Review of Air France flight Hong Kong Paris in Economy

Airline Air France
Flight AF185
Class Economy
Seat 47L
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 12:20
Take-off 10 Sep 17, 23:20
Arrival at 11 Sep 17, 05:40
AF   #41 out of 134 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 4057 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 1994
Published on 3rd March 2018
This was the flight back from a week in Hong-Kong; the report of the incoming flight is here.

Our hotel for the second half of our vacation was in Kowloon, very close to a stop of bus A21 to the airport.
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For 33 HKD, i.e. 3.30 EUR, it was three times cheaper than the Airport Express which was less convenient for us than when we arrived, and the comfort was miles above that of the buses serving CDG.
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Passengers who choose to ride upstairs can keep an eye on their luggage left in the luggage racks downstairs on these screens.
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After many stops in the city center, the bus ran along the crane cluttered harbor
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And then runs on the Tsing Ma viaduct, the critical link of the road and rail link between Lantau Island and the mainland.
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Last view of the buildings on Hong-Kong Island in the distance
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We reached the airport in exactly one hour – Sunday afternoon was probably a favorable time slot.
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Entering the terminal
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We reached the D row of check-in counters – those used by AF - which were deserted.
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It was a highly frustrating moment : I had checked in on line but
- My wife did not need her cell phone in HK and had not taken it with her
- Even if she had brought is, her dumb cell phone cannot display a BP
- If we had reached the airport with the Airport Express, we would have used the in-town check in and received BPs there
- If I had known that there would be no machines delivering BPS for the AF flight at the airport, I would have asked the hotel reception to please print us our BPs, and like on the way in, we could choose to not check any luggage. Or else I would have recorded our two BPs in my smartphone.
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We were stupidly stuck there landside because we didn’t have my wife’s BP, in paper of electronic version. The good news is that the staff at this information counter told me that check-in would start at 6 pm.
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We could therefore look forward waiting for a quarter of an hour only here.
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Three airport staff arrived indeed a few minutes before 6 pm and installed various accessories
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Including small pots of flowers.
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I was going to continue my way on my usual CDG-ARN morning flight : these were of course two independent tickets, one professional and the other private, but I had called ahead and obtained to have both PNRs linked in order to check my luggage all the way to ARN in order to not have to handle it airside in HKG and CDG. Delivery is usually fast in ARN Terminal 2, too.

The OLCIs were independent though : I explained the situation to the employee who did not create any trouble, but asked for the BP of my continuing flight AF1262 CDG-ARN. I had made giant steps forward in this regard that year (well, at least one step forward), I had the AF ap on my phone, had checked-in on line with it and with this miracle of mobile internet, could display the BP on the screen.

The employee delivered us printed BPs. Check-in staff around the world seem to have a genetic tendency to scribble everywhere on boarding passes – I assume they do this as a checklist of items to be told to the passengers. photo img_1046b
My suitcase was correctly labeled with a priority tag to ARN.
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It was 18:12 : the lines at the immigration were very short, but my wife had the bad luck of being waiting behind a passenger who appeared to have a problem.
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I took the neighboring line which turned out to be much faster.
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This allowed me to take a few pictures before she joined me

I nevertheless asked her to wait a little bit for me here while I used the last minutes of light at dusk.
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This vertical stabilizer with a bar code eliminated the hypothesis of a delayed departure “due to the late arrival of the aircraft”, a convenient excuse for not providing the original reason of the delay of the incoming flight.
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Planes at the gates of this isolated satellite
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Air China A330
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Arrival of a CX A330 CX in the background
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There was no baby care facility here
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But there was one further away
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HKG has chosen the same pictogram as DOH to clarify that men and women alike can care for babies.
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What else worth seeing while my wife was waiting patiently with our hand luggage? Self-serve computer for internet access.
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Type G and USB power ports
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The apron in HKG is dimly lit at night, which means that whereas HKG is providing a bounty of airlines to plane spotters by day time, there is not much to capture by night, so I did not waste time on that. We received friendly welcome at the lounge.
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A wide selection of newspapers and magazines, including French ones.
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After the welcome counter, users find on their right the toilets and the showers, here on the left in the corridor seen in the direction of the exit.
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My first impression when entering this lounge was that of ample space thanks to wide circulation space. The catering area appears first, which is unusual, but there is a corridor going around it, here on the right.
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The same, seen from the other end.
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My experience of struggling for finding an empty seat in the lounges CDG-2F had not prepared me to the luxury of a lounge where I had ample choice to select one.
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The seats in the corridor alongside the buffet were all empty
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This office space with computers for internet access did not attract users. Connecting to the internet by wifi was fast and the throughput was fast enough for my needs.
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There had been some designer research in the chandeliers
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Electric plugs are nearly always Type G only in Hong-Kong, but this lounge offered the rare luxury of power ports compatible with Types A, B, C, E, F, G and I, which covers the needs of most passengers (but not Italians whose Type L plugs are incompatible).
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I did not check if this was the only one, but the set of power ports between our seats was powered off. I only needed to plug my camera battery charger in the ports of the seats in front of us which were empty. It is easy to check the presence of power and should be done regularly by the lounge staff.

