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June Travels: Episode 3. Unrestricted Autobahns in an AMG. And back to Delhi on LG&AF Business (pics)

Tue Jul 10, 2018 11:34 am

Part 1 - onward to Russia - viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1397375
Part 2 - Moscow, WC and to Luxembourg - viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1397939

The next morning we headed back to the airport for our drive to the Mosel Valley in the mid-life refresh of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. My driving companion Sirish Chandran and myself quickly chose the C43 AMG Cabriolet, because why not? The more power the better and June in Germany demands a topless car! The C43 AMG has 23 more horsepower now and is rated at 390hp. Throw in German unrestricted Autobahns and the fact that media test cars are usually a bit 'naughtier’ as well as a touch of speedo error, we didn't have a V-Box accurate speed device with us but this car restricted to 250 clicks managed 264kmph on some stretches of the highway. Now, we did not break the law here. But the really beautiful part of the drive was through the Mosel Valley, German wine country where most of the Riesling grapes are grown.

Car tales!

My review - ... onger.html

We got to our fabulous overnight halt the Seezeitlodge on the shores of the Bostalsee where we got a briefing on the car and it's much improved engines and new 48V electrical system, boring stuff for non-auto types but fascinating for me. Heck, I managed an 30 minute conversation on suspension damping systems with some of the MB engineers.

The next morning we headed back to Luxembourg to return the cars. I drove the C300 this time, a 254hp inline-four petrol. Again, much fun around western Germany and into Luxembourg despite managing to get slightly lost inside the city itself we all made it back fine. Now, I would I have really liked an evening Air India departure from anywhere in Europe or wouldn't have even minded flying out of Heathrow on any airline as those would have salvaged my Friday instead of wasting it. Anyhow, c’est la vie and after watching a few football matches we headed out for dinner as Croatia thumped Argentina. Dinner was pretty nice, typical Luxembourgish food and after an entire bottle of wine i caught a short sleep as my flight to Paris CDG was at 8 in the morning and my pickup was at 6.30.

Smoked Pork

Luxembourg Airport is close enough to the city but roadworks and crazy traffic on an approach road made the journey take a few minutes more than normal our driver told us. The airport has a smallish passenger terminal, the major operations of cargo airlines like Cargolux are on the opposite side of the airfield. Check-In was a breeze with Luxair basically handling check-in for most flights, and with another colleague who was flying on the Lufthansa Regional flight to Frankfurt (flying onwards to Chicago) we went to the lounge which had a lovely overview of the tarmac as Luxair’s fleet of Q400’s prepared for the day’s flights. There wasn’t much time other than to have a quick coffee and a cookie before making my way to the gate.

LG 8011 (sold as AF4601) 22.06.2018
Bombardier Q400 LX-LGF
Seat 3D (moved to 3F)

As I boarded the aircraft I noticed a bonafide VIP, Christine Lagard in seat 3A. A cake she had bought was in 3B and her executive assistant was on my seat across the aisle. Which I didn’t mind meaning that the window was free, which turned out to be a great thing. Takeoff from Luxembourg was smooth and because the Q400 was on such a short flight, it really didn’t need to go to high and that afforded me great views through the flights, from overviews of Luxembourg city all the way to Paris itself. We took a wide expansive left turn to line-up on a really long final into runway 9L, the northernmost runway of the airport. I could see the city clearly in the distance, not this time though. We came in past Le Bourget, an airport I had been to five years ago for the Airshow and came in for a really nice smooth landing on 9L.

The Luxembourg Lion
Neighbours at LUX including the Slovak Government F100

I managed to get some nice pictures and videos of the take-off and landing.

Overview of Luxembourg City
Approaching Paris
You can just about make out the Tower

Take-Off Video
Landing Video

However, since Luxair uses Terminal 2G, this was not a great thing, and even though the plane had touched down 20 minutes ahead of schedule, the taxi still took almost 15 minutes. I was panicking since I only had an hour to connect to my Delhi flight. This is when having a bonafide celebrity was a problem, Ms. Lagarde had to deplane first and security greeted us at the gate, by the time she was whisked away, my connection time had become even tighter and then we walked into very basic immigration hall of T2G. Thankfully, one didn’t have to do security again, and the immigration officer was quick.

I almost made a mistake at this point, forgetting to glance at the departures screen. I joined the queue for the bus to Hall L which is what my boarding card said AF226 would be boarding from. But a quick check later, I realised that my flight would be boarding from the main hall of T2E, which is Hall K. Which turned out to be a good thing as the bus for Hall L was packed, while mine just had four people. A relatively short bus ride later, I was in Hall K and made a quick run to the lounge, managed to add my Delta Skymiles number to the flight, have a quick bite and make a call to the wife before heading to my gate and discovering an immense line and a delay posted on the board.

Thanks for the ride LGF
Neighbour at the CDG ramp
Empty bus to the K gates
A few AF birds on the way

Remembering that my father had asked me to buy him a perfume, I made a quick stop to the duty-free store to while away the 30 minute delay, it wasn’t enough time to get back to the lounge. As boarding was called, I got onto the SkyPriority queue and walked to the bridge. Wait, whats this? A 77W? No way? Air France flies their dated A332’s to Delhi. Well, that got sorted out soon enough as we climbed down the stairs into a bus. Now, India flights have a lot of wheelchair passengers. I’ve always felt that very often many of them don’t need wheelchairs (my wife’s 92-year old grandfather refuses to use one to this day when flying) but are arranged so that the users don’t get lost at mega-airports. Then again, some of them are genuine users.

