As this was a short business trip, I preferred to travel light and therefore I did not take any camera with me: So, no pics (as usual with my very few TR´s yet).
During my return flight I came to the conclusion to make this TR a "DL vs. AF in C-Class" (with being a first time flyer in both products, but having prior experience on other airlines). Therefore I limit my description of my feeder flights to some basics and will focus on the Transatlantic Crossing.
Approaching AF´s check-in counter in HAJ at 0930h I had a queue of 20+ pax in front of me with only 2 check-in positions open. The queue moved slowly.
Fulfilling Murphy´s Law, a third position was only opened when I reached the head of the queue …
I had to fill in and sign a form with those stupid questions regarding the contents of my to-be-checked luggage ( ihad to answer the very same questions later in CDG another time). Apart form this, check-in was performed rather quick.
HAJ - CDG
1040-1210h (actual flying time: 65 minutes)
Fokker F-70 F-GLIX
Load factor: 75-80%
Photo © Francisco Leitão - Lisbon Spotters
Very quickly after takeoff on runway 27R beverage service began. Apart from drinks also a selection of muffins, pretzels etc. was offered.
Once the single bev´service was over, the cabin crew of two vanished behind that front curtain and only emerged once again to collect the trash prior to landing.
Having touched down at CDG we taxied for exactly 10 minutes to a remote stand.
We had to squeeze into a single bus for the short drive to Terminal 2D which also was cramped in bus arrivals and single escalator was struggling to cope with the flow of pax.
Having to connect from 2D to 2E we (I flew together with some collegues) walked for quite a number of minutes …
Having received my boarding pass for my onward flight to ATL already in HAJ, I went through passport control at 2E for gate area E75 (fortunately I was in the quicker moving "EU"-line) which tool only a few minutes. Also screening of pax and carryon took only a few minutes.
After a quick visit to AF´s lounge serving gates E72 thru 77, I continued my walk to gate E75. That area of CDG still is under some kind of (re-)construction …
Approaching the gate area, my passport was cheked again, I got asked the same stupid question regarding my checked luggage twice (!). Being at the gate about 35 minutes prior to departure, the gate area was already deserted but staff was still present. It turned out that gate E75 is a bus gate on which intercontinental flights are handled …
I litterarily had to squeeze into a already full bus waiting. Minutes later three more pax had to squeeze in and ot took another few minutes before the bus left. This experience definitely was the low point of my travel experience so far: Having to squeeze into a already full bus as a full-fare paying business class pax really is something one might want to avoid !
The positive thing of this bus transfer is that I as an A.netter got driven past quite a number of biggies ...
Arriving at the aircraft only 1 airstair was attached to our B763. Consequently only 1 door of the bus was opened but still we had to wait on the apron for quite a while before the crowd had made up its way into the a/c (with everybody having to walk through the C-class section of the a/c).
CDG - ATL
Boeing B-767-300ER (apparently I memorized the reg incorrectly as N164AN, as it is not assigned to a DL B763).
Load in C-Class: Full
Coats were hung quickly, Pre-flight drinks were offered.
Once the a/c-door was closed we had to taxi only a few minutes to the runway and being #1 for departure we were airborne at 1355h.
After takeoff to the east we turned 180 degrees again and haeded west, getting wet feet over Brittany. In due course we flew over Lands End (England) and the southwestern tip of Ireland. We made our atlantic crossing at an altitude of 31.000 ft at 54 degrees North.
At 50° West we turned on a slightly southernly course (250°).
Making landfall over Canada we climbed to 37000 ft.
Champagne and OJ were served prior to departure.
More drinks were served soon after departure.
Meal service started about 1 h into the flight:
I opted for:
- Kingprawn and some other fish as appetizer (out of 2 choices)
- Chicken soup with vegetables and rice (out of 3 choices)
- Tenderloin beef with potato slices, sliced carrots and spinach with a peppery sauce (out of 5 choices)
- Assorted cheese (out of 2 choices)
- Ice cream
Out of 6 white and 6 red wines listed in DL´s menu, "only" two of each were available on this flight. The Australian Shiraz I had was delicious.
