My company’s travel policy does not leave much room for creative routings when there are direct flights. The best which can be hoped is flying W because the flight is already full in Y at time of booking, which was the case when this business trip was decided.
I was not home at ETD-30h, and I borrowed a friend’s cell phone to try checking and, first and foremost, selecting my seat. (OK, there is outrageous vanity in my showing off with an FB-Ivory card – nobody does that on this website ;)
This friend’s cell phone did not go beyond the animated GIF for waiting, which did not encourage me to subscribe for internet access on my own cell phone.
Back home, I connected with a real computer, the kind which weighs three kilos, not a toy that fits inside a pocket. But what counted was the line in red.
AF was not on a hurry to check me in, because the service was interrupted precisely at that time. What else could I do but try again later?
“Check in in four steps”, but many more pages, because there were quite a number of menus to go through.
I had opened a session with my FB number (with a proud Ivory status), but AF’s website designers had not envisaged to display my current reservations : I had to type myself the references that AF already knew.
First I had to confirm that I did not want to change flight. Then AF wanted to be sure that I am over 12 years old, which means AF’s own memory is less than that, since I joined Fréquence Plus (FB’s ancestor) some 20 years ago. Or maybe my mastery of AF’s website shows that my computer literacy is that of child under 12. Not very polite, but arguably realistic :)
When you check in the old way, the seat’s selection is already final, but in the case of an OLCI, that finalization seems to be afterwards.
Seat 4F was a window on the correct side and not overwing, but I would have preferred being one or two rows further rear in order to have a better wing view (all that for the sake of this FR, of course !) So I tried requesting 5F, and then 6F.
I wondered why AF proposed me to select a seat if it was impossible to change it (I tried again later, with no more success). I did not try the other seats, because I did not like them and was afraid any change might be final.
The maximum size of the hand luggage is smaller with AF than with Easyjet
… because EZY authorizes 1 cm more in length and 10 cm more in width, but in all fairness, AF also accepts that you carry a laptop bag, and Easyjet does not. In even more fairness, the only hand luggage I ever saw checked for size by AF ground staff was grossly oversized.
I had checked that luggage size (it was compatible with my preceding EZY flight) and did not worry. In case you never heard about Fréquence Plus, I warn you that you are going to flunk Frequent Flyer Programs Archeology 101.
I took an ample time margin to reach the airport - missing my flight by my fault was not an option from a business point of view.
No problem, the flight was on time
The larger an airport, the lesser the opportunities for walking outside, and CDG is no exception to this rule.
The landside toilets at the extremity of the terminal. The child care room was clearly towards the female side, but nevertheless accessible to men braving the skirt wearing pictogram on that room door.
On the male side, it was clean, and there were even 120V and 230V power ports compatible with Type A and F plugs for razors.
I did not need a lengthy stay in these toilets to recharge my famished cell phone
… because there were Type E/F power ports next to these seats.
There were internet access computers, with fifteen free minutes for each of your e-mail addresses, like in ORY, with the same supplier since I had to remember the password used in ORY.
That is how you have the de rigueur corporate screen shot.
There were few people at the check in and luggage drop off counters, but I did not need them, since I had used the OLCI and only had a hand luggage.
An American Express sales booth on the way to the security check, whose vendor tried in vain convince me of the interest of the Gold card (cheap the first year and very expensive afterwards),
… and like in a shopping mall that I sometimes patronize, there was a low cost hairdresser booth. I did not have a chance to try, because there was no staff despite this being one of the posted work time slots.
Better not waste time witha hairdresser, because this was the situation at the security check.
That Flight AF1062 was booked full contributed slightly to that long line, but it was also the reason for my traveling in Economy Premium, and have therefore access to the priority lane.
There were fifteen lanes, but only five were staffed, including one for priority passengers (Skypriority and the like). In the early afternoon, CDG was obviously decreasing the staffing to avoid a quality of service improvement which could give bad luxury habits to steerage passengers next time they would have a plane at rush hour.
A sampling of AF A32x parked next to one of the jetties. Contrary to appearances, the A318 in the foreground is the smaller version, in front of an A320 and an A319, respectively.
