After dutifully saving my Skymiles, I decided that the time was ripe to cash them in while the getting was good. I was able to snag a round-trip first class award ticket to Paris on Delta and Air France. My timing was especially good as, soon after, DL and AF discontinued their agreement to make first class seats available to Skymiles members. This was to be my first experience on international F although I have previously flown BE on Delta to WAW.
The first leg of my trip started on February 26th with an early morning flight out of MCO to ATL. I managed to get to MCO in plenty of time despite the early morning departure and was soon on my way to my connecting flight in ATL. This leg was a brief 1 hour and 15 minutes and was pretty uneventful.
Delta 758 – MCO to ATL
Departure: 8 a.m. (on time)
Arrival: 9:15 a.m. (early)
The attendants were wonderful and pre-flight drinks (Diet Coke for me) were served. Once airborne, the snack tray was passed around and I availed myself of a double helping of the new, improved Biscoffs – yummy. Why have breakfast when you can knosh on Biscoffs. The tray was brought around again and so I helped myself to a couple for the road.
Upon arrival at ATL, I found myself with a 3 hour layover. I took the opportunity to plane spot, charge my phone and bum around the concourse in general. Feeling hungry, I grabbed a slice of pizza at the food court. It was soon time to board my connecting flight to JFK.
Delta 998 – ATL to JFK
Plane: MD 80
Departure: 12:23 p.m. (on time)
Arrival: 2:20 p.m. (on time)
Load: 100% in FC – close to that in Coach
Coats were on again hung up with care and pre-flight drinks served. Water this time round as I was getting Diet Coke overload. Departure was on time and, once airborne, I was shocked to discover that a light meal was being served. Given the cuts at Delta and the relatively short flight time, I thought snacks were once again in order but, soon enough, meal service began. They offered a turkey wrap with fresh fruit which everyone, except me, accepted. They wrap actually looked pretty good but I was still full from pizza. Instead, I asked for and was given a nice supply of, you guessed it, Biscoffs!!!!! The flight was otherwise uneventful and we landed at JFK right on time (Terminal 4). Since I had not checked any luggage, I quickly deplaned and made my way to the AirTran, the Subway and, eventually, Penn Station for a connection the NJ Railroad and a visit with a friend just south of the City for two days.
February 28th was soon upon me and, after bidding goodbye to my friend, I was off to JFK for my flight to Paris. I arrived early at the airport after retracting the route to get to NJ in hopes of snagging an earlier flight (AF 7) which has the NTC First Class seating. However, the flight was booked and so I took my seat assignment from the agent and made my way to the AF L’Espace Premier Lounge in Terminal One.
The AF Lounge is quite wonderful, very modern with comfortable furniture. The First Class Lounge is on the mezzanine above the L’Espace Affairs Lounge and my ticket was checked both at the entrance to the lounge and at the mezzanine level. Once situated, I explored the lounge. A widescreen TV was playing CNN and a number of small seating areas were distributed throughout the lounge. Facilities included a small conference room that doubled as a dining area (more on that in a minute), restrooms and a buffet area. The buffet included self service drinks (both hard and soft) as well as wine, champagne and a large variety of snacks and desserts. There were also 2 computer terminals available. At no point were there more than a half dozen people in this lounge that could comfortably seat many times that number. I watched some CNN and caught up on e-mail at the terminals. I then approached the AF representative and inquired whether I could change my seat so that I could have an open seat next to me. She readily obliged and even blocked out the empty seat next to me so that nobody else could claim it. I then noticed that some fellow passengers were eating food other than what was offered at the buffet. A quick glance in the conference room showed that it was set up for an evening meal. I could only ascertain that those departing on the late flight (AF 9) had the option of an evening meal on the ground rather than in-flight. While I suppose I could have also availed myself of this food, I was looking forward to eating on the plane.
Air France 11 – JFK to CDG
Departure: 9:00 p.m. (on time)
Arrival: 10:05 a.m. (on time)
Load Factor: 75% in FC
The boarding announcement was soon made and I was off to the gate. I boarded through the priority line for Premier and Affairs passengers and was directed to my seat (1E) in Premier. The cabin staff took my coat and, once seated, I was offered a choice of OJ or water. I was also given my amenity kit and the famous LaCroix pajamas. I opted not to change into the PJ’s on this leg but carefully packed the inside my carryon for future use. I did open the slippers/socks bag as I gratefully slipped off my shoes. The slippers were very comfortable and a welcome relief for this long flight. Newspapers were also handed out.
Once the door had been closed, champagne was offered although I have to admit now that I do not drink. Therefore, I cannot comment on the quality of the alcoholic beverages offered on any of these flights. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their champagne. I enjoyed my Diet Coke.