Now that we had cared to the appetite of our cameras, let’s focus on our own. There were plain apples
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… and apples which had obviously been through the juice concentrate stage before being diluted into apple juice poured from a jerry can by a staff after I had taken this picture.
The oranges had most probably not reached the lounge kitchen intact either.
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Various salads
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Sandwiches for passengers who did not want to take any risk
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The label is too fuzzy in my picture, but it was fish (and good)
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Mixed Vegetable Steam Rice
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Lyonnaise Potato & Stir Fried Beef with Teriyaki Sauce
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Chicken Florentine & a dish on the left whose label I did not photograph
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Wild Mushroom Tart
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Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
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There was also a Cream of Tomato whose uniform red color did not deserve a picture, but was well worth tasting.

(Never choose a red colored soup or dish in remote Chinese provinces unless you have a five star resistance to super-hot chili peppers, but in HKG, red only means tomatoes.)

Cherry Tomato and Cheese Skewer with Pesto Sauce, Strawberry Cream Puffs
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Assorted condiments
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Spirits, wines and beers
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Soft drinks and water bottles in a refrigerator.
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There were also bottles of water at room temperature because drinking cold (worse, ice cold) water is a cultural no-no in China.
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Initially, I wanted to visit a museum on the day of our departure in order to not be sweaty when reaching the airport, but the beautiful weather in the afternoon was too tempting to not enjoy vistas on Hong-Kong and Kowloon (more on that in the bonus).

But Flight-Report has taught me that good airport lounges offer shower facilities to their guests and I had no doubt that the Skyteam lounge in HKG would. I enquired at the welcome counter about this before dinner : there was zero waiting and I only needed to leave my BP. A cleaning staff directed me to the shower cabins (they were easy to find) and insistently recommended me to lock the door. I suppose that jet-lagged passengers whacked by a long haul trip sometimes forget about, resulting in situations which can be all the more embarrassing that all showers are in the same corridor.
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With the marginal exception of the somewhat unusual shape of the toilet seat, this shower cabin has nothing luxurious, but it was functional, in mint condition and spotlessly clean.
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It was exemplified by the soap and shampoo of an ordinary brand
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This shower cabin was not equipped for a wheelchair handicapped person, but it was nevertheless adapted to a reduced mobility passenger, thanks to the minimal step separating the shower itself. This in turns demands that the water evacuation be perfect and it was.
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Boarding time approaches : these presumably Chinese travelers were queuing to fill their life-saving vacuum flask of boiling water for tea.
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Travelers had then to go through this duty free shop.
Good news: my wife did not stop there.
Bad news: she warned me that she had already planned to shop in KIX
Worse news : she did stop in a duty free shop in KIX (the report is not yet available in English)

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There was a long walk, but this terminal is equipped with bidirectional travellators.
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Yellow ducks reminding people of their childhood bath toys are in.
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This sculpture has been made with over 14,000 cans as part of a competition organized by Food Angel, a Hong Kong charity collecting surplus food and distributing it to the needy.
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Baby care room accessible to men
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Floral decoration with a significant use of orchids
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M&M in dragon boat mode
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After taking all these pictures, we arrived at the gate at the end of the Skypriority boarding. I had no time left for a taking a picture of the entire 777, and I only have one of its doors.
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Going through the J cabin
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… and then the Premium Economy cabin
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… alongside an aircraft door on the right
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And arrival at our row, where the window was correctly aligned to the seat – not a crucial issue for a night flight.
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The last half dozen rows of the plane gradually filled with a rather noisy group of Chinese. They spoke Mandarin, not Cantonese, with an accent which was definitely not that of Beijing: I had already noticed that AF is attracting passengers from the south of China to fill its flights on the Hong-Kong route.

