5.45pm, I ran at my apartment, checked-in online with Air France e-services, finished packing in hurry while hoping I didn't forget anything important. The phone rang, the car was already there and waiting for me. Within 5 minutes, the two suitcases were in the trunk of the black Lincoln, and I was heading to JFK Terminal 1.
After 45 minutes of a surprisingly smooth ride to JFK, the car left me just in front of the Air France check-in counters. Air France is using several counters at terminal 1, and used to be at the very 2 first counters on the right side of the terminal. Now it is Royal Air Maroc that uses these counters... this is a pity they didn't keep it...
Check-in: (sorry no pictures available)
Since I already checked-in online, I queued at the baggage drop-off counters. This e-service is quite helpful and can be real time saving... The young lady at the counter was courteous, and efficient. She checked-in my two luggages, put the tag on with the Skyteam priority sticker, gave my boarding card and asked me to drop my suitcases at the security check just behind me. This new procedure to bring one's own luggage at the security scan is somehow bothering me especially since there was a line for this.
Security: (sorry no pictures available)
Well I had the chance to be routed to an almost empty lane. Only a couple with their 2 young children were before me but gosh it took tem forever to go through the security with all their carry-on bags/baby food/baby trolley. Laptop out from my bag, I took out my shoes and clear the security control, and after 5 minutes I was in the concourse of the terminal and headed to the Air France salon.
The Air France Salon at JFK T1 is located next to gate 1 at the very end of the small concourse of the terminal. Some of Air France flights used to depart from gate 1 and 2 (especially with Concorde) but now most of the Air France departure gates are on the main concourse and usually the very last gates (8 to 12) which are at the opposite of the Salon, leaving gates 1 to 3 mostly for new "roommate" Swiss International. I don't see that as a great change for AF premium passengers who have to walk all the way long of the concourse to board.
Arrived at the lounge, I was warmly welcomed by two women who also asked me to provide my opinion on the electronic monitor displayed at the counter. There were 5 questions to answer regarding the lounge and the staff. After giving my opinion, they gave me a present "for the time I spent on answering the questions". I find out later that it was a key chain in the white box they gave me.
Nice key chain
The Air France lounge at Terminal One must be one of the biggest of the terminal with its two levels. However, it is still furnished with the "old" style chairs and décor. It is quite odd Air France has not renewed yet their JFK lounge since it is one of their "premium" destination...
The lounge was not too crowded yet, passengers from the previous flight AF 007 left recently the place and that could explain why there were few catering left. Fortunately while I was taking something to drink, a young lady came to tell me the buffet was ready at the rear of the salon. I welcomed this announcement since I didn't have lunch. Nice buffet with choice of 5 different meals:
- Grilled vegetables.
- Tandoori chicken.
- Smoked fishes.
After chilling few minutes in the salon, I decided to head towards the gate in order to see what the aircrafts at the gates were.
At that time of the day, there were at the gate a B763 from Royal Air Maroc, a LX A332, , an AZ B772 to FCO, a LH B744 to FRA, a LH A346 to MUC, an AF B772 to CDG (just pushed back), and my AF flight with a B744.
T1 main concourse
Date: August 13th, 2007
Route: New-York JFK T1 gate 08 - Paris CDG 2E (changed)
Scheduled Departure Time: 20:45
Actual Departure Time: 20:53
Scheduled Arrival Time: 09.50 D+1
Actual Arrival Time: 09.52 D+1
Aircraft Type: B747-428 (15th flight on this type since 2002)
Aircraft Registration: F-GITB (2nd flight with this aircraft)
Seats/Class: 60A (Upper deck), Tempo (Economy)
Photo © Jp lemaire
Photo © Olivier Corneloup
Photo © Manas Barooah
Photo © Anne Deus
Boarding announcement for AF 011 to CDG was made and suddenly the crowd rushed to gate 8. Unfortunately the gate is sharing its boarding area with gate 11 where the LH flight to MUC was proceeding boarding as well, hence the chaos at these two gates. Fortunately the LH boarding was almost done. I went to the fast lane to board-in, but because of the chaos, there were no distinct lane for l'Espace and Skyteam Elite passengers. I eventually find my way out to proceed boarding without waiting too long in the queue.
AF and LH boarding gates
Arrived at the door of the AF Jumbo, I was welcomed in French and in English with the smile of two female flight attendants who checked my boarding card and showed me the direction of my seat: "60A, please take the stairs Sir". Once arrived at the upper deck, I was again welcomed by another female flight attendant to who I showed one more time my boarding pass, she indicated me where the seat was, but I was disappointed she didn't lead me to my seat as I always had when travelling on the upper-deck of AF B744. The upper-deck was almost full when I boarded and was in fact full when the boarding was done. While seating at my seat, another woman flight attendant was leading two other passengers to their seats. That was what I expected, but I had the other flight attendant who didn't seem to be keen to do it.
When flying AF, I try to take as much as I can a flight with one of their B744 since they will be soon retired from the AF fleet and be replaced by more modern B77W. A couple was saying loudly how lucky they were to be upgraded in the business class section... I realised how the upper-deck of the B747 is always associated with premium product. Since there are no more First class in AF B744, the once J class in the upper deck is now an Economy class section. But I would say this is an Economy Plus style section with more leg rooms and the intimate atmosphere of the upper deck.
seat 60A seat pitch
Upper deck side storage
The captain welcomed all passengers and informed the plane will leave shortly the gate and the flight time will be 6h10mn. When pushed back at 8.53pm, the main purser made the welcome announcement and launched the security video. What I also like about Air France security procedure is on their long-hauls, they don't only show the security video but F/A are standing and show manually exits when the video mentions them. This gives a human but also classy touch to a "cold" security video...
