything to do in the terminal, but we had a drink in the cafeteria and also bought two cans of coke for the guards at the entrance, which they happily accepted with a huge smile. Maybe next time they´ll let us through at once!
Saturday the 26th we left well in time for Bangkok, as traffic in this city can be notoriously congested. I remember one time it took my parents and me about 4 hours to drive the 150 kms from Pattaya to Don Muang! This time the trip went quite smoothly, but… we got lost. The airport is not signposted at all and I missed the exit for it. This unplanned de-tour cost us another 45 minutes…
We returned the car and made our way to the terminal, where we found out that the check-in counters wouldn´t open in another two hours or so. Yeah well, enough to do here in the meantime.
The last time I was here you had to pay the 500 baht departure tax at the check-in counter, but now this has to be done after check-in at a separate counter or a vending machine. And a few metres after that there are two sweet girls waiting to take the ticket from you again, before passing through customs and security. Just another typical Thai way of creating extra jobs, I suppose…
The airside of the terminal here has quite some shops and entertainment, so no problem to spend a couple of hours. But once we sat down at our departure gate we were quite exhausted indeed. Boarding commenced in time and went smoothly, except for a French lady who decided to push her way through to get on the plane sooner. Maybe she was afraid they would leave without her? This same lady later blocked the way for all others as she had to search for various things in her bag before sitting down. Some people are so inconsiderate…
Photo © Will Fang - Contrails Aviation Photography
26 March 2005
Bangkok Don Muang-Paris Charles de Gaulle
Flight AF161, Airbus A340-300
STD 23.30, STA 07.15
On this flight again dinner was served around one o´clock, and again the PTV system didn´t work 100%. This time I could watch movies but the moving map display and documentaries weren´t working, but as the programmation was still the same I guess I didn´t miss anything in the end. Oh well…
Breakfast was again served very late, just before descent commenced.
After landing we had to taxi for a very long time and parked at a remote stand near the maintenance hangars, where we had to wait for another 15 minutes or so before the door was opened and again before getting on the bus to the terminal. Now we had to go through the same process as a week ago, through customs and then to another terminal by shuttle bus. All in all we waited about an hour near our gate before boarding. This time we had to get on an aero-bus, quite an ingenious system where boarding is done at finger-level, the passenger cabin is lowered, the bus drives to the plane and the cabin is lifted again to make a direct access to the plane possible.
Photo © Tobias Rose
27 March 2005
Paris Charles de Gaulle-Valencia Manises
Flight AF1476, Airbus A320-200
STD 09.35, STD 11.35
The two-hour flight to Valencia was uneventful, especially since both of us fell asleep shortly after take-off only to wake up again during our descent to Manises airport, where we landed on runway 30 after a nice approach along the coast and around the city.
All in all, I don´t think Air France is too bad nor very good, but it´s definitely not in my list of preferred airlines.
- 15 May VLC-PMI-VLC with Air Europa
- 29 May VLC-MAD-BRU with Iberia (ret. 2 June)
- 15 June VLC-BRU with Virgin Express and BRU-IST with Corendon Air (?)
- 18 June IST-BRU with Corendon (any info whether this is Corendon Air or another airline operating for them?)
--- 19 June PARIS AIR SHOW! ---
- 20 June BRU-VLC with Virgin Express
- 7 July BCN-IST-BKK with Turkish Airlines