[Warning : this FR should not be administered to patients suffering from allergy to tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating humor]
There must be some conspiracy for keeping the busiest French metropolitan domestic line away from foreign eyes: although ORY-NCE is well reported in French, with around twenty reports each way, a single round trip was posted in English, by the author of these lines.
There must be a conspiracy inside the conspiracy, because although two airlines operate this busy route, only two round trips have been posted on Easyjet, in French only.
I’ll continue my treacherous activities in unveiling the woes of flying LCC in my home country to the unsuspecting English speaking community.
Unsuspecting may be the appropriate word, because I chose a title picture which may attract readers hoping to read a report to/from New York. (A number of readers admitted falling in the same trap laid in front of the French version when it was posted, so you can admit it too :)
Few people outside Paris know that the Paris Committee of Americans offered in 1885 a 1/10 replica of the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution. It stands on the Swans Island (Ile aux Cygnes), in front of the Grenelle Bridge. That was a century before French-bashing became a national sport on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
These pictures were taken from Mirabeau Bridge, the next bridge downstream, and quite a distance from New York.
There was a reason for mentioning the woes of flying U2 (not the aircraft flown one way by Francis Gary Powers, but the airline seldom referenced by its IATA code), because this story is that of an inept traveler. The most inept traveler ever on this website. The kind of traveler who should never be allowed to get anywhere close to an airport in real life.
In French, you call this kind of person in common parlance un boulet, i.e. a cannonball. This is not in reference to its devastating killing or destructive power, but to the heavy ball of iron that would be secured to a convict’s ankle, and that he would have to drag anywhere he would go. You don’t want to travel with somebody dragging a cannonball, wasting your time and patience when anything he does ends up in disaster.
The purpose of the week-end was to visit our relatives on the Riviera and Mrs. Marathon did not have any motivation for spending time and money in a creative routing to get there. When you restrict yourself to direct flights, the choice was between AF and U2 (better known as EZY, its ICAO abbreviation). In round numbers, leaving early on Saturday morning and coming back late on Sunday evening, at time of booking, the cost for the two of us was 400 EUR with AF or 250 EUR with EZY.
That was the cost for tickets which were non-refundable, non-airmiles, non-segment, non-tier points, non-eating, non-drinking, non-checked luggage, non-seat pitch, non-exit row, non-bulkhead, non-seat selection, non-upgradable, non-lounge, non-priority, non-show off, non-anything. Air France provides a 20 gram cookie and round plastic cup to be placed in a square holder, whereas EZY offers to choose your seat for 3.05 EUR if you do not care for front or exit rows. I could afford to buy a 200g pack of cookies (enough for five flights with my wife by AF standards), the coffee served on short haul flights is nothing but cheap instant stuff and all AF offers on domestic flights is to choose between a window and an aisle seat for 20 EUR. Since the AF window seat could be over-wing, or in the sun’s direction, this proposition was a non-starter for me.
Some claim that the density of AF’s flights on this route is an advantage on EZY, but we were ready to take the risk of having the entire management board of the Marathon family on the same flight and the argument did not hold.
That being said, these are difficult times in a country which lost its AAA rating, and 3.05 EUR is no small change, especially when multiplied by two each way, and I decided to save 6.10 EUR by letting EZY choose our seats on the way back, when it would be too dark for decent pictures when you do not have a camera weighing 3 kg.
I won’t dwell on the last option, which was splurging no less than 42,500 FB miles and 56.40 EUR round trip each to fly AF at really any cost. (There were award tickets costing a lot fewer miles, but providing a lot less time with our relatives).
I received a flurry of promotional e-mails after buying my tickets, proposing hotels both near ORY and in Nice which were way out of my budget. I felt that EZY should focus on its LCC core business.
The County of Nice was annexed by France in 1860, but Easyjet appeared to have second thoughts about it and recommends checking the passport and visa requirements to go to this foreign country. Easyjet seems to worry about the local sanitary conditions too. Or maybe the Nice inhabitants are suspicious of diseases that Parisians could bring in.
I searched, but did not find any information on the passport and requirements for a French citizen to enter the county of Nice. Was it safe to go there with my ID card only ? Risk taking has its limits, and I checked that our IDs were still valid.
Another e-mail at Day-2, which the air travel rookie that I was should have read in more detail. There was also a proposition for taxis, with a flat rate passenger not far from the standard price for the ride (for the whole car).