Arrival at the entrance of the jetty whose access on both sides is somewhat narrow, due to the presence in the center of stairs going down to the AF lounge and to small shops.
There were newspapers in four self-serve stands, one on each side at the beginning of the jetty,and another pair a distance further away. As could be expected, the first pait was a lot emptier than the second one : on the left, there were copies of the French L'Equipe, L'Opinion and La Croix, as well as the German Frankfurte Allgemeine Zeitung. Le Monde and Le Figaro (the two major dailies) had disappeared.
There was slightly more choice in the next pair, and I found a rather worn copy of Le Monde, probably replaced there after reading by a passenger.
It does not show well from this angle, but the plane here at Gate A51 was an A318. I thought I would have an A321 ?
It was in fact the plane for Düsseldorf.
I could barely see on the right the A321 for Stockholm : the jet brige is Y-shaped, reaching two different parking positions.
Paul Andreu, the architect of CDG2, had apparently not envisaged that AF’s A32x could be full, and it is usually crowded at boarding in Terminal 2F, because of sheer lack of space.
We also welcome Premium Economy, but the eligible passengers can’t see this sign, let alone reach it. There is such a Skypriority sign at each gate, but better be there before the Y passengers to be able to enjoy this priority, which defeats the purpose of saving the time of the eligible passengers.
There was something of a jam in the jet bridge and then when entering the plane. The two FAs in the galley chatted with each other when the passengers could not move, but stopped their chat to welcome them with a smile when the line moved again. It was OK with me.
This is the space available at seat 4F
There was of course a barf bag in the seat pocket, identified by the dot of my laser rangefinder. If you had not time to grab it…
… all you could do was aim correctly in the 396mm between the seat and the said barf bag. There were no turbulence, and this seat pitch was good. There was no obstruction under the seat because there was no IFE, and therefore no IFE box.
F-GTAN entered revenue service in 2007, well after all AF flights had become non-smoking in late 2000, but ILFC, the owner of this aircraft, seemed to consider the possibility of leasing her to an airline operating smoking flights.
I have an old grievance against AF on that route, dating from the time when flights less than 2h30’ had become non-smoking. CDG-ARN was scheduled to last 2h40’ and there was therefore a smoking section in the rear of the aircraft. When your seat is in the last row of the non-smoking section, it is actually at Row zero of the smoking section, and I had been in a smoky environment during the entire flights. My complaint had resulted in a stereotyped letter and a few Fréquence Plus points (I warned you there would be a test on that ;)
All readers of this website know the famous square cup holder, specially designed for AF’s round cups. This picture also show the generous recline of the seats in W class. It was not quite lie flat, but supposed to be better than the ergonomic seats in Y. (“Ergonomic” means so well designed that it is useless to try and recline them)
F-GUGE, an A318, is pushed back from the next jet bridge
Next at pushback is F-GJVW (an A320)
… revealing F-GFKY, another AF A320, in Skyteam livery
Now was our turn to push back, and the purser offered excuses for being a few minutes late for that, because some hand luggage had been relocated in the hold, for lack of space in the cabin of this full aircraft.
An AF 777 moved away
…followed by a Cityjet Jumbolino
We were third in line behind this Easyjet A319
… and this Hop! E-190
An AA 757 AA returns home
This picture already belongs to history : MH does not serve CDG with an A380 any more, and is trying to sell its superjumbo fleet, due to its dire financial situation. This one was the 100th delivered in the world.
Note the alignment of the reactors decoration !
General view of CDG2
Terminals 2E and 2F
The former Noefort farm, transformed in a residence, south-west of St Pathus
Nanteuil le Haudoin and the N2 highway’s bypass
The confluence of the Oise and Aisne rivers (left and right).
Compiègne Castle, its park and the Beaux Monts forest lane in the alignment.
Twenty minutes later, the Antwerpen harbor and the Van Doel nuclear power plant.
