: Three Upgrades and an AF
A380: The Flight Deck Visit
Right. Well, the summer of 2011 came along and because I'm an aviation freak, I couldn't miss an opportunity to fly on an A380 when offered. Well, what can I say: it had to be AF
. I was looking for destinations AF
A380's flew to, and came up with JFK
on the Eastern seaboard of the USA. Delta had a non-stop from MCI
to NYC, but to LGA
and not JFK
... I wasn't keen on switching airports having had some strange experiences with NYC cabbies (the only people who find my mother's English more understandable than mine seem to be NYC cabbies). Flights to JFK
, with one stop, were expensive.
it is. I'd flown the route before and then AF
gave me an upgrade, on a 777-200ER. I booked IAD
on the A380 (and 737), in Premium Voyageur as Award tickets for Flying Blue. I'm loyal to KL
but dislike CDG
so I don't fly AF
that much. Afterwards, I searched for DL
flights between MCI
that would leave 3 hours for the IAD
connection... Just in case. I then proceeded to buy a MCI
ticket from DL
for more interesting aircraft types than an ATL
It all turned out to be a very good trip, and even a CDG
transit didn't ruin it—the 6 hours between IAD
proved to be strategic. With CDG
, risk=failure. You learn that having AF
as your mother's favorite airline.
4 segments when you could have had 3? Crazy, everyone said. Not flying on an A380? Crazy, I said.
To add to the good trip, MCI
was an MD
-90 and MSP
was an E-175, both planes I enjoy flying on. The RO
737-300 was the black sheep, I guess!
Saturday flights in the US with Delta usually mean upgrades for me. This time, it worked well. I even got a meal—it had been a looooong time since I had a meal on a domestic flight.
Getting nearer to the date of my departure, the Missouri river was growing and growing—I was afraid I would have no way of getting to the airport—bridges further north were closed due to very high water levels. Luckily it all worked out in the end.
I got to the airport a couple of hours before departure time, and had to ask the agent to tag my luggage all the way through to Bucharest... He printed out the “baggage barcode thingy”, and it said BUH. Very close, but I've never seen a city code on such a thing. I told him the problem and he fixed it readily. Seeing I had a connection in IAD
, even if not displayed in DL
's system, and seeing a delay of DL5813, MSP
, he checked for me that I'd be arriving in IAD
in time for my connection. The delay was only 35 minutes, due to pilots showing up late, due to a late arrival in MSP
Here we go:
Flight time: 55 minutes
Actual: 07:03-08:32 (Gate)
Seat: 04A, First Class
At the gate, I received an upgrade, and got assigned 04B. I boarded among the first and sat down on 04B. About 20 minutes later, boarding was complete and I moved to 04A, which remained empty. At the last minute, a member of the US armed forces received an on-board upgrade (I'm not sure, but there might have been a problem with his seat assignment) to 04B.
Gate 60 at MCI
Bunch of ERJ-145s:
Missouri River flooding:
Service on this leg was adequate... I would say no better or worse than usual service in F on these short segments. Drink offered on boarding, then drinks in-flight and a choice of a few snacks.
Legroom Shot (mandatory!):
Great Plains (boring):
Coke, no ice:
Coke and Safety card:
Coke and Biscoff:
Not really much else to say about this segment: on-time departure and arrival... Quite a boring segment in all honesty. The roar of the MD
-90 was diminished as I was located far away from the engines.
Nice, helpful agent but did not know the right code for Otopeni Airport on the first try... Guess he's not an A.netter to know all these codes. It's not JFK
but it's not XMN
Got upgraded before boarding so I could board with 1st class. Good deal.
Not in great shape; decent legroom, enough for a 1-hr flight, but could be better.
Nothing special. On a short flight IFE isn't that important though. DL
's in-flight magazine is decent to good to waste an hour (Sudoku and Kenken puzzles).
Good, but not anything special. No particular things to note.
, it's a 1-hr flight, but just some cookies/chips/bananas in 1st class seems off to me. I expect too much, I guess.
Overall: 7.29 (Premium Short-Haul, Domestic)
Arrival in MSP
activity: E-Jets, Airbuses, 757s:
My aircraft to IAD
US Airways A321:
DC-9 and downtown... St. Paul?
