I vaguely suspected that my relatives went so far as to break into SQ’s information system to stop me from checking in on line at ETD - 48h + a few minutes. Well, maybe not, but they wished I could stay longer.
The Singaporean IT engineers were up to their reputation and dashed my relatives hopes in less than two hours, and I rushed to secure one of the two remaining seats which were on the upper deck (for a change from the way in), at a window for outside view, and on the left for optimum lighting conditions. The continuing flight to TPE was of course full due to the end of the Chinese New year holiday, and there were no window seat on the right (looking east, with the best views).
I received this BP at the airport because I did not have a printer at home during the week-end.
I did not drive to CDG in that Chaika in mint condition registered in Latvia, but spotted this car while driving on the Paris inner ring road the day before the flight (Mrs Marathon took these pictures for me since I was driving). This massive car was the Soviet Union’s vehicle of choice for its top level officials : only 3,179 units have been produced in 1958-1981.
A tourist bonus is de rigueur in a Flight Report, but I would not go as far as claiming that France in 2012 looked like the declining Soviet Union in the late seventies. Taking the train to CDG when you are used to Taipei’s mass transit system does feel like going back to the previous century, though.
This report really starts on Monday morning at the Châtelet-les-Halles central station in Paris. When you have two suitcases which must imperatively be pushed in front of you or else they will be destroyed by the turnstiles slamming shut before you (one of mine was badly damaged in the past), getting through was not easy.
Only once you managed to get through that luggage killing device do you discover that there is a special passage for handicapped or suitcase rolling passengers, but I did not remember seeing any signage about it and did come closer to check. Several young people in nondescript clothing idling against the corridor walls were discreet telltales of ticket checking slightly further: they were there to catch passengers without tickets trying to backtrack at the sight of controllers.
My 9.25 EUR ticket guaranteed their indifference to my passage through the turnstiles, in the crowd of anonymous workers streaming in from the southern suburbs on Monday morning.
There was no signage painted on the platform to indicate the location of the train’s doors and where to start waiting lines: the French are much more autonomous and less disciplined than the Taiwanese in this regard. Not only had France lost its AAA rating, but station Châtelet-les-Halles had also lost one of its As, far right, which was at least equally deserved.
"Our train must wait due to the stopping of a train ahead ; thank you for your patience": this message of the driver in Aulnay-sous-Bois station was a bad omen for the passengers on board, who at that location on the way to the airport were mostly going to CDG.
After less than ten minutes though, things went back to normal, and we were reaching CDG1 a few stops later. The turnstiles were obviously too few, and the sole sas system for users with luggage much to slow. The only reason the line looks reasonable here is that I took time to take pictures.
Back to the last century with this FIDS made up of cathode ray screens. The round Terminal 1 in CDG is part of the list of 20th century cultural heritage building established by the Ministry of Culture, but maybe the train station should be part of it too.
But wait : these are color screens, i.e. the latest technology, circa 1985.
An inattentive traveler, like the writer of these lines, would rush to the first lift reaching a platform of the CDGVAL people-mover. The lift can hold no more that five Y passengers. J Passengers go to CDG by taxi, and F Passengers by limousine, driving them to separate drop points, so that the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the villeins never mix.
But if you stopped at the train’s CDG1 station, it is because you wanted to go to CDG Terminal 1, and the first lift (far left, hiding the turnstiles) is not the one you should take, because it reaches the people mover’s platform towards CDG2.
The people mover is a VAL rubber tyred shuttle, because the cable drawn SK has been a technological disaster, wasting 600 MFRF (90 M€) of the Paris Airport operator’s money, and again as much to RATP – the Paris Metro operator – who thought they could save the project and could not. All that was my taxpayer’s money, of course. The SK was planned to be there because the managers who were used to go to the airport by taxi or limousine (see above) never imagined that villeins might travel by plane and therefore go to the airport by public transportation, so they designed CDG without a rail link. They had never considered building the subway line to ORY for which space had been reserved, so they thought it was useless.
