Welcome to the continuation of this year-opening whirlwind trip to Johannesburg with Air France.
As a reminder, here’s the rundown.
AF351 YYZ-CDG 1/8/2017 - Right here AF990 CDG-JNB 1/9/2017 - Right here AF995 JNB-CDG 1/10/2017 - You are here AF356 CDG-YYZ 1/11/2017 - Coming soon
When last we saw each other, your humble flight-reporter had just arrived into JNB, enjoying the wide open spaces of the arrivals-level atrium.
Having decided to skip going into town for this trip, I decided to head up to the viewing deck to see what’s going on airside and do a little spotting. It’s a great view, and a nice day, but despite quite a few people being here to see what’s going on, there’s not a whole lot happening at this hour.
Eventually, though, things start happening. This SQ 359 is taxiing out for takeoff. And get photobombed by one of the many birds that hang out on the updrafts around the edge of the terminal.
They thoughtfully put a big map of the airport grounds on the floor. A nice touch.
An LX343 being towed over to parking to wait for its departure tonight.
An SA 332 departing. Notice the AF tailfin at the far left. With a short (less than eight hours) layover, they didn’t bother to tow the big bird out to parking like they did the BA 388 or the LH 74H that represent the big end of the arrivals from Europe. Also on hand were the aftorementioned LX 343, and an IB A330. Oh, and a BA 744, because BA sends a lot of seats to JNB.
A Mango 738 parks in front of me.
And then an SA A320 departs.
Its stablemate, a 738, pulls in.
Having killed a bit of time spotting, I decide to head back airside as I’m starting to get a little hungry with about 4 hours to go for departure. Fortunately, the AF/KL check-in is already open, and I’m soon given my boarding pass — just one all the way through to YYZ. I guess AF is trying to cut down on paper usage — which explains the total lack of menus I’ve seen thus far. I’m invited to go to the “Slow Lounge” once airside, a lounge I haven’t seen before.
Security is pretty quick, but passport control takes a good 20 minutes to get through, with only about three desks open. I know it’s not full-on rush hour, but it would seem a few more desks open would be appropriate. Nevertheless, I’m soon airside.
From there, it’s just a short walk and then an escalator ride up to the Slow Lounge, where I’m welcomed inside and reminded that they don’t do flight announcements, so kindly watch the clock.
There’s some reading material on desks on the way in the door. From there, there’s a choice to go left or right, into the two sides of the lounge. I turn right.
This is a pretty large lounge, currently lightly inhabited. There’s a number of different seating options in one long hall along the side of the terminal building. Power outlets are plentiful, which is always a good sign.
More reading materials.
And more, in a series of bookshelves.
A bar, which was staffed most of the time and seemed pretty well stocked.
Seating along the windows, facing airside. I set up in one of these. It was comfortable, offered something of a view out on airside, and had a power outlet. Good enough for me.
More seating along the far end of the lounge.
Airside view — not very exciting right now.
Over to check out the buffet. First, there’s the wine selection, in dispensers.
Coffee and other drinks.
And a central island buffet full of different light bites.
There are also some hot options, most notably chicken and rice, and dim sum styles buns.
And some burritos, which look pretty good.
More interesting light dishes.
I pick out some snacks, and head back to my seats. I grab some cheese, Greek salad, a little glass of gazpacho, and fried squid with a wasabi aioli. It’s all pretty good, especially the squid and the salad.
The Internet is fast and easy to connect to. Here’s the corporate shot, with some airside action in the background. Note the SA 332 pushing back, while the spot directly in front of me has been occupied by an SA 346. They’re also operating the 343, and are soon taking their first 333. Used to fly the 342. They’ve got to have about the most diverse fleet of 330/340 family members possible.
Snack time continues with a beef burrito, a chicken burrito, and a little guacamole. All good.
And then some dessert, including a dessert spring roll, a lemon tart, a caramel cake pop, and a chocolate fudge affair. By the time I’m done this, I’m pretty full.
Even the washrooms are pretty nice.