We were soon airborne and food service began about an hour into the flight: Menus were handed out and I was disappointed to learn that we had only two entrée selections on this flight. I had thought that a minimum of four selections would be available. Instead, the menu read as follows:
Duck fois gras and simmered dates with coriander
Smoked salmon, broccoli, celery and Granny Smith apples with Szechuan pepper
Choice of Main Courses
Pan-seared fillet of beef served with a truffle jus, braised lettuce and eggplant with vinegar
Grilled and stuffed baby vegetables with tomato peanut sauce
Our special selection of cheese
Fresh bakery selection
Petits fours frais
In addition, there was a selection of wines, aperitifs, liqueurs, beer, soft drinks and juices, etc. Like I said, I cannot comment on any of the beverages other than to say that the Diet Coke tasted wonderful.
I was frankly disappointed in the food selection. For an airline known for its food, I found the choice of only two entrees limited. I was given both hors d’ouevres but only nibbled at both. The beef was good but not great. However, the cheese, bakery items and especially the desserts were excellent. But, I would grade out the overall meal at a B-. The presentation was very good, however and the FA’s were ever attentive in offering additional bread and drink refills.
At the conclusion of the meal, the FA asked if I would like to have the chair converted into a flat bed. I responded in the affirmative and she was soon reclining my chair back to a flat 180 degrees. A comfortable duvet was laid across the seat and a down pillow supplied. I watched the final 30 minutes of Pride and Prejudice before catching about 2 hours of sleep. Although not the much anticipated NTC, I found the OTC chair to be quite comfortable and was able to sleep on my side (my preferred sleeping position). Sleeping on my back allowed me to use the supplied noise-canceling earphones, which did a wonderful job of masking the engine noise while allowing me to listen to the classical music channel. The IFE system is not AVOD but a good selection of movie, music and game options meant that one was not at a loss for entertainment.
I awoke to a dark cabin and, after stowing my duvet, pillow and blanket away, was asked if I wished to partake of breakfast. Although still somewhat full from my previous meal, I decided I might as well try.
Fresh fruit juice
Coffee, tea, hot chocolate
Fresh fruit salad with orange, watermelon and yellow kiwi
Fresh bakery selection, breakfast pastries, butter, preserves, honey
Choice of Main Courses
Poached eggs served over simmered tomato with herbs and zucchini coulis
Brioche French toast with honey, mango, golden raisins and coconut milk
I chose the French toast, which was good. The supply of pastries was once again ongoing although I overcarbed for the meal. Again, although good, I was somewhat disappointed. Maybe I just had my expectations too high. As before, the service was excellent as was the presentation. Maybe I’ve just eaten at Waffle Houses too much in my life to appreciate good food when it’s put in front of me.
The plane landed on time. However, due to the ongoing difficulties with Terminal 2E at CDG, we remote parked and were bussed into Terminal 2C. Fortunately, with no bags checked, I was able to make a fairly quick and painless transit of customs. I bypassed the arrivals lounge and headed for the Air France “Cars” outside of 2C, which transported me to Montparnasse and a fun week in Paris. I had considered taking the RER, which is located adjacent to Terminal 2E, directly into the Gard du Nord. However, the bus was waiting outside the door and the transit was painless due to the (relative) lack of traffic on a Wednesday morning,
My return trip began with the Air France shuttle back to CDG. The Tuesday a.m. traffic was much worse this time and I was glad to have allowed myself plenty of time. The shuttle dutifully dropped me back off at 2C but I learned upon entering that my flight was leaving out of 2E. I schlepped my bags to the next terminal and found the L’Espace Premier line. After a quick check in, it was on to the L’Espace Lounge.
Upon entering the main lounge, my ticket was checked and the friendly receptionist provided a quick orientation. There is a large computer area, massage rooms (of which I did not take advantage) and two different buffet areas. A TV and numerous Sony PSP’s were the entertainment options provided. There was copious seating and the lounge was comfortably full although not packed by any means. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the Premier Lounge is similar to JFK in that it is located in the mezzanine above the main lounge. However, there is no check-in like JFK although it was practically deserted when I arrived. An array of drinks and crisps was provided although the sandwiches and expresso machine were only found on the ground floor. There were two additional computer terminals on this level and I once again took advantage to check my e-mail. After a bite to eat, I grabbed a newspaper and contented myself for the next couple of hours simply reading or listening to my Nano (what a great little item that Nano is – very high on the cool factor). As boarding announcements are not made in the lounge, I decided to make my way over to the gate a little early just in case. A semi-permanent structure has been erected in what I take to be the tarmac between 2E and 2F. Whether this is the result of the recent accident or because of ongoing construction (or both) I did not ascertain. However, it was clean and uncrowded although the choice of duty-free shops was severely limited (as in two). They none-the-less seemed to be well stocked.
Air France 304 – CDG to ATL
Departure: 3:55 p.m. (on time)
Arrival: 7:35 p.m. (on time)
Load Factor: 25% in FC
I boarded the first bus for the plane, which was remote parked some distance from the terminal. Upon boarding, I was directed to the Premier Cabin where I was greeted by not one but three FA’s. A repeat of my previous pre-flight routine occurred although this time I availed myself of the PJ’s and slipped them on in the restroom. Being a big person I was afraid that they would be a snug fit but was surprised to find that not only did they fit but were also quite baggy on me. They are very soft and warm and I was quite comfortable.