The Chinese master the art of going to sleep anywhere, and turbulence would not come from this group but from the air during a significant portion of the flight: we kept going from an area of turbulence to the next one until the descent to CDG.
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The seats are narrower than in an AF A32x
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And, much worse, the seat pitch is just as tight and the seat reclines more (I think), which leave really very little vital space to the passenger of the next row if he does not recline his own seat too.
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There were three Hong kongese in the row in front of us; they were much more discreet than the “Visa Chinese”. During the long wait before pushing back, I of course started my FR on my laptop and could not control a light curse when the one in front of use reclined her seat: she quickly straightened it back with a sorry look for the inconvenience she had caused.
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My seat pocket was a different type form that of the two other which had a netting, not cloth. Why? I do not know. Note also the two power ports for the three seat set which would have been unthinkable ten years ago (there was none in the AF A380 that I flew in).
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What had not changed from the way in was the seat support which is a nuisance if the bag you intend to place at your feet is too wide.
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But with a Flight Reporter’s hand luggage, there was space left for the feet on both sides.
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The bottom of the seat pocket was not spotless : there was the plastic wrapping of the amenity kit used in a previous flight. No big deal, because there was no reason this wrapping could be dirty.
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The IFE screen was a generation apart from the antiques that I have seen in AF’s A380: it was a good quality touch screen, of decent size for Economy.
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Since the FA call and the reading light are controlled by the touch screen, there is not button next to them, and the lighting level adjustment has been added too. The control of my wife’s reading light proved reluctant, but since they can be oriented, I could provide light to my wife, until she called the FA (that control worked). The FA must have had some super-power because his fingers made the reading light work.
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The safety card, both sides
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My suitcase was maybe in this container being loaded
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Air France staff who can sometimes be identified as such, waiting with anguish in the galley for an empty seat in Business and a free “buddy upgrade”, can understand the restlessness of my wife on tenterhooks who was seeing the last isolated passengers boarding, some going all the way to the rear of the aircraft.
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There was no "Boarding complete" announcement, but the FAs started closing the overhead bins
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… and we both had a feeling of relief when all had been closed:
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The Neutralized Middle Seat strategy worked again !
(One becomes quickly used to the comfort of having three seats for two …)
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A menu printed both sides was distributed by the FAs. The Chinese version was in simplified characters which are not in use in Hong-Kong, but it is much easier for somebody used to reading traditional characters to read simplified ones, rather than the reverse.
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23:00 (STD +5’) : message from the captain:

We are currently waiting for the authorization to enter the Chinese airspace, probably because of storms in the north of China, expect for the time being in one hour.
We are trying to negotiate an improvement; I’ll let you know about it.

(This was probably not exactly his wording in English – I translated his announcement in French)

The dimmed lighting conditions on the apron did not let me take any better pictures : Emirates A380
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Cathay Pacific A330
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Arrival of an Air Window Shades Closed Day And Night 777
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It was probably at this time that the chief purser arrived. We were on the same PNR, but she initially talked to me only, ignoring completely my wife who had instantly understood the scene. The Chief purser welcomed me on board, told me that she was at my disposal should I have any need, enquires about the reasons of my trip (that is when she discovered that I was travelling with my wife, separated by an empty seat, because I used the word “we”)…

Wow, Platinum greetings! I thought so far it was a myth created by Mogoy whose reports taught me expression !

I’ve been FB Platinum for over two years some ten years ago and no FA or purser ever acknowledged my status on board. Correction: once on an ordinary European flight, a FA interrupted my conversation with a colleague traveling with me for the sole purpose of welcoming me (but not my colleague) on board. My reaction had been something like “don’t you realize you are bothering me for nothing ?”. Let’s forget the times of the infamous “AF Flight Attendant Lottery” when you could come across FAs who should have been already oriented to another career path.

