I've been posting for a while on A.net but this is my first trip report. I thought sharing my very nice experience on CDG-JFK-CDG on board the new Air France A380 in 1st class was a nice way to start ! I had the occasion several times to fly long-haul P class on AF in the past but the last time was 3 years ago, so I had never try the new enhanced service on the ground at CDG and of course the new catering introduced in J and P since the beginning of december. This combined with the A380 and with the pleasure to go to NYC for a few days, I decided to burn some miles (I should rather say a lot), i.e. 250000 for a round trip ticket in P class on board the big bird. I booked end of November for a trip from dec 19 to 22. So here the 1st part of this trip report for the CDG-JFK leg on Saturday dec 19, 2009.
As you all know, AF had several technical problems with their single A380 since they started the service, and especially during the week before my trip. On Monday 14, the plane was grounded at JFK for a problem with one of the fuel pump and it was ferried empty to CDG tuesday night. This was also when the snow episodes started in western Europe , to add to the mess ! The service was supposed to resume on Thursday but another problem (slat deployment sensor dysfunction in the cockpit) was discovered and the A380 was replaced by a B77W (+ another extra flight added by AF to accommodate all the pax). I was beginning to become very "anxious", hoping that the A/C would be fixed rapidly as this trip was aimed primarily to take the A380 and not to go to NYC (where I go quite regularly), so I did not want to end on a boring B777 which I fly very often. Friday the 18th, I was checking regularly ADP web site. In the morning, the A380 was still scheduled until lunch time, but after lunch, flight AF006 was again operated, at the last minute, by a B77W, as the fixing was taking more time than expected. I was wondering if I should postpone my trip to be sure to fly the A380 but I decided to see that at the airport the following day. The next day, I had planned to arrive early at CDG to have as much time as possible to spend at the new P lounge, for which the reports read on A.net were fantastic.
So I arrived at 10:15 am for a flight scheduled at 1:30 pm. At CDG, when flying AF P class whatever the terminal of departure of your flight, you have a dedicated service at terminal 2E with a nice check-in lounge. A very nice female AF staff welcomed me and took my passport, while another guy took my luggage to be checked. I took a seat while they were taking care of the formalities. You can see on the picture that there is no classical check-in desk in this lounge, only nice and very comfortable seats & modern furnitures.
Five minutes later, the agent came back with my boarding pass & luggage receipt and bring me to the lounge.
For passport check, we skipped the entire (long...) line and for security, you have a dedicated line for P-class pax. So this was really a breeze. After security in 2E, the P lounge is on the right (exactly at the opposite of the J-class lounge), in the main 2E building (not the S3 satellite). Of course, I had asked her if the A380 was still scheduled and the answer was yes, so I was feeling relieved, of course hoping that there would not be another last-minute problem. I was very nicely welcomed at the lounge entrance and the agent who accompanied me made me a quick visit of the lounge and explained me all the services available. This lounge is really exceptional. There are several seating area, a restaurant area, a resting area, a massage area and of course a very design bar.
The seating and dining areas
The resting area
The massage list includes several free (30 min) massage and some longer expensive massages (up to several hundreds €). We were about 30 pax in the lounge. Several of them were going to IAD and all the flights were cancelled due to the snow storm going-on in the DC area, so the staff was taking care of them. Outside lunch & dinner time, there are several kind of food available from pastries to cheese, smoked salmon, various cold cuts, all presented in a very nice way. Several staff members are of course available to serve you !
I had some cheese and cold cuts and at 11:30, I decided it was a decent time for a cup of champagne for aperitif. I opted for a rosé champagne.
Our boarding was scheduled at 12:45, we wanted to try the food served in the lounge as the reviews were very positive. The menu and food is conceived/prepared by Alain Ducasse’s staff from the 5-star hotel Plazza Athènée in Paris, so it couldn’t be bad. So at noon, we took a table at the restaurant lounge. I did not take a picture of the menu (sorry, I forgot !) but you have a choice of about 6 appetizers and the same number of entrées and deserts. Everything looked so good on the menu, so it was difficult to choose. I opted for a pumpkin velouté for the appetizer and scallops with mashed potatoes for the main course, with a nice Pouligny-Montrachet white wine.