This lounge is obviously pretty new, and is one of the nicer third-party lounges I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It gets a little busy toward the end of my stay, but remains quiet throughout. It’s pretty large, catering is good, and everything is clean and attractive. Oh, and what I’ve shown you is just one half of the full lounge. The whole this is repeated in feature and functionally, although different in design, to the left of the main entrance. All in all, I’m quite impressed by Slow. I’m not sure if they’re Priority Pass, but I hope they are. I’d like to visit again the next time I’m in Johannesburg. I should have taken a shower just to see how the facilities were, but alas, I did not.
After working for a while in the lounge, it’s getting close to boarding time, so I make the short walk out to the gate, where the same whalebird that few me down is waiting to fly me back up. Looking good. (Well, except for that unsightly smudging from jetways around door L1. But nobody’s perfect.)
AF is checking IDs at the entrance to the gate area, and has separate holding gate spaces for Economy and Sky Priority. I join the Sky Priority section and try to connect to the Internet, but end up not doing so. JNB only offers 30 minutes a day of free Internet on its public network, which I had used up upon arrival from Paris this morning. Seems a chincy way to do things, but I’m sure they have their reasons.
Boarding begins just about on time, and I’m soon on my way up to the upper deck of the big bird, and my trip home begins.
Flight: AF995 From: Johannesburg (JNB) To: Paris De Gaulle (CDG) Date: 1/10/2017 Aircraft: Airbus A380-800 Registration: F-HPJB Seat: 60L ATD (STD): 20:21 (19:50) ATA (STA): 05:34+1 (05:45)
For this flight, I’m sitting in 60L, a window seat on the starboard side in the first row of the upper deck. A nice seat, to be sure, but I’m not sure how I got here. I’d chosen a seat further back, well into the 70s, a few days ago, in an effort to get a window seat without an occupied aisle seat. I had planned to switch to a centre seat if that became in doubt, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to switch seats anymore once I was checked in for CDG-JNB. Oh well.
Sadly, my dreams of having aisle access on this flight would be dashed when 60K was quickly occupied. Sorry I swiped most of the bin space, my friend.
A look at the seat from over the shoulder. Notice only one window in this first row. Notice also pop-up TV screens instead of a seatback setup. Awesome.
The seat comes equipped with a pillow and blanket, slippers kit, and a hangar, which is quickly taken away when the flight attendant working my row realizes I don’t have a jacket to hang up.
Legroom shot. No problem. Lots of it. Unfortunately, though, this is an angled-flat seat. It’s disappointing that AF went with such an uncompetitive (now at least) set up for business class on what should be considered its flagship, and that it doesn’t seem to have plans to refit the 388s for a number of years yet.
Seat controls are in the armrest. I did end up triggering them unintentionally on occasion.
One of my favourite features of A380 upper deck — the storage bins which are large enough store amenity kits, blankets, shoes, laptop, cables and other gear. They make window seats up here attractive even if they aren’t aisle access.
Out my window, our twin from across the English Channel is getting ready for its trip home.
IFE remote, headsets, and water bottle are located in the space under the centre armrest. Remote is the same as downstairs in La Premiere, and the headsets are the same as on both my previous AF flights on this trip.
Power outlets, including the odd combination network and USB port, are located in front of the centre armrest panel near the floor.
Service begins with the flight attendant leading service in my row — who is a dead ringer for a lovely woman I used to work with from the Southern US, although her accent is decidedly more French than drawl — distributes amenity kits. Again, there are a number of options in terms of colour.
Pre-departure beverages are offered next. I opt for some champagne.
Boarding is done fairly quickly for the Bigbus, and the safety video rolls. I have to admit, after seeing this three times in the last couple of days, I find the “flight attendant” giving the presentation adorable with her sarcastic little smirk. We push back and leave our BA friend in our dust.
Once again, the tail camera is put up on the bulkhead screen, so I don’t miss out on not having my own IFE screen deployed during taxi. It’s not a long trip to the base of the runway, which basically runs parallel the terminal and main parking areas.
No lineup for the runway, so we’re quickly on our way into the night above Johannesburg.
Now that I’m allowed to deploy my screen, I choose a movie, and watch most of the documentary film Human — it’s basically a series interviews with people from around the world discussing various heady issues of humanity — life, love, sex, hate, war, fear. Not a light watch at all, but very good. I’ll have to revisit it to catch the last little bit, unfortunately. It also requires a lot of attention, as interviews are presented in their native languages, with English subtitling.