Booking a parking space in advance at the airport cost 49 EUR for the week-end, a lot cheaper than the round trip taxi ride, and it spared me the taxi driver’s favorite radio stations.
That was poor synchronization : the day before our departure, the Greater Paris transport Authority organized an air pollution record to celebrate free public transport during the week-end, or something like that.
Unfortunately, not matter if they drive through a noxious fog of microparticles or under a healthy acid rain, the trains and buses are few in between early on a Saturday morning, and not very convenient from our home.
We left home on Saturday morning to ORY. Very early, but not that early, because I had somehow memorized that the flight was at 7:30 instead of 7:00 and then, by a typical mental aberration, repeatedly confused the ETD and the boarding time on the BPs so that it would match my mistake. Cannonball #1 for Marathon.
What is more, we left home at the end of the deadline that I had set. Cannonball #2.
When I parked my car in car park P2, of course far from the terminal access because I had never been there by car, it was already 6 :23. It was tight with a check-in closing at 6:30 .
There was no trace of Flight EZY4061 on the FIDS. Mrs. Marathon enquired, and F*** ! Easyjet is at the South Terminal, not the West Terminal! How could I not check that on the preprinted BP ? I would have punched myself (but didn’t). Mrs. Marathon did not punch me either, maybe because she was Mrs. Marathon. Cannonball #3
Never venture, never win: there is the Orlyval shuttle, but we might have to wait, so back to the car, and forget about the prepaid parking space. Cannonball #4.
Parking Lot P1 which will be at the non-prepaid rate, and of course I park far from the terminal access, because I have never been there either. Cannonball #5.
We reached the security check, where the line seemed endless and the 10 minutes waiting time optimistic. But Mrs. Marathon heard a last call for the 7am EZY flight: that was incredible, but Easyjet was giving a last chance to its late passengers, and an EZY staff let us pass in priority.
Only that the day before, Mrs. Marathon had insisted for having a “less than 100ml fluid containers”, believing that having one each was mandatory (she had never travelled without checking luggage). In a stress situation, I forgot about these two bags and the luggage was directed apart for a manual search. Cannonball #6
The suitcase was not enough, the laptop case also was directed apart for a manual check, maybe because of the metal vacuum flask inside. It was absolutely empty, but maybe suspect because it was in metal. Cannonball #7
The lady at the security check took all her time to search the suitcase and the laptop bag. Non-verbal communication made it clear that she would make no effort to go any faster. When Mrs. Marathon saw me emerge at long last from the security check, it was 6:48 and the boarding of Flight EZY4061 was closed.
We went all the way to the end of the terminal where the plane was still there, but was indeed too late. We were not the only ones: another three other passengers had also narrowly missed the plane.
There was a very discreet lady and a couple in front of the Easyjet counter manned by Mr. S*** who explained that it was unfortunately too late, that we could be reprotected on the next flight, but that there would a fee for that. The man in the couple howled very loudly on the fact that the plane and jet bridge were still there, that this was a scandal, that Easyjet claimed to be low-cost and wasn’t, that Easyjet never again… you can imagine the whole movie. Mr. S*** never dropped his polite smile and handled the situation in the utmost professional manner, with commendable stoicism, without ever hinting that the passenger was late to start with and that it was his fault, while the passenger poured heaps of insults on Easyjet. This passenger was not a cannonball, but eight cannonballs all at once, i.e. one more than I.
I was explained how to reach EasyJet’s landside counter, while the other late passenger kept howling at EZY. There was a long way which gave me a chance to see a U2 aircraft (A320)
To overlook this airside area
And eventually reach the U2 sales counter underground which was as far as was possible from those of the other airlines in the terminal.
We then had to obtain our BPs, the old way, and therefore provide an ID, but remember I had been careful on that. There are limits to cannonballism.
There was one passenger who had no limit in this respect : the angry one who had missed the same plane. He had spent so much time howling at Mr. S*** that he was reaching at last the Easyjet counter… and discovered that the 9:05 flight was now full: the Marathons had taken the last two seats. The flight was full and so were the next ones. Another series of very loud and angry protests against Easyjet, and another cannonball in his collection.
Mrs. Marathon kept saying “We have been lucky to have seats": she was traveling with a cannonball, but had seen that she could have been with much worse. It was a measure of her understanding when traveling with her Flight Reporting husband.
