At the start of 2011 I began making plans for my annual trip to the States. I read on AFs website they were going to start sending one of their A380’s into Dulles. So the decision was made to fly into IAD. It occurred to me I had a load of Skymiles with DL so I looked into getting an award ticket. I discovered I even had enough for an upgrade so I didn’t lose time and booked my flight through DL’s website. I was surprised how easy this turned out to be and without much ado I was all set.
I decided to do a two day stopover in Paris before heading to the States. As usual my trips over the Atlantic start in DUS. I really like this airport. I’ve never experienced it overcrowded, the layout is modern, lots of natural light, it’s easy to navigate, great connections to public transportation and it offers two great observation decks.
Here a few pics of the DUS terminal, AF lounge and tarmac activity:
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Even as an ardent non-smoker I think this is a good idea. A waiting area for smokers.
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Can someone please explain this to me? Who buys a full set of luggage AFTER security?
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The flight to Paris was the run of the mill inter-European short hopper. Nothing much to report about this flight but for the sake of thoroughness here the nitty gritty.
June 06, 2011
Departure Sched/Actual 10:55/11:15
Arrival Sched/Actual 12:10/12:10
The coffee was a huge disappointment though. It was that AWFUL instant stuff. Yuck!! You would think AF would serve fresh brewed coffee in their premium cabin even on short flights. Otherwise it was an uneventful flight.
After two wet and chilly days I made my way back to CDG.
June 08, 2011
Seat 66L Upper Deck
Departure Scheduled/Actual 10:40/11:15
Arrival Scheduled/Actual 13:00/13:20
I wasn’t able to check-in online so I went directly to the business class counters. The whole process of tagging my luggage and printing out my boarding card took about 3 minutes at the most. The check-in guy was quite friendly and after handing me my boarding card he instructed me to use the priority lane for immigration and security which of course I did. I don’t recall ever going through immigration or security so quickly at CDG.
I was curious to check out the “new” terminal 2E South. I had read many positive reports about it and AF plays it up heavily of course. Well to be honest I wasn’t overwhelmed. Yes, it’s new, very airy, lots of shops but then nothing really out of the ordinary. I decided not to spend any time in the shopping areas and followed the signs to the upper level to the AF lounge.
The lounge is very spacious, furnished in the trendy style and colors many lounges have nowadays, complimentary internet terminals were available and of course CNN and French news shown on large flat screen TVs. There were several counters with a very nice selection of croissants, French bread, meats, cheeses, and other snacks appropriate for this time of day. I was disappointed there were really no good views overlooking the tarmac. Plenty of windows but all have blinds designed to block out the sun. Shame really.
A few shots from the lounge
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My breakfast…..wait a minute something is missing!
Aaah, much better. ))
Approximately 25 minutes before boarding was to begin I left the lounge and walked to gate E61. There she was F-HPJE getting the last catering carts stored onboard. A few shots from the gate area.
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Boarding starting just as I arrived at the gate. I was immediately directed to continue down the air bridge where F-HPJE was docked. I entered through the main cabin and was greeted by a very friendly FA. She pointed me to the grand staircase leading up to the realms of AF’s Affaires cabin. At the top of the stairs I was greeted by another FA who introduced himself as Jean-Pierre (as if he would have any other name!)
As I made my way down the aisle I noticed how spacious the cabin was. A lot more than the upper deck of a B747. The windows allowed a lot of natural light to enter adding to the roomy atmosphere. At midway down the aisle another smartly dressed FA greeted me and took a peak at my boarding card and directed me to my seat. At the end of the cabin was an attractive female FA greeting those passengers seated in the rear of the upper deck. IMO AF has some of the best looking FAs. They are always smartly dressed, well groomed and fresh looking.
A couple seated on the other side of the cabin asked an FA to take a few photos of them before take-off. I decided to break out my camera and quickly took a few shots before the cabin filled up with other passengers. I suspect the FAs on the A380s are use to this by now as they all smiled and nodded as I and a few others snapped away.
My slice of heaven for 8 hours:
As other passengers came onboard Jean-Pierre stopped by for a quick chat. He said the cabin wasn’t too full and I didn’t have to hurry with the photos. He asked if I was interested in a glass of champagne before we departed.
