Last month, I traveled from JFK to CDG on Air France and its A380. I don't usually fly AF (or SkyTeam out of NYC, but I was able to get a roundtrip to Paris using points and opening a Flying Blue account for 40,000 points roundtrip.
The TWA Hotel had opened the week before and it was a beautiful Friday afternoon to explore it before our 7pm departure to CDG.
Some photos of the TWA Hotel are here. Overall, it was a surreal and beautiful experience to be inside what was once my primary gateway to Europe in the 1970s and 1980s as a kid. The restoration looks amazing. The service though, is generally terrible. Lots of wait staff but plenty of running around and ignoring customers in the Sunken Lounge waiting to place orders. It needs to be understood by the Hotel operator that most people visiting the dining establishments are likely taking flights elsewhere and speed is of the essence. Our rooftop pool reservation was not honored as it was still closed and under construction, so the TWA Hotel gave us a $100 credit at the TWA store, which we made good use of.
Air France Flight AF 007
Scheduled Departure: 7pm
Actual Departure: 6:56pm
Scheduled Arrival: 8:20am
Actual Arrival: 7:59am
Airbus A380-800 - Registration F-HPJI Delivered 09/13/2013
Terminal One is an absolute mess. When it opened in 1998, it was JFK's newest and best, but it was never designed to handle the volume it does today, a function of Delta expanding its footprint in Terminal 4 over the years, pushing more carriers into T1. Also departing around the time of our flight was an Aeroflot 777-300ER to Moscow, an Air France 777 to Orly, Air Italy 777 to Milan, and arriving AZ A330 from FCO. Check in was relatively easy and the TSA Pre Check lane was open so got through security in about 10 minutes. The TSA staff were really rude, yelling at people in the pre-check line. The issue here is that you have to show them the TSA Pre Check stamp as everyone flows through a few lanes. Post-security, we headed to the Korean Air lounge, thanks to Priority Pass, which was over-crowded, dated, with bad food, but a generous spread of free booze. Boarding, for a gigantic aircraft like the A380 in a small space like T1 was remarkably smooth and efficient. We were seated on the lower deck one row behind the exit in the first row of Economy, just behind La Premiere. The cabin was clean, in good condition, but very dated and cramped. Cabin crew were really friendly, made eye contact, and seemed to be genuinely happy to be there. Push back was a few minutes ahead of schedule, in spite of a very full flight. We held in the alley way for about 10 minutes to allow aircraft to move past, including a pair of AA 777-200ERs bound for Europe, an inbound Air France A380 from CDG, and a few JetBlue A320s. Taxi out to the runway was really quick. We departed behind just 3 aircraft and lift off was quiet, smooth, and deliberate in its slowness, a hallmark of the A380.
Climb out was over Fire Island and we hugged the coastline for a while, in a cloudless, golden hour sky. Flight time was just 6 hours 20 minutes, and once we leveled out, the crew began the service with moist towelettes, drinks, and a bag of snacks. The PTVs are really outdated on the A380 and kind of small. I wanted to catch some shut eye so didn't really use it. Dinner was served 90 minutes after take off and was a choice of chicken or pasta. I like that AF hands out menus in economy. Service items were cleared, cabin lights dimmed, and a very smooth crossing began. Hardly any turbulence the entire night. The main galley for economy was across from where we were seated, which made for a noisy night with plenty of chit chat and banter, but it was in French so I didn't really mind. The more annoying banter was from the loud hedge fund guy sitting in front of us who would not shut up about his work, his life in NYC, and his vacation, to the French guy sitting next to him. Breakfast service began 90 minutes before arrival and was basic. Yogurt, muffin, coffee, and some sliced fruit. Descent into a partly cloudy CDG was smooth and the tail and belly cams are really cool to watch while you descend. Post-landing, taxi to the A380 equipped gates was fairly quick, going past Terminal 2A and 2E (K gates). Lots of Delta metal there, including 767-300ER, 777-200ER, A330-200, and A330-300, a MEA A330, and an AA 777.
Arrivals at CDG are the usual unpleasant experience of long walks and a very long immigration line and then a long walk to the SNCF station for our train to Provence.
Overall, a great flight on AF. On time, early arrival, nice crew, clean plane, and a seamless process at JFK in spite of T1.