The captain was quite talkative in his welcome speech, listing a number of cities which were going to be on the way (on the left of the aircraft, so I did not see them), saying that we were flying at 11 km above sea level and that we would be using 8.1 ton of fuel, "which may sound like a lot, but only represents 2.5 l/passenger/ 100 km, since the plane is full”. This advocacy for aviation omitted the fact that most fully loaded cars use much less than that on intercity driving, and trains even less.
A FA came back to offer bread in a basket after distributing the lunch trays. I took one and then asked to take a picture of the basket (but not the FA, I said it explicitly). The FA withdrew immediately the basket, with a horrified look, and said “Oh no, it would be afterwards on the internet or Facebook!”.
I was so taken aback by this reaction that I forgot to take a picture of my own piece of bread: this is a similar one photographed on another AF flight. The FA was destabilized too, and admitted it when she did not understand me when I simply asked plain water.
When leaving the plane, I had an extended conversation with her on this incident. She was very smiling and friendly – I had no complaint on that. I explained why I wanted to take a picture, and my surprise by her refusal: offering good quality bread in a basket is a plus of AF compared to competitors. To prohibit making public a strong point of AF’s service was counter-productive. Generally speaking, an airline which mandates secrecy on its services hints that they are ashamed of them. Furthermore – she admitted it herself – nothing can stop a passenger from taking a picture of the piece of bread he received. She told me that she would forward to her management my remarks. This was a diplomatic way out: if this kind of picture was prohibited on AF, Flight Reporters would know it.
This was the first time ever that a FA forbade me to take a picture of her bread basket, on any airline including AF. I believe that me request was so unexpected that she took the most conservative option of maximum protection of the basket’s privacy.
Let’s go back to the meal: the salmon flesh and roe for starters were delicious, the chicken OK but not more, the carrots overwhelmed the taste of the sauce, the Morbier cheese was standard, and so was the crushed pineapple.
The safety card, both sides
The Jever airbase, in Lower Saxony, about 20 km from the North Sea.
The countryside there was strewn with windmills.
The estuary of the Elbe River
I hope that Trischen island will be a suitable replacement for a Pacific coral island, because this was the best dream island I could show you on that flight.
Further away, another bridge in my collection of structures seen from above, and what a bridge !
The Great Belt Fixed Link (Storebæltsforbindelsen) connects together the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen.
It is a mixed rail – road structure, but here on the right, the railway line disappears into an 8 km twin tube tunnel under the straits, while the road takes a suspended bridge with a 1,642m long main span.
Further away, above Sweden, an air to air picture of a Norwegian Airlines738
… identified thanks to her typical red nose
The altitude of the plane dropped, and so did the lighting
The suburbs south of Stockholm (Farsta, Bandhagen, Skarpnäck, Rågsved, Bagarmossen, thank you Rl 777)
Google Maps still calls it Johanneshovs Isstadion (an ice rink, true to its name, which is also used for cultural events), but thanks to Rl 777, I know that it was renamed Hovet in 1989. Next to it, the Ericsson Globe.
The center of Stockholm ; the largest island in the center right is Södermalm. At center left, the picturesque island of Gamla Stan.
A ferry leaves Stockholm
The ferries followed the rather sinuous natural waterway to reach the Baltic Sea from Stockholm.
Their white shapes were as many beacons on this route
It was nearly night when we landed (quite harshly) on Runway 26. The thrust reversers were not deployed because the terminal was at the far end of the runway.
The toilets before arrive landside are undersized, but there are armchairs for waiting for your turn, and they are clean.
Two customs officers were waiting in the background and I saw no reaction from them as passengers were passing by. There had been no ID check anywhere in CDG or ARN – only random checks are performed in the Schengen Zone in normal times.
There was minimal walking outside the terminal, and equally minimal waiting for a taxi at a standard flat rate for Stockholm. No need to withdraw or change money: absolutely everything can be paid by credit card, and none of my colleagues has ever seen a Swedish banknote.
I received the next day a bilingual (French / English) e-mail signed “Air France Customer Insight” proposing to participate to a survey on my satisfaction on that flight. I clicked on the message in English and tried to change the language since one the first menus offered this option.