A pic of the Premium Voyager cabin which is just behind the business section also on the upper deck.
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There were a few rows of economy on the upper deck as well. Looked like the standard economy offered on the lower deck.
The announcement was made that boarding was complete and all passengers were requested to return to their seats and prepare for takeoff.
JP came by again and said it would be a few more minutes before we actually pushed back and asked if I would like another glass of bubbly (okay, he didn’t say bubbly) I couldn’t resist so I downed the rest of my glass (oops I mean I finished my glass) and waited for glass number 2 of Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve. One of JP’s colleagues came by with a selection of newspapers. They were mostly French along with the usual IHT and USA Today. Shortly thereafter JP appeared with my champagne and he went on to inquire with other passengers if he could bring them anything before push back.
I used the taxi time to peruse the IFE system. The offerings were quite extensive; however, I found the handset to be a bit cumbersome to use. The way it’s designed didn’t seem to make sense. Or it could have been the 2nd glass (well 4th if you count what I had in the lounge) of champagne that made it all a bit complicated.
A shot of the tail camera waiting for take off:
Take off was towards the east going past T1 with a gentle roll to the north. The rumors about the A380s gentle take offs are true.
A few minutes into flight JP and crew handed out menus and began the first service of the day. As he approached my row he informed his colleague (in French) to refill my glass with Champagne. His colleague turned to me with bottle in hand and proceeded to replenish my glass.
The menu today consisted of:
Amuse Bouche of scalloped and tomato with truffle vinaigrette
Gourmet appetizer of Foie Gras, Marlin, smoked Swordfish, cucumbers, spinach and lemon
I chose a very yummy Risotto with Parmesan & Emmentaler cheeses. This was accompanied by very nice red Bordeaux from the Medoc Chateau Rollan de By. I think the word was out about “Monsieur 66L” as my glass was seldom empty. One thing which disappointed me was the very limited beer selection. In fact there wasn’t a selection at all, it was either Heineken or nothing. French beer isn’t that bad. Could this be some sort of consolation to the Dutch to make up for the “takeover” a few years ago?
I continued my dining pleasure with a very nice cheese plate and the dessert trio consisting of lemon meringue shortbread, chocolate tartlet and cappuccino parfait. A very robust coffee was served as well. A thousand times better than the stuff served on the flight from DUS. Sorry for lack of pics of the meals. I still haven’t overcome my bashfulness regarding pics during the meal.
After a short rest (in other words I sobered up a bit) I took a stroll around the cabin. It was very quiet and the flight so far had been very smooth. A few passengers were gathered at the front of the cabin in the area set aside as the “art gallery”. I think it’s really a waste of space. There was nothing to look at except two photos of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. On my way back to my seat J.P. stopped me and asked if I would like an espresso. “Espresso?” I asked. “Why of course, you see we have a little espresso machine here”. I couldn’t resist so I ordered an espresso and it was brought to me at my seat. It wasn’t bad either.
I took more time to check out the AF IFE. Although the screens are quite large I didn’t really like the way the system operated. The handset was cumbersome and it didn’t seem too user friendly or well designed. The selection of films and TV shows was impressive.
About 90 minutes from Dulles a small arrival snack was served. It consisted of salmon canapé, mixed vegetables with curry and lemon, tomato-almond tart. I was asked if I wanted to continue with the red Bordeaux or try something else. I decided to stick with the Bordeaux and again my glass never was completely empty.
By the time this service was over we were just a few minutes from IAD. I turned on the tail camera and enjoyed watching the smooth touch down on US soil. As we taxied back to the mid-field terminal I noticed ground workers stopped what they were doing to watch as we passed by. Some even took out their camera/smart phones and took pictures.
We docked at the A gates and J.P. and his crew bade us farewell. I reluctantly gathered my belongings and made my way to the upper air bridge and followed everyone else to the shuttle buses to take us over to the arrivals area. The procedure at customs & immigration was relatively painless. I gathered my luggage and was outside the terminal in about 35 minutes.
So there’s the wrap up of my first A380 flight. I will definitely try to do this flight again although it will most likely be down on the main cabin. However, my experiences with previous AF flights in Voyager class have always been pleasant so I’m sure no matter where I sit I’ll have a great flight. Hope everyone enjoyed the report.