There were well known hand luggage gauges a few steps away. These are twin gauges, because the smaller dimension is guaranteed to be accepted in the cabin, whereas the larger one could be placed in the hold for free if space is missing in the overhead bins.
I had been careful on that too, and our suitcase did meet the maximum size (nobody asked to check).
No, Easyjet is not cheating their passengers (as some claim on other websites) : there are few millimeters “offered” beyond the regulatory 56 cm maximum length of a hand luggage.
I saw several internet access computers like this one. A free quota of 15 minutes per day was not much, but this was in fact 15 minutes per e-mail address to which a confirmation code was sent… and there is no limit to the number of e-mail addresses that an individual can have.
I did not need that trick to take the corporate screenshot of the day.
These cannonballs came at a price : an 80 EUR x 2 fee to change the flight (plus the wasted parking fee), but the fee for a similar last minute AF flight change was 20 EUR x 2, if you did not choose the cheapest “Mini” fare, which could not be modified at all.
That price included speedy boarding, but not the seat selection, for which we would have had to pay again.
Speedy boarding provided access to the security check access #1, the one which would have saved us the few minutes which would have allowed us to catch our plane. Half an hour later, both security check accesses were deserted: all 7am planes had left.
There were plastic bags (for fluids ?), branded Aigle Azur.
Some more plane spotting on the way to the boarding gates with Easyjet A32x
… and AF ones
An anonymous ATR72 and a Transavia 737
Do twin aisle aircraft have twin tails ?
These are actually an Air Caraïbes A330 taxiing in front of a Corsair aircraft
This is a different one
Another 747, belonging to Pullmantour
Air pollution in the greater Paris area was not some media rumor : the color and the light were definitely abnormal.
We had meanwhile reached Gate B05, also closer than that of the previous flight.
The signage for the priority seats was not very visible
There was a station with a dozen cell phone connectors, and a Type E power port at the foot of this column.
The nominal voltage of the power in France is 230 V, not 220V, but it did not matter because this plug was unpowered.
What else was there ? Airside shops that I was not interested in, but they did not create a hindrance, visually and for moving around.
A small rest area with two PS3 stations
In front, a lounge for reading on line newspapers and magazines – I did not check what the offering was.
An unused gate, with a hand luggage gauge
What do you mean, containers above 100 ml are banned on board ? An empty container, or one filled airside, or paid at airside prices in an airside shop has never been banned in France. That is a case of an oversimplified pictogram (my vacuum flask was security checked and accepted, although it may have been the last straw which caused the missing of our plane).
At the end of the terminal (from where the plane that we had missed had departed), there were half a dozen computers for internet access, with the same principle of 15 minutes for free per e-mail address.
Pre-boarding of Flight EZY4063 is announced over the PA. We see again Mr. S***, as friendly and smiling as before. I had met him again near the Easyjet sales counter underground and I had complimented for his management of the (verbally) aggressive passenger. He was really a nice guy, doing a job which was probably not an easy one closed flight after closed flight.
The very small space in the background was for the dozen passengers who had paid for speedy boarding and would be separated from the crowd by flexible barriers.
Then waiting in a blind jet bridge.
OK, this was indeed an Easyjet aircraft seen from the window of the jet bridge’s operator.
The inside of the cabin before other passengers had boarded.
Meanwhile, loading of the checked luggage which are not many for a full A320 : there was a direct relationship with the fact that Easyjet was charging for them.
Some more plane spotting with a Corsair A330. Granted, the picture is not very good, but the photons had really a hard time making it through the microparticles.
What was the seat pitch ? The distance between the limit of my seat and the nearest part of the seat ahead was approximately the length of a (French) size 41 shoe
If you are not used to French shoe sizes, that translated into 25cm, which was decent, and actually similar to that of legacy airlines.
The seats were just as thin as those of the competition, but the comfort was acceptable for a flight lasting hardly more than an hour.
The safety card both sides ; nothing special about it
Picture of a Vueling A320 with sharklets and a Hop! CRK while taxiing, through the preceding window.
My « real » window was poorly located for me, because it was too far behind.
Miss PAX21F spent more time looking at her cell phone than the tarmac during the end of boarding, but it was going to be difficult to take pictures..
The absence of a partition wall before the front left door provided additional visual space.
Mrs. Marathon noticed that for Easyjet and Air France, women have only one leg.
The toilets of an A320 are always more or less the same.