We were in 2017 ; the chief purser never provided any hint about my status and nevertheless made a commendable job in greeting personally a passenger having this status.

Waiting for departure continued, and the FA went through the cabin with bottles of water and plastic glasses
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… then sweet and salty crackers
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23h35 : new announcement by the captain:

Impossible to negotiate with China ; we asked for a route further north but no way.
Apparently, it’s not a weather problem, but the closure of an air space. It’s not us only, but all flights to Europe.
Start in 20’ from now, with an arrival in Paris estimated one hour late.


After she had translated this in Mandarin, the interpreter came around to explain the situation to Chinese passengers around us, with lots of 没有办法 ("We can’t do anything about it") in her answers.

This was a good illustration of this scourge of air travel in China : the narrowness of the civilian air routes left in the airspace by the air force which manages the air traffic control and is used to shutting down routes for its own training purposes, blocking the way completely for certain flight.
(It could have been worse : Flight AF185 was over two hours late two days before, and was cancelled outright two more days before, probably for a technical reason).

The wait was becoming endless and my wife imitated me in covering her head with a makeshift veil using the standard blanket, not for some Islamic rule, but to protect her head from an icy air draft which was impossible to stop or block otherwise.
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We indeed started pushing back one hour late.
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There was a reasonable amount of time to taxi; the lack of light made it frustratingly impossible to take pictures of the diversity of planes on the tarmac.
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The plane taxied alongside maintenance facilities and slowed down when approaching the runway’s threshold, which provided me a chance for night pictures.
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Would the owner of the reactor abandoned near the Hong Kong Airlines 747 please recover his property as soon as possible?
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United 777 parked as remotely as feasible
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Off we went for a 13 hour flight which was not going to be on a route as straight as the IFE screen pretended.
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The access road from Lantau Island
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The expressway alongside the north coast of Lantau Island
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I did not succeed in identifying these Hong Kong infrastructures – possibly the coal fired power station on Lamma Island, but it does not match fully.
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… nor this network of expressways somewhere near Dongguan, a city halfway between Hong-Kong and Guangzhou, infamous for the scale of both its industrial pollution and sex trade.
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Renewed Platinum cuddling: a FA came up to ask us about our preferred choices of hot meal for dinner, and we were served in priority to ensure that we would receive them.

This was my dinner, as served
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And after removal of the lids. I liked the hot meal, but there was probably way too much pepper for some.
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My wife chose the other hot meal.
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To the health of my readers!
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Compacting the wrappings required stacking them in decreasing size order.
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The tinplate cover was soft enough to adapt to the extra height of the capsule of water.
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And the packed set could be slipped in the seat pocket in front of me, without messing it, so that I could use my laptop and continue writing this report. (Of course, I could have stored this tray on the table tray of our empty middle seat, but I could not refrain from playing my favorite Economy class game with this new type of meal.)
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We were there into the flight whose zigzagging trajectory illustrated the difficulty in finding a way between the restricted military areas in the Chinese airspace.
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Lights out in the cabin at 2:13 am, but I kept writing my FR, because it was only 6:13 pm in Paris and delaying my sleep would help handling the jetlag after landing. This provided a chance to the chief purser to come and ask us innocently if we had had a good meal.

I used my laptop during an hour, quite uncomfortably, but I could not blame the passenger in front of me for reclining her seat for sleeping. The best I found, which was only possible thanks to the neutralization of the middle seat, was sitting cross-legged, back to the window with the pillows of these two seats to prop me.