Getting onto the first bus, I expected a quick journey to the plane. But our plane happened to be on the other side of the airport. This was a long journey as we would past Terminal 2E and then 2F, going under terminals and taxiways for what seemed like an eternity. I had barely slept the previous night and was still really tired and frankly all I wanted to do was relax in my seat. I’ve never been a huge fan of Charles De-Gaulle and while today had been just about alright so far, this journey took an eternity.

Lots of flights
Long bus ride
Up close with a CF6
Hello Charlie Bravo!

AF226 22.06.2018
Airbus A330-203 F-GZCB
Seat 4K

That said, it is rather cool boarding a widebody using stairs, but I had no idea how on earth so many wheelchairs would be boarded later on. The stairs were connected to the L2 door I made my way to Seat 4L on the right-hand aisle in the forward cabin. The last seat row of a cabin often gets noisy thanks to the galley, but I had selected this as the seat-map was showing that the aisle seat was empty, and even as boarding continued for a long time, it stayed that way until the doors closed.

A quick note about the cabin. Air France’s A330’s have a very old-school cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration. Several other airlines have similar set-up on their A330’s and A340’s, but this felt old, if for nothing else the size of the seat-back screen. Heck, economy class seats on some airlines have bigger screens and this was an old screen in standard definition. The IFE system was overall a huge blast from the past. I understand why AF to India was one of the cheaper options. I recently flew KLM World Business Class on the Boeing 787-9 to and from Delhi and that was a world apart in terms of hard product, and they’re Air France’s sister concern. It was a day flight, so the angle-flat seat was not a deal-breaker, but would be on the return AF225 from Delhi. This was technically, Air France’s oldest A332, three days older than F-GZCA and the cabin - while clean looked as if it was from 2001, definitely state-of-the-art for 2001 but hopelessly out of date for today.

Seats 4J and 4K, comfy for a shortish 7-hour flight but not sure I'd want anything longer
Yes, that was my screen. In Business Class
Seat controls

The Captain came out to assuage an elderly passenger in the second row who was visibly upset about the bus ride and climbing up the stairs. He then went around the forward cabin greeting everyone, I wished him a good flight. In the meantime we were served Champagne, and I must admit Air France’s wine and food were excellent. The cabin crew while not the smiling sort were very competent. But I keep coming back to the hard product which felt old as did the amenity kit. I’m no fan of BA’s cramped Club World product, but at least the screens are decently sized, even on the older 777’s.

Really wishing I was on a newer Airbus right now
Going to the runway
Lining up behind a AA 777 off to ORD
Paris CDG 2E and 2F overview
Funky colours but quality leaves a bit to be desired

The advantage of our remote position meant that we taxied to the northern runways very quickly and were on our off 9R quickly. Having a window today had already offered my great views and would continue to do so as we made our way south before lining up parallel to the Alps all the way from France and over southern Germany, Switzerland and into Austria. The clear skies till Tyrol meant the mountains looks beautiful. While I enjoyed a Vodka and Coke Zero, while the meal service started and I chose the Basque Chicken which was still juicy and not overly dry as chicken often becomes onboard a plane, washing it down with some fabulous wine and finishing off with a trio of sorbets - the tomato sorbet was surprisingly refreshing.

After the meal service ended, the views outside did too and we started flying over a layer of cloud. Fiddling through the IFE was irritating, forgive me if I’m sounding petulant but half the stuff didn’t work, negotiating the menu through buttons was bad enough but the sheer lack of choice, seriously made me debate if i should sleep for a bit. Eventually, I settled on Game Night and well, I’ve watched better movies on planes, so I did get some shuteye later on waking up while we were entering Afghan airspace. I watched some random RomComs for a while before the pre-arrival service. This time the crew had begun service from the back and they were out of the cold salmon platter before they reached the forward cabin on my side but I didn’t mind the grated potato cake. We were already over Amritsar when service reached me, meaning that Delhi wasn’t far away at all. But it was a light meal and seconds after my plate was cleared the captain announced that we were on our approach to Delhi.

Beverages and Food

Mountains outside

Good food, really liked the sorbets at the end

The flight had made up its one hour delay by quite a bit but an on-time arrival was foiled by Delhi’s evening rush. Even then we came in on Runway 11, which was quite a way from the international gates. But all said and done, we pulled up only a few minutes late. I got off the plane quickly enough, was early in the immigration queue and after negotiating Delhi’s incredibly bright duty-free area reached the belt and voila, my bag was first out. Since I’d be returning upstairs to departures in less than 48 hours I quickly made my way to my taxi and proceeded home.

End of the day, these six flights had seen my first ever first-class experience ever and I think EK F is utterly brilliant and not just the shower. LH, meh but good old standard. First time in a CRJ1000 (score!). Luxair, well, that was just 40 minutes. And would I fly AF Business again? You know what, fares between AF/KL are very, very similar and the KL 789 and AF 332 don't seem just a single generation apart but three or four generations apart up front, so KL anyday. My experience with KL (+ Transavia) in April this year is here.

Part 1 - viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1393511
Part 2 - viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1393639

Next time around, my trip to the US with United and a ride in a 72-year old Piper Cub. If you have any comments or questions on the entirety of the posts do post away and I'll try and answer it.
been there, flown that

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