With a baby diaper changing board for female use only
The view from the rear. It is a matter of personal taste, but I found the advertising on the antimacassars relatively discreet (a lot more than in Chinese aircraft, said Mrs. Marathon), and I liked the grey and orange color pattern.
Easyjet fits 180 passengers in its A320s : 29 full ranks (there is a Row 13, unlike in AF aircraft), and two half rows in the rear, left of the toilets.
The seat pitch was obviously not quite enough for some.
An extract of the BOB menu:
But as mentioned in my introduction, I had planned to bring my own food, with cookies from various airline origins, instant coffee, two Taiwanese color coded plastic cups and the Taiwanese vacuum flask which had caused the search of my hand luggage at the security check.
The vacuum flask was of course for bringing hot water obtained airside for coffee.
Unfortunately, there were toilets for both sexes in ORY,
… they are spotlessly clean, the water is safe to drink, but there is cold water only. Would you imagine not having hot water in an airport of a developed country, like say, China or Taiwan ?
That is where China does score a point in its boring boast of a five thousand year old civilization. In front of that claim, ORY did not even invent hot water. Even the babies are cleaned with cold water.
I endured lots of clichés on the Russian soul during my literature classes, but I cannot doubt that the soul of Miss PAX21F, a charming Russian arts student, was a charitable one. When she came back from the toilets and saw me taking this opportunity to take pictures of the landscape, she spontaneously offered me her window seat. That was precisely just after the cloud cover had disappeared.
The Durance Valley with on the left the Atomic Energy Commission facilities in Cadarache.
Zooming on the AEC site. The large construction site in the foreground was that of the ill-fated ITER future nuclear reactor, which was going to have six months more delay, because the reinforcement of the sole plate was not to anti-seismic standards. They would have to destroy it and build it again.
By the way, yes, there was a wingtip fence, and Easyjet made a decent effort at decorating it, unlike AF.
Two hours later than the flight that I had planned, the right hand side was no longer the best one : the sun was nearly straight ahead, which meant good lighting conditions on the left side, the one providing a grand view on the Alps. Mrs. Marathon had kept her aisle seat (Miss ex-PAX21F had proposed to change so that we could remain seated together) and took these pictures from her seat.
This was the Upper Ubaye region, upstream from Jausiers. In the foreground, this was the area of the Bonnette pass (the highest paved road in France, at 2,802 m) and the Cayolle pass (2,326 m). [Special thanks to the French reader who knew that area and identified it]
The Tinée southern Alps sector.
There was no snow on the right hand side, but there was Lorgues
The airport of Le Luc Le Cannet
Reaching the gulf of St Tropez, following Route D25
We were on the wrong side: the Riviera was on the left. Landing Runway 04L, while an AF A32x was taxiing to Runway 04R
A quite soft landing, deployment of the spoilers and thrust inverters.
NCE is a business airport which also welcomes commercial flights, like the FB Skypriority lane which also welcomes FB-Silver passengers.
Private CRJ-200 and Easyjet winglet
No doubt about the Russian presence on the Riviera, with this Rossiya A320
BAE Avro RJ100 (Swiss)
This BAe 146-300 changed operator nearly every year in the 21st century
Which is the most expensive: a painting by Piet Mondrian, or this Zepter Bombardier Global 5000 ?
(At 50 M$, the record price set in 2015 by a Mondrian beat the 40 M$ price tag of the jet)
A Canadair Challenger 600, also registered in Austria
Reaching the terminal, where the refueling truck and the luggage of the passengers of the next flight are already waiting.
The pilot missed the mark by some twenty centimeters
I had not been to the US, but in US :)
A last look at G-EZUS between the palm trees
All I needed now was to pick-up my rental car, low-cost sized and low-cost powered, but indeed low-cost thanks to a special discount provided by Easyjet. It was good enough for a week-end during which the fuel gauge did not leave the full tank indication.
This is at last the end of this report ; thanks for reading it all the way to the end. I hope that you had a good laugh at my expense – it’s a wonderful life, and it’s too short to make it otherwise !
Paris - ORY
Nice - NCE
The comfort was decent ; the FAs were smiling and relaxed, and did not harass the passengers with no intention to buy anything.
Evaluating ORY was difficult, because I really accumulated all the mistakes for us miss to the plane.
No problem in NCE : there is a quick way out, the rental car agency was efficient and the coastal road and expressway are immediately there.
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