Airport view, Terminals C and E:
Flight: DL5813 (op. by Compass Airlines)
Aircraft: Embraer 175
Flight time: 1h 55 minutes
Actual: 10:39-14:01 (Gate)
Seat: 02A, First Class
I again received an upgrade at the gate, and due to the very low LF
in F, I got my choice of seats: window seat on the 1-side, arguably the best seat in the whole aircraft.
The 35 minute delay meant nothing to me... I had plenty of time to make my connection in IAD
and anticipated the AF
flight would be late, as the A380 did not have a reputation for on-time departures.
Soon after, we took off from runway 30L. A flight departing around lunch time and with a block time of slightly over 3 hours meant lunch was served. There was a choice between the pictured chicken and a sort of sandwich or wrap, details of which escape me. The meal was surprisingly flavorful for an airline meal. As you can see below, there's some chicken, some pasta and also some cheese and some tomatoes, as well as chick peas (?). I gotta say, I was pleased with the meal. Coke, no ice, again. Dessert: One strawberry, some grapes and a slice of pineapple IIRC.
On approach to IAD
and the A380 (kinda blurry):
Anyway, soon we were at our gate and ready to de-plane. Overall, the E-175 flight was very pleasant. I even ate well. Service was at a high standard; there were no complaints.
I go out of my way to fly DL
as I find the service above that of other US carriers I've tried. The chance for an upgrade, even at 40% on average, means a supposedly mediocre flight can turn better in a second.
Nice, helpful agent but did not know the right code for Otopeni Airport on the first try (same as previous flight).
Got upgraded before boarding so could board with 1st class. Good deal. Really nice agent.
Not in great shape; decent legroom, enough for a 3-hr flight, but could be better
Nothing special. DL
's in-flight magazine is decent to good to waste an hour but not three IMO.
Good crew, good service. The F/A brought out wrong choice of food, but quickly corrected herself.
Above my expectations for this stage length, the food was quite flavorful.
35 minute delay on departure, but well-handled.
Overall: 7.64 (Premium, Short-Haul, Domestic)
I then walked down to the A-gates to see the monster. Well, there it was, behind the glass. For once, I wasn't the only one snapping pictures of the aircraft.
Views of the A380:
Please see gate agent to open door. Please!!!
I like the wing shape!
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Flight time: 7h 20 minutes
Actual: 17:12-06:27 (Gate)
Seat: 84A (Premium Voyageur)
It was time. I was about to board my first A380. The boarding procedure was decent, bit not outstanding. Interestingly, IAD
decided to use gate A22 for upper-deck and A20 for lower-deck passengers (take note, CDG
!). Anyway, soon I was in the belly of the beast. Here are some interior shots:
Classy but not particularly comfortable: AF
Weird window a la A380:
Virgin Atlantic A340-600:
Not vertical; the A380 wall leans inwards:
and tray table secured:
Legroom (quite decent until you recline):
Big plane, small taxiways:
Towards the runway:
On the runway:
The food service soon began. As you can see, it's nothing to write home about! The mashed potatoes were actually OK
, but I can barely remember what the rest even was. Some variation of chicken with mushrooms, perhaps?
A-net privilege: gaze into the eyes of the A380 restroom: not an An-24, so no “poo-poo”:
Well, as morning came, the crew was active and walking through the cabin. I thought I might get lucky and see the A380 flight deck if I asked nicely, in French. So I asked the head F/A for my cabin whether it would be possible to see the flight deck after we land in Paris when she brought breakfast. I don't have pictures of the breakfast but it was nothing special, trust me.
Soon, she returned and said “yes”. I was excited. Turns out, this was just her answering the F/A call button I pressed by accident—I hate it when they're on the damn remote—so easy to press by accident. She said she'd ask soon about the flight deck visit.
She did. A few minutes later, she said I could go and see the flight deck now, along with a bit younger kid (15-16 years old, I guess). I was very excited and quickly put my shoes back on. I walked through the Business class section and soon got to the flight deck, The purser informed the pilots they had a couple of visitors and we were invited in. I was a bit traumatized, but soon mustered up the courage to ask: “e-t-il possible de prendre quelques photos?”. The answer was “oui, bien sur, mais ne les mettez pas sur l'internet”. As a token of respect, I won't upload my A380 flight deck pictures here or anywhere on the web. They're blurry anyway, so you're not missing much.
After a few minutes in which the kid asked a few questions about what runway we'll be using at CDG
, it was time to end the dawn visit over the coast of France to the A380 flight deck. A moment I'll truly never forget.