Food was served at a pace set by me, rather than the crew; refills of bev´s during lunch had to be asked for once (comment only, not really a negative point).
During cruise, cabin crew handed out bottled water ever so often (nice feature).
Our flight took us over Toronto and London, OT from where we went on a southernly heading.
Coming closer to ATL we had to cut speed quite early due to traffic inbound to ATL. Ultimately we had to circle north of ATL, but only 1 circle before we could perform approach into ATL. We were at the gate about 10 minutes later than scheduled.
Just before landing the responsible FA (aka. Purser) came to every single pax in C-Class to say Good Bye. Nice touch.
Overall, DL left a very good impression of its C-Class.
Arriving at ATL
We docked at Concourse E right next to the center staircase.
As a number of other flights had arrived prior to us, Immigration area (only the odd-numbered booths were staffed) was pretty busy. It took me about 20 minutes to clear immigration (fellow collegues who chose a different row used another 15 minutes to clear immigration).
I can´t understand why only half of the booths are staffed ?! Immigration is the first impression a visitor to the U.S. get from the country he´s visiting and having to wait in line for such long times while only half of the available facilities are staffed makes no good impression.
As I´d been advised from A.netters, I was prepared to put my bag onto another belt after having cleared USDA inspection.
What I was NOT prepared for was the fact that the trainsystem connecting the concourses had broken down and also some of the travellators were inop.
Ultimately we had to walk all the way from Concourse E to Baggage Claim with a bottleneck past Concourse T where the single (and also single file) escalator was not running. Everybody had to walk up that inop´ escalator
By the time we reached Baggage Claim our checked luggage was already taken off the conveyor belt.
Checking in with the rental car agency took less than 10 minutes, but by the time we finally boarded the Rental car Shuttle it was 2 hours past our scheduled arrival time. Not a good performance (with "the airport" being the one to blame) !!
After 3 days of business it was time to return to Europe.
I had selected the last available flight out of ATL to CDG leaving at 2135h as that gave me the opportunity to have a full business day prior to departure.
Check-in for AF´s Business Class in ATL´s South hall is rather well posted. Check-in was accomplished rather fast and with the usual procedures.
Waiting time at security control was almost nil. Travelling with a collegue we deliberately decided to walk to Concourse E in order to get a bit of exercise as we had been sitting in meetings for 3 consecutive days.
Arriving at Concourse E, I first used a automated "US-VISIT" station to officially leave the U.S.
After meal at a Chinese fast food restaurant, we decided to hit the lounge for about 45 minutes. AF uses DL´s facilities and DL´s International Business Lounge at Concourse E was only lightly visited. It made for a very pleasant waiting ! Really one of the best lounges I´ve experienced so far !
ATL - CDG
2135h - 1150h
Loadfactor: 1 free seat in C-Class only (Y looked quite full, F had a number of pax) --> make that a "full" flight
Photo © Resocha
Photo © Mathieu Pouliot
Our a/c was parked at gate E14 which is only a few steps from DL´s Int´l Lounge. We were on board quickly. And that´s the time point on which my "complaints" start (hence the number of -emoticons):
- Flying C-Class, AF had placed hangers for coats at every single seat (already tagged with the seat number). But nobody dared to take away my coat to hang it. I had to call a FA (who was pretending to be busy in the galley) for this
- Having boarded early, we sat dead on the ground for more than 30 minutes, but no pre-flight drinks were offered. Cabin crew waited until pushback to offer drinks: Champagne (which I didn´t enjoy as it had only little taste, but maybe I´m just a Gourmand in this respect ) / OJ / water.
- My headrest had no cover (unlike all other seats around me) - but after calling the purser (aka. senior FA) this was rectified within a minute
- The in-flight magazine (which contents tomy taste were among the worst I´ve ever seen) in my seatpocket was pretty battered and its coverpage was torn off by one third - not a good impression to have such a thing in C-Class
- I found some minor trash in the seatpocket, but this probably is to be blamed on the cleaning staff used at ATL. On a positve side, the remainder of the cabin was clean.
