It was 0057 hours. Check in line was quite long as I joined the tail end of it. Unsurprisingly, I was one of the last passengers to check in. Most passengers had connections beyond Paris CDG. Families, couples, students, businessmen. All of them. This was going to be a full Boeing 777. A friend mentioned (while I had no idea of the imminent drama that would follow..) that F-GSPS would operate my flight, a 14.3 years old Boeing. Check in took quite a while, but for now I was very relaxed. I knew I would make it Chicago. The crew walked in to the terminal in their long black coats while they drop off their luggage and head for immigration. Every check in procedure started off with a lovely namaskar gesture, and mine was no different. Suitcase tagged till Chicago, the nice lady handed me two very plain boarding passes: white with black markings over it. One for Bengaluru - Paris, and the other for Paris - Chicago.
SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION - LONG LINES!
Immigration was up next. The check in line almost came to an end, a full flight was guaranteed. SriLankan Airlines also had a very full line which was very nice to see! Immigration had a pretty long line, but it was clearing up rather soon: all counters were staffed. Immigration took quite a while for me, about 5 minutes at the counter, all of which felt intimidating! The security line was very long and took me over forty five minutes to get through. Forty five!
Passengers in the line included the SriLankan Airlines flight to Colombo, Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Air France to Paris, Emirates to Dubai, Qatar Airways to Doha, and the last few passengers for the Dragonair flight to Hong Kong. All flights were on wide body planes, barring the SriLankan Airlines flight. And so, this resulted in a nightmare of line. Add to that, advertising and construction barriers made for a very claustrophobic experience. Once this was done, I headed for the gate.
The first tail I saw was a Dragonair A330-300, and the next one was an Air France tail. F-GSPS! A bar was right in front of a great view of F-GSPS. I bought a can of pop before heading to the back, and getting a great view of the magnificent Boeing 777. The Dragonair A330 departed soon after. An announcement was made that boarding would be delayed by ten minutes because of the late arrival of the aircraft. I checked what happened with 9W495: it arrived at 0120 hours. I would have never made my flight to Paris! VT-JGW operated that flight.
BOARDING I headed back out towards gate (23/24) for boarding. A long line formed anyway, almost like it was never ending! I joined the line and waited for a bit. The line moved quickly. Another namaskar later, my boarding pass was scanned and I made my way to the Boeing 777. The tail end of the line, almost in front of Lufthansa's B747-8i!
The gates used
Another view of the B747-8i… I wonder if I will have a flight one :D
There was a long line that stopped passengers from moving smoothly. English and French newspapers were placed in the jet bridge. The enthusiastic crew welcomed everyone with a lovely ‘Bonjour!’. typical of France! I walked through the LaPreimere cabin, followed by Premium Economy (in a nice 2-4-2 configuration and pretty comfy seats), and then Economy class. It looked cramped, very cramped! I was not overly excited for this long 10hr flight.
However, I tried to make the best out of it. I took my seat 30L, with a nice view of the massive Boeing 777 wing. Seats had a blanket and pillow placed. The crew looked very energetic and actively helped people with their luggage. The overhead bins were completely stuffed! Activity outside included a Qatar Airways Boeing 787, and the arrival of 4R-ABP, a SriLankan Airlines A320 from Colombo. We drew closer and closer to the departure time.
Announcements were made both in French and English. 0247 hours, pushback commenced only two minutes late. The Emirates Boeing 777-300 A6-EMT had come in from Dubai and waited for us to depart, because that flight was departing from the gate we were vacating (as the gate info monitors showed in the pictures above). Both GE90-94B engines fired up with life, the characteristic MOOOOOOO sound that I missed so much!
Announcements were made in French, English and Hindi asking passengers to pay attention to the safety video. However, for some reason, this did not work. Another French announcement was made requesting crew members to take their positions for a manual demo. However, the IFE screens came alive and a nice safety video played with some very nice looking French ladies. The long taxi included views of the planes parked, VT-JGW (operating my scheduled 9W495 flight from BOM) being one of them.
Air Pegasus - a new airline in India that is already part of history!
VT-JGW! A plane I would've been on but….
We lined up with Runway 27 and blasted down the runway for a very long take off roll. A typical Boeing 777 take off!
Slowly, a north-west course was set towards Paris, and climbing very slowly to 33000 feet. Long announcements were made welcoming us passengers on board the Air France flight. I quite liked what Air France was offering so far, but there’s only so much legacy carriers from Europe and North America can do, as compared to the Middle East Biggies, right……?
Like I said, the crew were quite a cheerful. And the flight attendant assigned to my part of the cabin was quite a comical one. He cracked many jokes with the passengers and was very fluent with his French, communicating with passengers accordingly (Sir vs Monsieur, and Madame for all the ladies). Menus were distributed to both premium economy and economy class folk. This was a really nice touch! The funny flight attendant ran out of menus and gestured his hands like a magician vanishing objects and said - ‘poof!’ Funny guy indeed! The menu showed that there would be a standard meal for all for a mid-night snack, followed by a breakfast - a South Indian Vegetarian option and the usual omelet as the non vegetarian option.
Amenity kit of sorts - headphones, refreshing wipes and eye shades
IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
The IFE reset itself quite a few times which was frustrating. However, it felt very easy to use and not a difficult user interface at all. The touchscreen was very nice. There was also a sensor at the bottom of the screen, which would detect hand moves in order to give onscreen options such as brightness, volume, reading light, crew call, and to turn of the screen altogether. Content wise, Air France had quite a winner, I felt. Comparable to the likes of KrisWorld (Singapore Airlines), ICE (Emirates) and the likes. KrisWorld and ICE are quite. impressive in terms of what options passengers had, but I felt the movie/TV show/movie content on Air France was admirable. Was it enough to survive a flight longer than 14 hours? Absolutely! For the first 1.5 hours I followed the airshow map, which also had flight information such as distance covered/to be covered, elapsed time/remaining time/altitude, etc. The map showed a very nice animated plane too, so one could see where we were exactly over. By the looks of it, we were going to be flying over Mumbai. Great!
Are we going to be flying over Mumbai….?
MEAL 1: SNACK
Meal service started at 0347 hours. One option for everyone, because it was after all a very late night snack. The meal contained a vegetarian hot sandwich/roll, that was basically the same as KLM, but perhaps a bit tastier than what I had on KLM. Nothing extraordinary or mind-blowing, however. This came with a few other things such as fresh fruit, a snack bar, etc. I had a red wine to go with it. As the flight progressed, we flew over Mumbai, which was quite weird because I had just gone through so much drama there a few hours ago, and yet I was here in the security of a Boeing 777, peacefully flying back towards the USA!
Oh boy, of course we are over Mumbai! And I was there not too long ago stressing out if I'd even make this Air France flight!
If you see the lights, you are seeing Mumbai!
I settled into my first movie, and this going to be a bit of a long one: the very talked about Detective Byomkesh Bakshi! By the end of movie, we would be at half way in to the flight!
Most passengers fell asleep. Lights were shut off, expect for the odd few bulbs for a bit of illumination. The crew walked around with their tiny flashlights to ensure all passengers had seatbelts on. They also came around with water bottles and cups, filling them up for all who required it. Good show by the crew, in my opinion. The passengers beside me headed for a quick restroom break, and so I took the opportunity to walk around the cabin of the wonderful plane I was on.
The breadsticks and crepe were absolutely delicious. It was so good I had to get up and get some more of those snakes. They were friggin' amazing!!!
Headed out again after about 45 minutes - signs of struggling on board the flight…? Possibly. The Boeing 777-200ER, whirring away joyfully in the night skies over the Middle East!
Headed back after quite a bit of walking and standing around, and continued watching the movie. The crew’s activity simmered down a little bit because all passengers were pretty much asleep. I checked out more of Air France’s entertainment offerings. This included some historical stuff, such as the history of the Paris - London and Paris - New York routes. It was very interesting to see how things have evolved over time, from the aviation point of view. Starting off from the hot air ballons, to the Airbus A380. I spent a good hour watching this, as the sun slowly creeped up on the horizon over Eastern Europe.
Ginger Ale to begin with…
And some red wine!
IRON MAIDEN'S GONNA GET YOU, NO MATTER HOW FAR!
They have quite a few Iron Maiden albums. I think Air France just might be my favorite airline!!!! :D :D :D :D :D
The Book of Souls! Any one know the Book of Souls World Tour? Yeah, stay tuned for the following reports :D
A sun rise started showing up in the horizon!
Finally a cabin shot LOL
MEAL SERVICE 2: BREAKFAST
Around 2 hours prior to our arrival, somewhere over the Aral Sea, breakfast service started. I went for the Western non-vegetarian option. It was quite a filling meal, and reasonably tasty. Not mind-blowing tasty, but more than just edible. There was a lot of bread, fresh fruit, juice, hash brown and the omelet. Two masala teas with this. That's what I needed. The flight was nearing its end.
Cute little safety card on the B77E!
Descent started pretty early on. Weather was not very nice. Fog and rain were in the vicinity, thick clouds being present too. Descent also included many long and very detailed announcements - both in French and English. Started off with the Captain briefing us about the weather and arrival. At least two, if not three, crew members made more announcements. This included baggage claim and transfer information, airport change shuttle (CDG to Orly), and some safety announcements too. Pretty soon we lined up with the runway.
DL400 from New York JFK!
Pretty intense weather!
I was simply fascinated by the spoilers on this bird. Every time it was deployed, I could hear the wind hit it, making a sound louder than the GE90s whirring away in the morning sky over France. Flaps deployed, wing looking impressive, gear down, fog ever present right till the last second, we touched down on Runway 26R at 0852 hours, 12 minutes behind schedule.
A slow taxi began towards Terminal 2E, concourse L. Along the way, I saw my first A350! Vietnam Airlines' striking A350 was in concourse M, which happened to be the same concourse my flight to Chicago would depart from.
Thank you, F-GSPS! She would fly back to Bengaluru :D
I waited for long, for all passengers to disembark. I had all the time to kill! I thanked the crew for what was a wonderful first flight with Air France. Seat view after the flight.
Stepping out on to the jet bridge, I was reminded of what I was heading into - a chilly 8C outside temperature meant that a cold chill hit me until I entered the terminal.
This was my second visit to Paris Airport. Terminal 2E felt like the same as Terminal 1. It was crowded, congested and claustrophobic. There were way too many people rushing out towards immigration or towards other concourses. It was a royal mess. I found an interactive information board which guided me to concourse M.
(Edit as of Nov 19 '16) I found the menu card! Here it is:
Bangalore - BLR
Paris - CDG
I will be honest, I was dreading this flight. Being the longest of them all in the trip and in the cramped 3-4-3 configuration, I knew it would be a long one. Add to that, the stress before the flight at Mumbai - I wasn't even sure if I'd make this flight to begin with. However as it panned out, right from boarding, I knew it would be a decent flight in Economy with Air France. I loved it. A great refurbished aircraft with lovely in flight entertainment, decent food selection (and the masala tea being a winner!), crew members, everything. An enjoyable first flight with Air France.
Bengaluru had a lot of passengers to deal with, explaining the 45 minute long security lines. Paris was quite a mess too, giving a very claustrophobic feel.
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