It did not change anything : the survey remained in English, which was not a problem for me, as you could guess, but did not give a very user-friendly first impression. Note that in this long list, I had the choice between 中文(简体/普通话) : Simplified Chinese (Mandarin) and 繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese). I do not know why they added the Mandarin precision in the former choice, because the differences between the written forms of the various Chinese languages are minimal (that the characters are simplified in Mainland China and Singapore is an unrelated matter), and why they mentioned that in the Simplified ideograms version only (the Chinese languages other than Mandarin can just as well be written in traditional ideograms, like for instance Cantonese in HK and Taiwanese or Hakka in Taiwan).
There were many free text fields, but the last page in the survey lets me believe that they were not meant to be read, since the contributions were analyzed automatically. I could at most hope to receive a feedback by e-mail on my detailed comments, but never did. These fields for open comments in the kind of survey look to me like the visitors’ books which help reduce graffiti by visitors who would leave a trace in the castle anyway.
(If you are only interested in air travel, you can skip the ensuing bonus).
A short business trip is of the flight-subway-meeting room-hotel room kind. The flight was the topic of this report. The meeting room looked like any other in the world. The hotel room looked like any other in the world, but since the Courtyard Mariott had changed owner shortly before, taxi drivers were unused to the name.
And when you take the subway in the center of Stockholm, you have to go underground, very deeply so, with a single escalator all the way down.
No matter if you look at it from the top or from the bottom, the depth is impressive
The walls of the corridors and of the subway stations are raw granite, dug with explosive – it was not pure chance that dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel, the Swedish creater of the Nobel prizes.
… but you nevertheless have some blue sky.
These are 140 meter long platforms, a dimension which is intermediate between the 75 m long platforms in the Paris Metro (Line 14 excluded) and the 225 m long platforms of the RER-B line which serves CDG.
And C20 trains which entered service from 1997.
We now leave the subway to take a suburban train
Whereas I found it very easy to buy a set of subway tickets or a prepaid and rechargeable travel card, buying a suburban train ticket is a challenging. According to my local contacts, the traffic on SL’s lines (the Swedish Railways) dropped around 10-15% traffic when they introduced their new ATMs, because the menus were so user unfriendly that users got discouraged and drove instead. (Note that they did not consider traveling without a valid ticket). I do not know if SL improved their man-machine interfaces.
Fortunately, there was a counter to buy tickets manually.
SL’s suburban trains are as modern, but a lot more comfortable to use than their ATMs.
They are spotlessly free, because the Swedish users respect their transport facilities – this is not due to the presence of pictograms only.
Sl plays a playful card to ask young travelers to not put their feet on the seats.
Have the head in the clouds and the feet on the ground
The slogan with this other pictogram is an untranslatable pun: kontakt can mean either "contact" or "electric plug”.
Looking for a contact ? There is a power port here
There was indeed a power port for the travelers under the seats.
And when you leave the train in the outer suburbs…
… these imps wave you goodbye
This is the end of this air and rail trip ; thanks for reading me!
Paris - CDG
Stockholm - ARN
The FA who interacted with me had undebatable courtesy and good will, but this was obviously the first time she was serving a Flight Reporter, and she took a wide ranging interpretation of Item 15.5 of AF’s General Conditions of Carriage (“Recording videos and/or taking photographs other than personal videos and photographs is prohibited on board the aircraft.”). Being FA is a job which you never end learning – her trainers had probably started their career before digital photography made Flight Reports possible – but she was trying her best.
Better not debate on a quality-cost ratio, because the catering will never justify the price difference with Economy. I wish there were IFE screens (even collective ones) displaying the airshow.
The security check was fast for me because I could use the Skypriority lanes in CDG. The jetties in CDG2F are too narrow for the number of passengers boarding there : this is a design error which cannot be corrected.
There was a very short distance to the exit of Terminal 2 in ARN, and no waiting for a taxi : there was nothing to improve there. ARN is nevertheless very far from the city – the Arlanda Express was not very convenient for reaching our final destination, and not much cheaper than sharing a taxi with a colleague.
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