The usual pre-flight drinks were offered but I opted for water in an attempt to follow the advice about hydrating on a long flight. We soon were underway (as opposed to pulling back – there was nothing to pull back from and were in the air after the briefest pause at the end of the runway. Once we had reached cruising altitude, menus were once again passed out. I was delighted that, as I had hoped, there was choice of four entrees. The menu was as follows:
Shrimp with white radish and horseradish, foie gras and breast of duck with figs, beet galette with mascarpone and chives
Choice of hors d’ouevre
Duck foie gras terrine with peppercorns and tomato with cucumber
Red mullet escabeche with Middle-Eastern Spices
Baby vegetable salad accompanied by truffle vinaigrette
Fresh Seasonal Salad
Choice of main courses
Lamb noisette with chocolate coffee jus and vegetable galette
Pan-seared scallops served with orange blossom honey vinaigrette, cucumber and zucchini flan
Lasagne with eggplant caviar, tomato and fresh goat cheese
Or the Plat Du Jour
Fillet of free range chicken served with asparagus coulis and celery in Middle-Eastern spices
Our special selection of cheese
Camembert, Fourme de Montbrison, Gratte-Paille, Saint-Maure, Comte
Fresh Bakery Selection
Petits fours frais
Chocolate pear tart, spiced pineapple bavarois, banana raspberry crumble
Sherbet served with cookies
Assortment of fresh fruit
The wine list on both flights was identical and is as follows:
Champagne: Billecart Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cu 1998
White Bordeaux Liqueur: Barsac Chateau Climens 1994 Premier Cru Lurton
White Burgundy: Meursault Clos des Corvees de Citeaux 2001
Red Bordeaux: Margaux Chateau Lascombes 2002 2eme Grand Cru Classe
Red Rhone Valley: Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2000 Michel Chapoutier
I will leave it to those who know far more than me about wine (as I know absolutely zero) to determine the quality of this list. Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying the offerings
I opted for the chicken which was quite good. However, as before, I found myself feeling full well before the meal was done. I managed to save room for the tarts, which were sinful.
Having consumed about as much as I could stand, I asked the FA to recline my seat into the bed and I was soon dozing off. I did not sleep for long but rather in hour-long spurts interrupted by water breaks or attempts to switch to a new audio channel. The cabin at one point got quite warm and I think this contributed to me not being able to fully get comfortable. At first I though tit was me but I noticed a few minutes later that the cabin temp. had been adjusted and things were soon much more comfortable.
I must have finally dozed off for good because the next thing I remember is the FA politely touching my shoulder and asking if I would like to be served a light meal prior to landing. Despite being still somewhat full from dinner, I of course said ‘of course’ and before long my bed linens had been removed and a linen tablecloth placed on my tray. The snack menu was as follows:
Egggplant with oven-dried tomatoes and fresh goat cheese
Saffron risotto and pumpkin with black sesame seeds
Orange and dates with green tea and rosewater
I must say that, of all my meals, I enjoyed the risotto the best. I forgot to take pictures but it was quite delicious and, of course, filling. I skipped the other courses as I was far too full to enjoy them.
We soon began our decent into Atlanta and I reluctantly slipped out of my PJ’s and back into my street clothes. I need to take a moment to comment about the FA’s on my flight. I have read other comments about cold or impersonal Air France FA’s. Nothing could have been farther from the truth on my flights. I found them to be personable, always ready to lend assistance and they did not, as I have seen from other reports, do only what was necessary and then slip off into the crew rest area for a gossip. One FA on my return flight, in particular, was particularly noteworthy. She informed me upon entering the cabin and greeting me that this was her last flight after 15 years with AF. During our conversations I learned that she is leaving to pursue a professional singing career in opera and classical music. Her attentiveness during the trip was extraordinary and I cannot help but think that this was her normal level of service to all passengers. I can only say that her departure is a great loss for AF.
After landing I took the shuttle to Terminal A and my connecting flight to MCO. Because I was on an international first ticket, I availed myself of the Crown Room Club and settled in to watch some NCAA basketball. The final leg of my trip was totally uneventful and I will not write much more than to say that we departed on time, arrived on time and I managed to snag my final bags of Biscoffs. Arrival at MCO was at 11:45 p.m. I made it to the satellite parking at 12:15 and arrived back at my house rather bleary-eyed at 2;30 a.m.
Overall, my Delta/AF First experience was a delight. I feel that the first class award ticket is by far the best use of miles, especially when the purchase of the ticket would have amounted to some $12,000 for the international segments alone. I was disappointed not to experience the NTC product but found the OTC product wonderful in its own right. I am only sorry that this award ticket is no longer offered for Skymiles redemption. I hope you enjoyed this, my first trip report and any feedback is most welcome.