In CDG, in order of accessibility for commoners who fly steerage and ride trains, there is Terminal 2 (where AF and Skyteam have the best areas), Terminal 3 (for charter flights and LCC) and then the purgatory of Terminal 1 for the sinners who fly Star Alliance, maybe to equalize the overall comfort of the travel experience, once the airport is included.
The line for checking in or dropping your bags for Flight SQ333 was nevertheless fast.
These two seemingly abandoned luggage carts looked slightly untidy in front of these ads for SQ. But in all fairness, the unpretty garbage can in the foreground had been emptied and there wasn’t the slightest piece of rubbish lying around.
On the other hand, what was a disaster was the sizing of the only VAT refund counter for non-EU residents (whatever their nationality), who generate a significant portion of the sales of the luxury shops in Paris, and this outrageously long line to get the refund of the VAT on their Louis Vuitton hand bags. My impression was that once they were here, they were not going to leave any extra money in France (they were even going to recover some) and nobody cared to provide them with a red carpet welcome. That some would not have time to get their refunds would be a bonus.
I could not get a refund on the reduced rate VAT on the boxes of chocolate that I was bringing to my Taiwanese friends, and I did not need to wait in that line. On the other hand, I wanted to register to PARAFE, the automatic passport and fingerprint reading system, and the counter for that was signposted in the vicinity, but not under that name.
There was no passenger, only a non-uniformed staff whose welcome was downright frigid : « You have a passport with a microchip ? No need to register, your passport will be automatically accepted”. I vaguely remembered reading that on the airport’s website, but I wasn’t sure. I left the landside area through one of CDG1’s famous internal tubes.
And since I had a passport with a microchip, I headed to the PARAFE booth, taking the left line.
But there, no matter the way I inserted my passport in the slit (including some meeting the indications for use), all I received was a message suggesting me to register to PARAFE. A very polite policeman came up and tried himself, gave a look at my passport which was still brand new despite its many Chinese and Taiwanese border stamps and made me shortcut the standard passport line altogether. I may have been airside even faster that if I had used the PARAFE machine. Never despair of the immigration control : you can sometimes get through even faster when your passport has a problem.
Going through this tunnel to reach the satellite building.
Nothing special at the security check, with a very short waiting line and a simply polite staff, and then there was the boarding room, where I hardly noticed the one shop. Space was relatively limited in the satellite, but for a single aircraft, be she a nearly full A380, there were seats for all. With so little space to move around, plane spotting was limited, with the Concorde in static display,
… and these two XL and Air Méditerranée aircraft - the latter airline has gone bankrupt since, and few people mourned it.
Plane spotting was all the more limited that once I had taken pictures of this hardly confidential AF and French official aircraft, a staff who was obviously bored at her other gate where there was still no passenger around curtly told me that pictures were prohibited and that I could be fined for that (I knew it, thanks to FR, and I also knew that all you risk in CDG for that is a “No photo !” reminder). I always found this prohibition, purportedly for security reasons, completely ridiculous. (A Flight Reporter has the opinion that the prohibition of taking pictures of the reserved zone from the public zone does not apply to passengers airside, since this area is not accessible to the general public. Let lawyers litigate…).
Anyway, all there was on the other side was this US Airways A330, and that was it.
There were some power ports, Type E/F only, like these, and they were powered.
This "Free Wifi" sign was misleading at the time: the only website that you could access was that of the airport operator, and there was a fee for anything else. [Wifi internet became free in CDG since that flight, although you have to waste time navigating and registering for the free navigation option]
It did not matter then, because it was time for boarding. This was about all I saw of the A380 in CDG, from the jet bridge.
