This March I decided to go and visit some friends in California. I did not feel like forking over the money for a business class ticket, although I believe that the west coast destinations are about the best value for money in J. About E2250,- for an 11hr flight. Anyway, the cheapest 100% miles earning fare I could find with Skyteam (Flying Blue Gold member) was the route mentioned in the topic title. When flying economy I prefer KLM to AF but I had no choice. Nice opportunity to sample their A340 service I thought. Boy, was that a mistake…
One thing I find extremely annoying with KLM/AF is that even as a Gold member you cannot reserve exit seats before check-in. What is up with that? After doing my due diligence on Seatguru I had to decide that there are almost no good seats on an AF A340. I managed to secure the only seat with legroom 18C (or G. Tip: you CAN reserve those in advance). Unfortunately when checking in online I found that 17K was available. A bulkhead seat with supposedly extra legroom. Since I like looking out the window and sleeping against the wall I chose to change. Big mistake nr 2.
The ticket AMS – CDG – SFO was a combined one, so I was not able to change my AMS – CDG flight to an earlier one. Or so I was told by the KLM helpdesk. Annoying, since this would leave me with only a 45 minute transit in CDG. “Well sir, we tested it and this should be no problem!”. I decided to turn up early at AMS to see if I could arrange for an earlier flight there. Fortunately this was no problem and I arrived in CDG with 90 minutes to transit. After reading all the horror stories I was relieved. Maybe because it was Sunday, but the transfer from 2F to 2E only took the better part of 20 minutes. Enough time to relax a little at the lounge.
|Air France Lounge at 2E|
The AF lounges at 2E are a lot better than those at 2F. I enjoy spending time at the lounge before my flights. It relaxes me and I always turn up early to enjoy them. In sharp contradiction to the KLM lounges at Schiphol (what a disgrace!) they do serve some nice bits and bites here. Still does not compare to lounges in Asia, but hey.
|Air France Lounge at 2E|
Soon it was time to board and after a brisk walk I reached the gate. There was a long line but thank someone for Gold Status. Just walk passed everyone, say ‘excuse me for cutting in line!’, show them your boarding pass with the Gold Elite status on it and you can go on board. Probably the most convenient thing about status. On board I was immediately sorry I changed from 18C to 17K. There was more legroom, but I could not stretch out at all. I am 6’5”. 18C/G looked like heaven to me now.
|Legroom seat 17K in AF A340|
The lady who went to sit next to me immediately got up and noticed that her seat was soaking wet. Maybe a nervous passenger on the descent into CDG? The FA removed the seat cushion and got her some blankets to sit on while they went looking for a new one. The lady was a little worried she had to spend the entire trip on the blankets since it took forever for a new cushion arrived. She was also worried they would simply put the old one in the dryer. Eventually an brand new one came and the polite male flight attendant was very apologetic.
|Taxi at CDG overlooking the wing of the A340|
We were about 30 minutes late pushing back, but we would make that up in the air. One thing I have learned to hate about CDG is the long taxis to the gate or runway. So after what seemed like half an hour we got going. Smooth take off. (Did we? Yes!) The Airbus maybe quiet and it is beautiful from the outside, but those are the only positive things about it. On AF in Y at least. There really are only 2 reasonable seats (18C and G, but no window) and it feels cramped. There are very few toilets. This is a problem, especially if you travel in the front section of economy. You cannot see when they are available and thus always spend time in a long line. Maybe that explains the wet seat…? Also I find it a strange configuration, with one row of J (row 7) between the main business class cabin and economy. It made a lot of Y passengers walk into business to find the toilet. Would not like that when I paid the big bucks.
|Row 17 on AF A340. Not very comfortable (and a bad pic)|
All in all a pretty uneventful flight. Service was average and the food unmemorable. Arrival in SFO was on time and customs was a breeze. Only carry on (always!) so I cannot commend on bagage procedures.
|Approach into SFO. A lot of distortion of the window.|
I rented a Mustang Convertible and after a quick visit to Palo Alto I drove the scenic highway nr 1 to Santa Monica. What a ride. I enjoy that every time. Spend time in Big Sur and Santa Barbara.
After about a week it was time for the return trip. I spend some time in the Skyteam "lounge" at LAX. What a dump! Filthy, poorly stocked and utterly impolite staff. Time for the flight! Unfortunately no pics there. On KLM this time with their ancient but deeply loved 747 Combi. No IFE, old seats, old plane but it always feel good to be take care of by the lovely KLM cabin crew. I had seat 9A (reserved at time of booking) with a lot of legroom. KLM is very relaxed inflight. Seatbelts signs go off almost immediately and they let you put your legs on the exit slide of the door. Slept a little restless but for 7 hours. We must have had the tailwind from hell since the flight was only 9 hrs.
All in all I prefer KLM in Y, AF in J with Skyteam. I will take more notes and more pictures in my next trip. That will be AMS – LHR – JNB – MRU in J and some SAA flights in Y. In MRU my RTW starts with my first experience of first class on BA. Look forward to that. I am sure the trip reports will improve over time.
And of course: comments and tips always appreciated!