This is the pumpkin velouté
This is the scallops and the wonderful mashed potatoes (probably very rich in cream & butter !)
And this is what the roasted lamb looks like. Not too bad, isnt'it ?
Everything was so tasty. No time for a desert as it was time for boarding. An AF agent came to greet us and we were transferred by a lift, directly from the lounge, to a nice car. As the A380 gates at 2E are all at the S3 satellite, we had to drive about 5 minutes across CDG with still plenty of snow from wednesday and Thursday, which caused a lot of disruption. But today was a very sunny day. We arrived at the foot of the A380 and I was definitely assured that I will fly the big bird. Unfortunately, when you arrive from the ground, on the left hand-side of the plane with the 3 jet ways, I wasn’t able to capture a nice shot of the plane.
Each pax is introduced personnaly to the 1st class F/A and you are bring to your seat. I chose seat 2A at reservation. Here are a few shots of the 9-seat first class area.
Many people on A.net “complained” that AF did not install a completely new design for P & J with the A380 but personally, I think the product is a good and very comfortable one. And you have lot of space for you and your belongings. Of course it’s not the private suites of SQ or EK, but IMO, I prefer the space of the AF cabin than the “lack-of-space” impression given by the private suites. I’m not saying that SQ and EK are offering a bad product of course (it’s even the contrary), but it’s just a personal feeling. Boarding was slow and it became rapidly obvious that we would be delayed because of this. The chief purser was making announcements very frequently to give update. When I boarded, they said that we had still 200 pax to board. The chief purser told me later during the flight that he was “mad” about CDG staff who started the boarding process to late for an unknown reason. I took of course the pre-departure champagne. The F/A also gives you the menu, a pyjama and the amenity kit (red for men, white for women as it contains different products). As a whole, we left the gate 1hr late. I did not really care as I was not connecting in JFK and waiting in 1st class is OK don’t you think ? The 2 lower deck jetways were removed.
Then the same for the upper deck jetway
So ready for departure ?
CDG-JFK – Flight AF006 - 19th december 2009
A/C & registration : A380-800, F-HPJA
Departure time (scheduled) : 1:30 pm
Departure time (actual) : 2:30 pm
CDG de-icing area arrival : 2:50 pm
CDG de-icing area departure : 3:25 pm
Take-off time : 3:35 pm
Landing : 4:52 pm
Arrival at the gate (scheduled) : 3:45 pm
Arrival at the gate (actual) : 5:13 pm
Load factor : 100% all classes
One thing I noticed here (and also for the return trip) is that between there is quite a long time (about 10 min) between the end of the push-back and the beginning of taxiing. I was wondering if this was due to a particularly long check-list to do on the A380 ?
Here is the new saety card. Not a lot of people have seen it yet
As some of you probably already heard, the A380 is equipped with 3 cameras, one under the nose, one on the tail and one under the plane). During taxi, take off & landing, they were playing the tail one on the cabin monitors and this gives an incredible view. As you can see from this picture, some iced snow was present on the wings so de-icing was unfortunately needed.
No other A/C seemed to need to de-ice this particular day as it was sunny but as the A380 did not fly the 3 previous days, it was probably out part of the time during the snow episodes in CDG. I had followed the de-icing process from my window but also on the monitor thanks to the tail camera.
De-icing took forever (35 min). I don’t know if it’s because of the size of the plane or not enough de-icing trucks (I think there were 3 or 4) or because they are not used yet to this plane. After de-icing we were quicly airborne (only 2 A/C in front of us). As mentioned by other A.netters before, and as I already noticed at Le Bourget Paris Air show, the A380 is much less noisy than other A/C, despite the lot of power developed by the 4 engines and the taking-off is very soft. You feel almost nothing as in the 744.
Ten minutes after take-off, the captain turned-off the seat belt sign, so it was time for a full visit of the plane with my camera. By taking the front stairs, you arrive directly at the museum exhibition area. Not of great interest IMO, but why not.