- I skipped both the evening meal (as I had eaten earlier and wanted to sleep) as well as the breakfast. However I did notice that beverage services were very limited between meals. AF had put a 0.25 L bottle of water in every seatpocket but once this was empty it was not replaced.
- Approaching breakfast time, the light simply (and radically) was switched on and breakfast was served immediately after. I would have expected that AF had handed out hot towels before breakfast in order to give the pax a way to wake up and freshen up … - Nope ! Those hot towels were handed out AFTER breakfast only !
- The a/c was equipped with VOD (according to announcement) but I didn´t use it, as I preferred to sleep during the flight. My non-using of VOD was supported by my unability to remove the remote control out of its cradle: The hold just didn´t want to release it.
- The headphone I tried for a moment (with music only) used noise cancelling functions. However I preferred to use the ear plugs provided in AF amenity box
- Seats are adjustable only in 2 directions: Reclining the backrest (which also adjust the seatbottom a bit) and extending the legrest (with additional footrest). Degree of decline was a bit disappointing. Also my feet hit the seat in front of me when trying to lie (more or less) stretched out. Having to lie at an adverse angle, it made my knees hurt over the flight.
- Approaching CDG, coats were handed out 30 minutes before touch down. To my standards this is quite early as there´s no good way to place a coat for such a long time w/o getting crincles in it (as I didn´t want to put it onto my lap for half an hour, I put it into the overhead bin). Furthermore, even though every hanger had a preassigned seatnumber on it, the FA´s had problems to deliver coats correctly (I can´t say if the tags were wrong or similar) …
Arriving at CDG
We once again received a remote stand; a single air-stair was in use and only a single bus was waiting for pax. Having been in C, I was fortunate enough to get a spot in that first bus. While reversing out and drivng away I had proper sight of the a/c and the airstairs for about 4 minutes: No second bus arrived and pax had to wait on the airstairs.
We got bussed to Terminal 2E again and had to walk through some temporary corridors. Immigration was performed quickly.
Having specifically booked a later flight out of CDG (as 60 minutes of connection time from 2E to 2D was too short by my calculations) I took a stroll walking from 2E via 2C to 2D. In the connecting corridor between 2D and 2B I found the best set of restaurants (some of them being "fast food").
CDG - HAJ
Load factor: about 50 %
Photo © Nik Deblauwe
Using a side entrance to my gate area (D75) - this one goes down a flight of stairs where the corridor of T2B hits T2D - security check was done very quickly (I was the only pax at that check point). Upon going to board the bus we had a secondary check of BP & passport (!) just outside the bus. A/C door was closed on time and we were off our stand (located between T1 and T2B) quickly, however by the time we joined the departure queue we were #7 for departure, thus we departed 30 minutes late. Service was the usual (nothing special to mention here) and we landed at HAJ about 20 minutes late. Luggage was deliverd quickly.
When comparing the products DL and AF delivered in C-Class for these very flights on the same route (actually on code-sharing flights), I need to give full "thumps up" for DL:
- Seats: 9/10
- Seat pitch: 10/10
- Entertainment: 9/10
- Conditions of a/c: 8/10
- Food & Beverages: 9/10
- Service on board: 9/10
- Overall: 54/60
Here´s my voting of AF:
- Seats: 5/10
- Seat pitch: 3/10
- Entertainment: 9/10 (high score, though I didn´t use it)
- Conditions of a/c: 8/10
- Food & Beverages: 5/10 (selection of food looked fair; quality I can´t comment)
- Service on board: 3/10
- Overall: 33/60
While I´m impressed by the product DL delivered, I´m deeply inclined to neglect AF in any future long-haul future planning in C-Class. One can get a much better product on other carriers than AF for the obscene amount of money to be paid for such flights !
Connecting through CDG´s various concourses within T2 is another thing I´ll try to avoid in future.
I hope I´ve covered all relevant aspects - If not, don´t hesitate to ask.
Holger aka. HT