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IFEMaster
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Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:54 pm

Just a quick trip report here for AF's new LAX - LHR - 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 - LHR 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.

April 9th
Air France Flight #61
777-200
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.

Nuh uh.

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, NZ, 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's offering.

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 Big grin

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".
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978
 
EXAAUADL
Posts: 1740
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:48 am

RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:28 pm



Quoting IFEMaster (Thread starter):
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.

im not...i cant see how AF can sell this flight in LON against VS and BA. 3 pax in J would make for less than a 10% LF
 
IFEMaster
Topic Author
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:23 pm



Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 1):
im not...i cant see how AF can sell this flight in LON against VS and BA. 3 pax in J would make for less than a 10% LF

My surprise comes from the fact that every time I've flown the route in the past seven or so years, I've never seen a flight that's not been bursting at the seems. In my opinion, the route can handle the extra frequency from another carrier. My return flight was yesterday, by the way, and it was full in economy, 3 empty seats in J. I didn't see what F was like, but there were some people up there.
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MaverickM11
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:09 pm



Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 1):
...i cant see how AF can sell this flight in LON against VS and BA

There's no way that that 772 can better serve AF out of LHR than out of CDG. Their next best add out of CDG *must* be better than a LAXLHR with almost zero feed on either end.
I don't take responsibility at all
 
semsem
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:13 pm

The legroom on AF is much better than VS and BA which to me makes a big difference.
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:17 pm



Quoting MaverickM11 (Reply 3):
There's no way that that 772 can better serve AF out of LHR than out of CDG. Their next best add out of CDG *must* be better than a LAXLHR with almost zero feed on either end.

absolutely...LHRLAX adds no "system benefit" and is an example of what so often get airlines in financial problems....focusing on markets that arent your strength or niche.
 
SInGAPORE_AIR
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:48 pm

An interesting trip report IFEMaster.

I agree with what you said regarding LHR Terminal 2. What a dump (as if the whole of LHR bar T5 isn't a dump anyway).
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ba319-131
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 15, 2008 9:48 pm

Good report, thanks for posting.

Quoting IFEMaster (Thread starter):
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

- Amazing, never heard of them being so cheap, AF must be loosing a ton on this route unless they have decent cargo loads to help it out.

Quoting IFEMaster (Thread starter):
Breakfast consisted of a rock hard cold croissant, some cold cut meats, swiss cheese, yoghurt, fruit, and a bread roll.

- Not bad for a transatlantic economy breakfast these days.

Hope you'll post the return if you have time.

Regards

Mark
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sq_ek_freak
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:13 am

Great report! I'm glad you posted the report, I was really curious to try out the new AF service (especially at $394!), but ended up on Virgin's earlier flight, the times worked out for us better and the price was just under $100 more. I'm now glad I made the choice! I'd say the one thing AF has over VS would be the second meal service - on Virgin its simply a blueberry muffin and a cheese and egg croissant for breakfast with any drink you'd like...a little skimpy for a 9+ hour flight I thought, especially when UA can manage a full breakfast on their NRT-LAX runs that last just about as long.

That said, having just got off a couple of VS flights LAX-LHR-LAX in the last week, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with them. Their aircraft (Lady Penelope on the way out, Tinker Belle on the way back) were immaculately clean, their IFE very impressive and their crew among the most pro active, hard working and pleasant I've had the pleasure of flying with. Was welcomed onboard with beaming smiles, and this continued throughout. The crew on both flights were all uniformly very warm and cheery - didn't come across one F/A that wasn't eager to please or engage in small chat. They passed through numerous times throughout the night with drinks, and on the return did a full bar service in the middle of the flight and handed out wraps as well, prior to the cute English tea service prior to arrival at LAX. I had mentioned how hungry I was as the F/A was taking my drink order - he overheard and promptly dumped six or seven bags of pretzels on my table with a "cheers!"...small interactions like that are the ones that make airline experiences for me, and the VS set defnitely left me very impressed....and the VS lot also do give those SQ girls a run for their money!

Again, great report!
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TG992
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:37 am



Quoting IFEMaster (Thread starter):
exchanged a warm handshake with my dad

Very British! Big grin
-
 
LAXorLGWonDL
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:59 am

Thanks for sharing your TR. My sister is coming to see me in the UK on the AF LAX-LHR flight next week -- she has instructions to take pictures and report her experiences. I'm curious to see how your notes compare -- she's tall, so legroom is equally important to her!!

Cheers,
robin
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B747forever
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:13 pm

Nice TR

Interesting to read a AF TR on the LAX-LHR sector.

Pity about the check in incident.

Wish the best luck for AF on this route.



Thank you for sharing

B747forever
Work Hard, Fly Right
 
IFEMaster
Topic Author
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:35 pm



Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7):
Amazing, never heard of them being so cheap, AF must be loosing a ton on this route unless they have decent cargo loads to help it out.

It's certainly promotional pricing; looks like it ends right as peak season starts. Even when we're off-peak again (Oct/Nov/Feb/Mar), cheapest on offer this far in advance is circa $800

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7):
Not bad for a transatlantic economy breakfast these days.

It's just a shame that the croissant was rock hard and freezing cold, and the swiss cheese was tasteless and rubbery. The fruit tasted quite fresh though, and the yoghurt was of good quality.

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7):
Hope you'll post the return if you have time.

I'll work on that. Since I got back, life's been a bit crazy.

Quoting LAXorLGWonDL (Reply 10):
she's tall, so legroom is equally important to her!!

I'm 6ft exactly, and I didn't have any problem. The only word of advice is check on seatguru.com which seats have the IFE terminal located under them. If I recall, it's seats A, F, and J, but I can't remember exactly.

Quoting B747forever (Reply 11):
Thank you for sharing

B747forever

Woohoo. I got the seal of approval! I shall never post another TR again!

 biggrin 

Thanks for reading, everyone.
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B747forever
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:23 pm



Quoting IFEMaster (Reply 12):
Woohoo. I got the seal of approval!

Congrats. Thought you was worth it.  Wink
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laca773
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 22, 2008 5:51 am

Thanks for the great TR. I was wondering how their new service was. It sounds like their catering is more substantial than what VS & BA offer.
 
LY777
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RE: Open Skies: LAX - LHR On AF

Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:04 pm



Quoting Semsem (Reply 4):
The legroom on AF is much better than VS and BA which to me makes a big difference

The best legroom I have ever experienced was on a LY 763, far better than AF
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