AF A380 are configured with a total of 538 seats : 9 P seats (lower deck), 80 J seats (upper deck) and 449 Y seats (343 on lower deck, 106 on upper deck). Here the 2 J cabins (the front one is smaller than the 2nd one). You may notice that the individual screens are much bigger than in the other planes.
A view of the upper deck Y cabin. Definitely a nice Y cabin which did not give a cattle-class impression due to its relatively small size. All window seats of the upper deck (J & Y) have a private storage compartment, as in the upper deck of the 747.
Here’s the lower Y cabin (with mood lightning) which is quite nice and not too cramped. You can also notice that the individual screens have been enlarged too in Y.
Back to my seat around 4:15, it was time for the 2nd lunch of the day (it was sufficient time after the one in the lounge !). My choices in the menu were pre-ordered while on the ground at CDG.
I took the lobster to start and then sole filets with parmesan risotto.
Then there was a cheese service (on a plateau) and the desert. I chose the iced nougat from Le Nôtre with some fruits. You can see the very nice fruit basket on the picture.
Everything was excellent and very tasty. They definitely enhanced the food served on-board. After that, it was time for a nap in the 1st class bed . In the A380, near the front toilets, there is a changing room with a seat, a window and many amenities as you can see on the picture. Clearly a better way to wear you pyjama !
Also a new thing, they give you a garment bag to put your clothes, to give to the F/A for the cloakroom.
While I was in the changing room the F/A had prepared my bed. I had a 2 hr-nap.
Then I watched a movie (Le petit Nicolas). The AVOD system worked well despite 1 rebooting needed (it seems that they still have a few pb with the system – there even was on-board a guy from the manufacturer who was here to solve and note all the problems encountered during the flight on the video system).
The pre-landing collation was finally served and was very tasteful also.
Then we started the descent to JFK and we landed in the already heavy snow (I thought I escaped the snow in CDG but I found it again in JFK !). The snow was not yet as heavy as in DC but I was happy that we did not circle around NY because of this crappy weather. This wonderful flight was unfortunately over ! It was very smooth and quiet (not the slightest turbulence). A last thing I think it’s worthwile to share with you : after a few minutes of taxiing on JFK iced taxiways, we arrived in front of T1 (the AF terminal at JFK). We were close to the gate but not at the gate and the captain made an announcement to say that we were waiting for the tow truck, because the local rules for the A380 is that it cannot go by itself to the gate. The tow truck is needed for the last meters. This is quite surprising and another factor that makes you losing time as it took 7-8 min for the tow truck to arrive. Finally we arrived at the gate and I was the 1st to leave the A/C and to my great surprise, the immigration room was totally empty. When you know the time you can loose at this step, this was great surprise. But of course, as soon as I was waiting for my luggage, the room was full with the 538 pax of the A380 + a SU flight which just arrived from SVO just after us. The bags came quickly (about 10 min). You can see on the picture that the 1st class bags have an additional red tag to distinguish them from the other priority bags.
By the way, when you think about it, the notion of priority bags is loosing its sense with the A380 because 9P + 90J + all other elite/elite + pax travelling in Y, this can represent about 175 pax having bags tagged “priority”.
The following days, it was not snowing anymore and it was sunny so it was a great time in NY (Central Park with the snow and some sun was quite unique to see).
So as a summary for this part 1 of my trip report (I hope you are not too tired to read me !), this was a wonderful trip on-board the AF A380. AF has made some great (needed) improvements of their 1st class service. The new 1st class dedicated service, the lounge and the food at CDG are extraordinary. On-board, F/A did a great job to give a nice experience to the pax, the food has been also clearly improved…and finally the A380 is a very nice airplane. But AF and the airports need to adapt their way of working to the special handling requirements needed for this airplane due to its size. But of course, it is normal at that stage, after just a few flights, that the process are not yet completely optimized.
I hope you'll have enjoyed this trip report. I will post the part 2 as soon as I can.
Happy reading and, again, merry Christmas to all of you