Surprisingly, the Jumbo Jet took its take off position in less than an hour; there were not too many delays due to congestion at JFK. I have to admit this is the first time in 2 years that I don't have to taxi for ages before take-off at JFK. We took off at 9.40pm.
F/A started to distribute menus and amenity kits to the Tempo cabin few minutes after taking off. Although the content of the amenity kit has been reduced, it is still nice to receive such kit in Economy class and a menu.
Meal Service: (sorry no pictures available)
Pasta salad with Creole shrimp
Choice of main course
Sauté of beef accompanied by mashed potatoes, carrots and sugar snap peas
Fillet of sea pike served with watercress cream sauce and rice with vegetables
Belle-Helene pear tart
Coffee and Tea
Due to the short flight time, appetizer and dinner were served pretty early. After having my tomato juice and some crackers, the friendly F/A asked me what was my choice for the meal. I decided to go with the beef and she gave me the tray with a genuine smile. As for the amenity kit on economy, AF serves meals with silverware and real glass which is appreciated.
In-flight: (sorry no pictures available)
F-GITB is one of the oldest AF B744 and despite the recent interior retrofit, there is no PTV on the main Tempo cabin, while the upper deck has PTV but not on demand... the jumbo jet shows definitely its age and new Tempo cabin in the B77W are definitely more comfortable, BUT this is the B747 and I really like this aircraft, plus I already flew F-GITB 3 years ago on a memorable flight to BKK on the upper deck while it was still l'Espace Affaires.
AF in flight entertainment is way below the standard such international carrier should have. At least, I am wondering why AF doesn't choose the same system as KLM... However, I heard they will go for a completely new in flight entertainment programme on board its long-haul flights.
After the meal; lights were dimmed and I tried to sleep a little bit. I hardly find sleep and spend the rest of the flight reading. During the flight, the two F/A were passing regularly but mostly to
Breakfast service: (sorry no pictures available)
The lights were back on above Ireland, and the breakfast service was about start.
While the main meal on AF is somehow tasty and change regularly, the breakfast snack remains the same for ages! This wouldn't be disappointing if it was a fancy breakfast, but the cheese sandwich is just tasteless. I only ate the yoghurt and drank my orange juice and a hot tea served by the F/A.
The captain, then followed by the main purser, announced our descent to CDG, given forecast details and asking passengers to get prepared for landing. It was also announced that the arrival terminal would be terminal 2B. I was puzzled by this news wondering why AF would park its B744 at CDG 2B. What could be the next destination for the Jumbo out of 2B, and could this terminal handle arrivals for such massive aircraft with 400 pax onboard?
French country land
Landing was very smooth, especially on the upper deck. We landed on the north runway facing west and had to wait some aircrafts to take-off before crossing the parallel take-off runway and heading to Terminal 2B.
New Terminal S3 on the background
CDG S3 and 2F
Crossing the north runway
My questions about this arrival at terminal 2B were justified by the fact CDG 2B is mostly for non-Shenghen carriers which operate narrow-bodies aircraft.
Fortunately we didn't park at a remote stand but have (ONLY) 1 jet-bridge to disembark.
European narrowbodies at CDG 2B
Our arrival gate
Well, as I was unfortunately expecting, the poor passengers that we are were left in the wild life of the undesirable and unfriendly terminal 2B. Clearing immigration was a total disaster in terms of organization since there was no lane to fluid the flow of passengers, nor ground staff to help with information.
The overall picture is 400 passengers crowded in front of two immigration gates, blocking the way in the small terminal departure hall (2B and 2D don't have a separate arrival level from the departure one, it is basically the same hall). While queuing people were wondering if we were at terminal 2D since they saw big panel with 2D on it, I told them that we were at 2B and the sign is showing the direction for 2D, but of course no indication for 2A, C, E, F and CDG 1 and 3. Anyhow, CDG is just so unfriendly and signs are just a miss. I had an ironic smile when seeing the new colourful sign "WELCOME to PARIS".
The luggage carousel was just after the immigration, but even if the B744 was at less than 50m from us and can be seen from the carousel, luggage took for ages to be delivered, fortunately mine arrived among the first and I hope it was due to the priority tag... who knows, may be it sometimes works! I grab my bag and noticed there was NO custom control at all, I didn't wonder too much and headed outside the terminal to meet my friend who came to pick me up, and started my sunny day in Paris!
CDG 2B luggage carousels
With AF you never know what service you will get: the excellent French service or the worst service of your life til the next one... Their level of service is inconsistent (although it tends to the better) for what I can see after more than 100 flights with them... This one is no exception: not an excellent one, not the worst either. However I enjoyed being on the upper deck of the AF B747 while flying economy and this red-eye flight was quite smooth and short (6 hours flight). The big problem with AF is CDG. Unfortunately I don't know if they can do much about that.
Check-in: 9/10 - thanks to the e-service;
Lounge: 6/10 - old style lounge and poor food selection if no buffet available;
Boarding: 4/10 - messy;
Seat: 8/10 - economy plus style in the upper-deck of the B747;
IFE: 3/10 - over dated IFE, need a serious upgrade;
Aircraft: 6/10 - heavily used and worn-out, should be 5/10 but this is the B747;
Crew Service: 6/10 - unequal quality of service depending on the F/A;
Meal and beverage: 7/10 - good main meal with free alcohol but poor breakfast snack;
Disembarkation: 4/10 - could be worse if deplaned by bus;
OVERALL SCORING: 5.88/10
Thank you for reading,
COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOMED.