Just a quick trip report here for AF
's new LAX
service. There's no particular reason for this trip, other than the fact that AF
were selling seats for less than $400 including taxes and fees. It's been a long time since a direct LAX
roundtrip seat was that cheap, so I figured I'd take time away from my "hectic" schedule (who am I kidding? I play more golf now than ever...) and spend a few days back in England with friends and family.
Air France Flight #61
Scheduled Dep: 20:40
Actual Dep: 20:32
Scheduled Arr: 14:20
Actual Arr: 14:45
I've never flown Air France before, so wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't thrilled with the way they handled check-in, though. I got an email from them 30 hours before my flight inviting me to check in online. So I did. I selected 25E, an aisle seat just 3 rows behind the bulkhead separating the cows and the sheep from the best in show. Now on a couple of airlines (namely VS
and KLM) who fly from the same terminal (LAX T2
), their check-in and bag drop doesn't open until 3 hours before the flight. So I checked what AF
's policy was. There was nothing on the website, so I called their customer service line and asked. I was told that if I checked in online, I could show up any time after 1pm and drop my bag. Since I have a Priority Pass, I figured I'd get their early and go and enjoy a lounge and perhaps a bit of spotting.
When I got there, a very abrasive and rude young lady with a large frown on her face informed me in no uncertain terms that bags could not be dropped until 5:30pm. It was 4:00pm. If you've ever been to LAX
, you'll know that there is absolutely bugger all to do landside. So thanks for that, AF
. I just had to hang around T2
with my bag along with 40 or so other LHR
passengers. What was crazy was that the AF
desks were manned, and once the last CDG
flight of the day had been checked, the desks stayed manned with no-one in line. I figured I'd plead to the compassionate side of Miss Frowny Face and point this out. I was told in no uncertain terms that 5:30 is when we could all check our bags, no ifs, no buts. Time to go back to the rest of the cattle. Thanks AF
; not a very good first impression.
Eventually 5:30pm rolled around and those of us who had checked in online were herded in to the business class line while the rest of the minions lined up in the economy line. Eventually my bag was tagged, my boarding pass issued, and my bag dropped at security.
Going through security was a breeze. In all the times that I've travelled out of LAX
(20+ times per year), I have never seen such short security lines. It was a mere 7 minutes to go from bag drop to being airside. Things were looking up.
And then they were looking down again. I had left my Priority Pass card at home. Bugger. So I headed to the Roadside Bar and had a couple of beers and some buffalo wings and played the waiting game.
At about 7:30pm I paid my tab and meandered to gate 27. Interesting little factoid here is that whenever I've flown transatlantic from T2
, it's always been through gate 27 - KLM, VS
, and now AF
. Weird. There was other Europe-bound equipment at surrounding gates - a VS
A340 headed to London, another AF
772 to CDG
, a KLM 744 to AMS
(must have been delayed) - and while walking to the gate I stopped to watch a NZ
744 arriving from London on it's way to Auckland.
I got to my gate to see a fairly small crowd. Boarding had just started, and it was organized chaos. Rather than boarding by rows, there was simply a general boarding call. So I joined the branding line, had my boarding card scanned, and on I went to find my seat.
This is where things really began to look up. The aircraft was beautiful. I'd only ever flown on a triple seven twice before - a UA
roundtrip back in '02 - and so was looking forward to getting more time on a 777. The plane was immaculately clean, the interior colours pleasing to the eye, and the personnel warm and welcoming. I quickly found my seat and was impressed with the amount of legroom, compared to BA
's and VS
Not long after I took my seat, the doors were closed. I looked around and was surprised by the light load; somewhere around 50% I would guess. I looked forward in to business class and saw only 3 seats occupied. Not many people onboard then.
We pushed back early, taxied while the safety announcement was played, and performed a rolling takeoff. I had forgotten how the power of those two massive engines felt; we rocketed in to the sky in no time at all.
I flicked through the IFE offerings. Not impressed. AF
are rolling out a new system, and it's a good thing too, because the old offering on this aircraft was lame. The screen was small, the menus clunky and slow, the content limited, no AVOD. If there's one thing I know about, it's IFE system design. This was a poorly designed user experience. I checked the name on the handset - Rockwell. Tsk Tsk. Says it all
Virginie, our flight attendant, came by and offered drinks. I took an orange juice and a bottle of vodka. Absolut vodka, Abolut crap. I've tasted some rough vodkas in my time, but this is pure paint stripper.
Dinner was served. "Chicken or beef". I took the beef. Not too shabby, but the Orzo Pasta Salad was perhaps the most revolting airline food I'd tasted. I left it well alone. I enjoyed the little french touch of a slice of camembert, and the bread was fresher than most bread I've had on planes. The wine was okay too. I took 2 bottles with my meal, then when I was done eating, I took a couple of Tylenol PM
's, donned my sleeping mask, put in my earplugs, reclined my seat, and slept.
I awoke a few hours later to a rollercoaster ride. We were being jostled pretty good, mostly sideways movement. I felt the nose dip and flicked on the map. We descended a few thousand feet and things smoothed out. I checked my watch; 3 hours to go. I resigned myself to being awake, so when the seatbelt sign was switched off I headed to the bathroom, then took a few laps of economy class, ending my little jaunt at the self-service refreshments setup in the aft galley. I helped myself to some pretzels and a couple of cans of Diet Coke and headed back to my seat where I munched and sipped my way through an episode of The Simpsons and two episodes of Friends.
The lights flickered on and Virginie reappeared, still smiling, still looking immaculate. She offered breakfast, and I accepted. Breakfast consisted of a rock hard cold croissant, some cold cut meats, swiss cheese, yoghurt, fruit, and a bread roll. I ate the fruit and yoghurt and washed it down with some tepid coffee. The rest just didn't seem appetizing.
Before long we were nose down and heading in to London. The blinds were raised and I could see it was a cloudy day out there. We descended through the clouds and landed with a thump; hard enough that a couple of the overhead bins opened and my skull retracted in to my neck. Ouch.
We slowed and taxied to our stand at Heathrow's Terminal 2.
Here's another new experience for me; Terminal 2. I've heard people call it 'The Rabbit Warren', and they aren't kidding. The entire terminal smacks of bad seventies architecture. The ceilings are low, the corridors are narrow, and the lighting is horrible. I went through passport control and waited for my bag at Carousel #3, wondering to myself if I could jump high enough to dislodge a ceiling tile. Turns out that I didn't have to; some kids to my right were thinking the same thing, and one actually did jump up, hit a ceiling tile, and pushed it right up in to the ceiling cavity. Good work. The customs people weren't impressed though and the little punk got a stern talking to from some jobsworth in a BAA jacket. I quickly grabbed my bag and left.
Normally when in the UK, I will hire a car, but since the exchange rate is abysmally bad, I opted instead for a bus ride to Oxford, where my dad would meet me. It's been a long time since I took the bus from Heathrow, and in the time that has passed between then and now, BAA have taken an already bad Central Bus Station and turned in to a terrible Central Bus Station. Confusing layout, poor signage, awful PA system. I eventually found my bus , the Airline X70 Heathrow - Oxford express, paid my £23 for a period return ticket, and took my seat at the back of the bus. After a brief stop at T5
for passenger pickup, we were on our way to Oxford.
An hour later, I stepped off the bus at Oxford's Thornhill station. I breathed the cold, fresh air, exchanged a warm handshake with my dad, and we headed to the pub. It was good to be "home".