What was the most striking memory of CDG1, at the moment when I was welcomed aboard by a smiling male FA in this Asian territory that this SQ 388 was? The fact that nowhere in CDG, not a single male or female staff had smiled to me. No, they were not unfriendly (apart from the picture phobic one that I just mentioned). I did feel courtesy, efficiency, sometimes even proactivity. But this absence of any smile…
No matter your origin, when you have lived in a foreign country and shared its culture, its language and its daily life, you become partly one of its citizens. In this gray environment of the concrete and of the faces in CDG, the part of me which is now Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese acutely felt this absence of smiles like a slap in the face.
But now, I was back to a more familiar environment…
On the upper deck, I went through the J cabin, with its massive seats in 1-2-1 layout which are so wide that they look like too narrow sofas.
A Y cabin during boarding always cramped and cluttered, but that impression quickly dissolved.
The 2-4-2 layout of this cabin also guaranteed that no passenger is more than one seat away from the aisle, and the curvature of the upper portion of the fuselage provides to the passengers at window seats the luxury of a private storage space, and even two of them in my case, with enough volume to fit my laptop case and a soft bag containing all the miscellaneous items I might need during the flight, which gave me unlimited leg space under the seat ahead of me. There was space on the side of the seat too. The seat pitch was not much, but I could use all of it.
The IFE as you know had an excellent 10.4" screen, with a plethoric offer accessible by an easy to understand navigation, even when you flunked the Air France IFE test like I did.
There was this power port at the end of the armrest, and it provider enough power for my laptop, but it strangely could not power my camera battery charger which needed much less power. I fortunately had a spare battery, because my report has only a tiny fraction of the pictures I took.
Push back was on time ; a small look at the aircraft parked at CDG1, during the rather short taxiing to Runway 09L. The weather was dark, and I sometimes post-processed the pictures to improve the colors, but you can’t work wonders with a compact camera.
A reminder of the country which was waiting for me with this Eva Air B777-300ER which operated one of the three weekly TPE<>CDG direct flights (the only seats at my dates were in J, priced above 160,000 TWD).
Croatia Airlines A319 in Star Alliance livery
A United 767-200ER…
… and United 757-200.
Thaï Airways 777-300ER
Sorry, I did not get the number of this AF 388, parked beyond a fence, in (I guessed) a maintenance area.
Anyway, we eventually were second in line behind this Aeromexico 767-300.
… and in front of this AF 777
…ready for takeoff as soon as this Finnair had cleared it.
The cloud cover was very low, but very thin, and we were very quickly above it.
Once everybody were seated and the plane at cruise altitude, this was what the Y cabin of the upper deck looked like.
Be honest about it : you clicked on the FR to have a peek on the Singapore Girls. Apart from turbulence events, there were permanently four or five passengers in the vicinity of the galley who were ostensibly watching them. Of course, I only took this picture as part of my demanding Flight Reporter duty.
They are marginally thicker than an Economy seat, and they kneel significantly lower than the said seats, serving the passengers with the care that you wished to have in Business on other airlines that you cannot reasonably call competitors.
Before the time had come to have lunch, we had had a hot oshibori, a welcome drink (orange or apple juice, or water), a 20g bag of peanuts and this amenity kit :
The thin bag could be reused more easily than many other J kit containers which were either too small or too bulky, and its contents were typical of an Asian care for hygiene : avoid the smell of socks worn for too long and have a fresh breath. I had already these same items seldom provided in Y, betraying the Asian part of my culture.
Last came this menu. It was bilingual French / English, but I forgot to take a picture of the English version of this double page :
I chose the black pepper beef, a favorite dish that I liked. The starters were good, the bread slightly too hard, and the chocolate cake was simply delicious (I know something about chocolate, which results in scalding remarks from my bathroom scale each time I am careless enough to ask it)
This was a glass of apple juice. Red and white wines were available too, but I would rather not comment on them due to my ignorance in this regard.
What would a FR in the winter without snow covered mountains ? These were the Alps in Austria, in the vicinity of Graz.