The sun soon rose and we were on our descent into CDG
. Here are some pics (on the ground already):
Part of the AF
fleet at Terminal 2E:
The A380 through glass and unphotogenic 2E support beams:
Technically never really checked-in in person. Online check-in worked fine.
A bit chaotic, as AF
boarding tends to be! However, still very organized... thanks to IAD
's 2 gate policy, I'm guessing.
Good legroom when upright. Uncomfortable for sleeping. Hard shell is good. Decent amenities.
Not great, but slightly above Economy class.
's system isn't great. It's OK
to pass the time but it won't win any awards. The tail camera is a good idea. I hope it last.
Excellent! No problems and a flight deck visit.
Offered a few times (I believe 4 in total)--average selection and service.
A bit late upon departure.
Chaos; upper deck had no jetways attached; had to use lower-deck to disembark... not very professional. CDG
Overall: 6.67 (Economy Premium, Long-Haul, International)
aircraft (A321 nation):
I then went to the lounge in 2F2 and lounged about for the next few hours, took a shower, generally wasted time until it was almost time to board my RO
737-300 to Bucharest.
Aircraft: Boeing 737-300
Flight time: 2h 30 minutes
Actual: 12:40-16:20 (Gate)
Seat: 02D (Business)
I then went upstairs and waited for the boarding announcement. The specified time came and went. Roughly 20 minutes later, we were invited to board. I was among the first to give my boarding pass to the agent. He scanned it and, voila, I'd been upgraded. In Europe??? I couldn't believe it. I was wondering what RO
could do to top DL
. Well, they tried—and gave me something completely unexpected. An upgrade in Europe (okay, it wasn't the first time it happened, also got one from KL
made us miss two flights within a 12 hour period 6 years previously)!
Biz class seats (aging, but 2-2 seating in real Biz-class seats):
Welcome drink (note the real glass used... DL
sometimes uses plastic for welcome drinks):
Coke (the “no ice” part is self-understood):
Salmon with rice. I don't eat fish. Damn!
The three plastic cans contained some goodies, I think camembert(?), and some sort of ham. Well, I tried the fish, but I don't like fish at all, so I didn't eat it. The rest of the meal was decent. Presentation was quite good too.
Close-up shot, branded glass:
Airport; not sure which one, somewhere between Paris and Zurich:
Alps, more or less blurry:
and a nice background:
TAROM drinks menu:
A really bad choice. 2 Cokes and 2 Coffees=a sick dc9northwest. Shame... The coffee tasted good!
Safety card (note the old RO
got me to Bucharest roughly on-time. I should've used the lavatory before disembarking the aircraft at a parking stand... But I didn't, which made for a very long 10-minute bus ride. Furthermore, they changed the location where the bus drops off the passengers due to the new wing of the terminal, making for a very long trek to passport control when arriving via bus.
Speaking of which, all major airlines seem to use the 14 boarding bridges at OTP
, but RO
, at their home base, doesn't use them that often... I don't know; maybe they don't want to pay the usage of too many boarding bridges. However, it's strange to see RO
not using these jetways preferentially (not that there's anything wrong—it's just unexpected).
Technically never really checked-in in person. Online check-in worked fine.
A bit chaotic, as CDG
boarding tends to be! Enforced elite members boarding first rule+upgrade, very nice.
Not in great shape; bad legroom for business-class; enough for a 3-hr flight, but could be better. Looked better than DL
's leather seats.
Good, nothing to write home about. 3 pax in C.
Good for a 3-hr flight; TV
screens with flight map, TAROM destinations, some comedy (Just for Laughs, IIRC). No movie.
Very good crew, appropriate, attentive service for Business-class.
I can't penalize RO
because I don't eat fish—N/A. Beverage offered a few times--good selection and presentation.
A bit late upon departure.
. Used buses and then had a long walk. Not very welcoming, but OK
Lounge: 8 (on a 5-10 scale: 5 being worse than outside the lounge)
Too crowded, hard to hear announcements, not the cleanest. Good beverage choice, not sure where/if there was any food.
Overall: 7.44 (Premium Short-Haul, International)
Thanks for reading.
Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.
I stole the grade template from member abrelosojos and adapted it somewhat. Hope you don't mind, Alex!
I wrote this report yesterday and today while I'm at home with a cold. If anything doesn't make sense, please ask. I'll answer any questions and blame my mistakes/omissions on my illness