Once we level off, I head to check out the forward lav. It’s a little bit bigger than average, being located in the forward port section, but nothing outlandish. It’s not like you could fit a shower suite in this space, or something.
Over on the starboard side, AF solved the A380 dilemma of “what to do with that weird space at the front of the upper deck” by totally punting and installing three screens showing images. “Et voila, an art gallery!”
Back at my seat, service begins with a hot towel.
And then, in the magenta mood lighting, lo and behold, we have a sighting of a real, actual Air France menu! So I guess it’s just coincidence no menu was offered on my first two flights on this trip.
My flight attendant returns to the front of the row with the drink cart, and I request some champagne. It’s accompanied by the amouse bouche, and some hard bread twists. The mango shrimp is delicious, and I really like the bread twists.
I’m quite impressed by her — friendly and efficient, and always stepping to the space in front of the 60K/L seats to deliver or pick up things, as opposed to reaching over from the aisle.
Starters and salad are presented at once on the tray, and I select a chablis to accompany it. The bread was pretty good, but sadly this would end the run of delicious crispy baguettes. It was fun while it lasted.
The starters are not too terribly exciting, but both are decent and pretty simple.
The salad could not get much more simple. It’s decently fresh, but some additional ingredients would be most welcome.
My FA returns with the cart to take main course orders, and I go with the cod. It’s a little overdone, but tasty, particularly with the spicy tomato saucy. Note again, the little foil ramekin. The polenta triangles are nice and crisp, and the veggies are pretty good as well. All in all, a nice main course.
A simple cheese course is offered soon afterwards. As expected, quite good.
And finally the little dessert sampler trio, presented with a choice of sorbets — in this case, raspberry. I really like this approach to dessert. I thought the apricot and almond tart was the star here. Along with the sorbet.
Coffee or tea is declined as I’m eager to get to bed, but I do request a Glenlivet, which is cheerfully brought to me.
With dinner done, I put my seat down into bed mode. Anything that’s not 180 degrees isn’t great, but this isn’t too bad — much less offensive than, say, the Lufty Slider of old. Which I also flew out of JNB a few years ago, now that I think about it. It’s not a great bed, but I’m pretty tired, and it does the job. I sleep pretty solidly for much of the flight, although I have to wake periodically to reposition myself, typically a result of my arm being pinned underneath the pillow and falling asleep. But I do get a good sleep in, so I can’t complain about the seat too much.
In fact, I wask up with the house lights start to come up, and the FA serving my section with the ever-present cart in the aisle beside me. Juice and coffee are offered, and it’s breakfast time. I request the omelet, and it is produced.
The fruit mix was pretty good — much better than my all-grapefruit-all-the-time offering in La Premiere. And the yogurt was, well, yogurt. The croissant was just okay. Why doesn’t AF heat its bread in premium cabins? That would be a big plus.
Breakfasts on planes are never the best, but I really enjoyed the omelet here. It was deliciously cheesy, the potatoes were good, and the bacon was, well, bacon. All in all, a pretty solid breakfast.
As it’s served, we’re just crossing into the south of France, so we’re not too far from the end of this journey.
Breakfast service wraps up with a hot towel being presented. I find it a little odd that AF offers these at the end of meal services as opposed to the beginning.
I chill out for the short remainder of the flight, pack my gear up, and soon enough, we’re making our landing at CDG. Yay for tailcam, once again.
It’s not a long taxi before we’re arriving at a gate, clearly in the A380 alley for AF, judging by the jetways next door.
We’re quickly released from our seats, and away we go. I pause on my way to get one last look at the plane that hosted by first to AF A380 flights.
It’s not a super-long walk back to the centre of the terminal, where I quickly clear transit security — Sky Priority is offered, but hardly needed as things are pretty dead at this early hour — and off to find the lounge to kill some time before my flight to Toronto.
We’ll pick up this adventure there with the final leg. Thanks for joining me!
Johannesburg - JNB
Paris - CDG
A pretty decent flight with AF, although not one that makes me think I need to fly their 388 in J again anytime soon. Catering was solid, the service was all from one flight attendant, and she was very good. And the sleep was acceptable, given the lackluster bed offered. I'm happy to have had the AF 388 experience.
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