On the other hand, I missed a plane flying in the reverse direction, but really, it appeared to fly by so close that I would have had to be on the ready for it to catch it.
Only at the window seat of an A380 can one have in Economy the luxury of a shelf to dispose of your meal tray in order to keep writing the report of the flight in progress.
We had meanwhile reached the Carpathian Mountains, with just as much snow.
The Singapore Girls kept coming back and forth, to propose a glass of water or orange juice, an apple or a banana….
… or a turkey sandwich, or again a banana, or one more drink. Some Flight Reporters make it a specialty to ask for seconds, but I wonder if you could reasonably eat more than was already provided.
Some Flight Reporters seem to be continuously hungry; others are obvious winglet addicts. Like a pusher in my suburb on Planet Earth, I can feel the early signs of their withdrawal syndrome, just posting a picture of a winglet on my own screen. You want a winglet? I have all lightings.
Once they are addicted, they of course ask for more.
In multiple samples, or in full screen format, with a setting sun the kind you can only have in Turkey, especially around FL330.
After not seeing the Balck Sea because of the cloud cover, we were flying above snow covered Turkey …
… and the north-west extremity of Iran, towards Tabriz, just as snow covered.
All things come to an end: night came and there was not much left to be seen through the window.
I had not had access to the upper deck on the way in, supposedly because it was all business class (but since I could have selected a seat there, I knew this was untrue and that it was like this one an A388 with a Y cabin in the rear of the upper deck), but this time, the rear stairs were unblocked, and seen here with and without a flash.
The lower deck was not fascinating by night, and you can see more on it in my FR of Flight SQ334 on the way in.
Another inevitable visit in a LH flight and in a Flight Report too : the toilets. The seat was very standard, but the lighting behind the mirror added an aesthetics plus.
SQ was also kind enough to provide Y passengers some combs and tooth brushes for those who already lost that of their amenity kit. Note the four language indication – the picture is not very sharp – in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
Talking about foreign languages, all PA announcements on board were bilingual English – French. The accent and the slight grammar imperfections proved that there were delivered live and without a cue card in French, and that it was not the native language of that FA. The quality was commendable - I wish I had the same level in an Asian language.
It was before 4 am in Singapore’s time zone when a FA woke me up for breakfast which was served only forty minutes later. “For breakfast, do you want the omelet and sausage?”: this was the same wording as on the way in, and the same trick to make me believe I was choosing the only remaining dish.
This was not the one I wanted, and I pushed the FA into a corner to see how she would handle this situation: she offered multiples apologies and proposed bringing me sandwiches to make up for the missing menu and not have me leave the plane underfed. I did not play the game long, and accepted the standard breakfast, which was decent and plentiful. I do not penalize SQ for that: in economy, you cannot really expect the airline to take an excess of hot meals which will be inevitably dumped at the destination, for the sole purpose of providing two options to each and every passenger.
A last walk around to stretch a little…
… before the descent on Singapore where it was still night.
The business class cabin seen when leaving the plane
… and the only view of the aircraft that I had, from the jet bridge at destination. I did not find the A380 quieter at the upper deck than at the main deck. The A380 was distinctly quieter than the A330 of the continuing flight to TPE, but the difference was minor, or even minimal.
This was not quite the last picture, because I thought about taking this picture : the aircraft was 9V-SKF.
Paris - CDG
Singapore - SIN
What could I say about this flight ? If it had been the yearly appraisal of a staff, it would have a very seldom awarded Vastly exceeds expectations rating on each criterion. When initially posted, this was my 84th FR, and never so far had I rated a flight with a perfect 10 grade on all counts. I was always dubious about Flight Reporters rating their flight this way. But this time, I exceptionally used this perfect grade.
Some airlines claim they make the sky the best place on earth in magazine ads. SQ does it in the sky. What more could SQ provide me which was not already more than reasonably expected in that class of travel on a long haul flight?
0 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".