I then had six hours of sleep, and when the cabin was still mostly asleep went to the toilets which were clean.
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There was a Type B 110V AC power port, but a discreet red INOP sticker let me suspect that it was unpowered.
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There were some snacks in the rear galley for sleeplessly hungry Economy passengers.
The incoming flight and some research on the internet taught me that the word "gourmandise” exists in English too, but is seldom used.
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These so-called "gourmandises" were packs of snacks, some more calorie-laden bars, photo img_1179a
… a few cups of pieces of fruit that I liked and sandwiches
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… containing this peppery pork meat
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Self-serve drinks on the left side
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Another door view
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We were there into the flight
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The breakfast as served
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The same after unwrapping
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My wife has always been wary of Chinese breakfasts and did not try this dish that I found both sweet and tasteless. It had the merit of providing a change from the perennial scrambled eggs with a mini-sausage and tomato sauce. I don’t know if this breakfast had been prepared in CDG or HKG, but the dubious freshness of the pastry gave a distinct impression that it had already flown a round trip.
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I’ve handled much worse than that during my years in my China and Taiwan and I did not leave a crumb of this breakfast that I packed all the wrapping my usual way. My most faithful readers may have noticed that the pastry in the center of the tray was in a dish slightly larger than that of the meal. I already handled this in a FR to/from ARN : you need to widen the dish carefully by un folding slightly the corners to enlarge its gauge, but not too much, so that the cover can still fit.
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And this way, I could slip the whole thing in the seat pocket without messing it, before the FAs came to collect it.
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My power port stopped delivering me power during the night, but I only needed to plug my laptop on the other one: had I exhausted some secret quota of energy?
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An example of the particularly angular air route
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Another view of the airmap
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Good luck for localizing with this information by day time !
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It was still very dark during the descent to CDG, despite being one hour late.
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This long line of cars on N2 Highway was a bad omen for my wife’s taxi ride home.
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Kiss landing on Runway 26L
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Crossing Runway 08L/26R
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Flight CX261, also from HKG of course, arrived just after us. It was scheduled one hour after our flight, but was not delayed by the Chinese air traffic control and was more or less on time.
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Arrival at Terminal 2E
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Between an A330
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And a 777
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It did not take much time to leave the aircraft, despite being seated in the rear. The jetbridge was jammed with passengers.
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This was no surprise for a flight arriving from China: a welcome committee was checking the passports as close as possible to the aircraft door, before any other way out.
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There was still nearly nobody in the Departures level at that time
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A long way with travellators, but passengers who were not walking and did not try to give way to passengers who want to walk.
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This was where we would go separate ways:
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My wife was going left to the exit and I to Terminal 2F to connect to my usual shuttle flight to ARN.
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The reason we had not checked my wife’s luggage was to enable her to leave CDG immediately. She would be no longer with me, and therefore without any priority access, but she could use the PARAFE automatic passport and fingerprint reading gates and was in a taxi at 7:33, half an hour after the plane had reached her gate. It was nevertheless one hour later than expected: her taxi ran into the rush hour traffic jams and the ride took 40 minutes longer than planned. She did not thank the Chinese Air Force for delaying her arrival in her office 1h40’ later than expected, due to the closure of civilian air routes some 9,000 km away from Paris. She did not thank the infamous RER rail link either which would have been marginally faster, but considerably less comfortable.

As far as I was concerned, the trip would continue on Flight AF1262 to ARN, whose FR in English will be posted later.

Meanwhile, I offer you a tourist bonus on panoramas of Hong Kong
Bonus : Click here display

And another on the fundamental dilemma of choosing the car that you will park in the car park of the previous bonus.
Bonus : Click here display


Thanks for reading me !
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Verdict

Air France

8.6/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi9.5
Meal/catering8.0

SkyTeam Lounge

9.1/10
Comfort9.5
Meal/catering9.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Services10.0

Hong Kong - HKG

9.3/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness10.0

Paris - CDG

8.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access6.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

Grading the comfort of the cabin of this 777 was difficult. On one hand, the empty middle seat provided a very convenient spare space for all our junk and eliminated any risk for a husband-and-wife war for control of the armrest, but this comfort is not standard fare in this aircraft. On the other hand, the seats are really crowded in both axes and it is impossible to use your laptop in a reasonably comfortable manner if the traveler in front of you reclines his seat.

The crew was top level. I don’t base my evaluation on the Platinum-related small talk, but on the interactions with other passengers that my wife and I observed: lots of smiles, availability, reactivity… they were the best AF provides nowadays.

The quality of the IFE screen is excellent. The moving map receives a demerit half point for the very annoying cyclic mode to which it reverts as soon as you stop controlling it and also for the insufficient precision of the localization of the plane.

The meals were OK, no more, for Economy. We have no opinion on the wines and other alcoholic drinks because we did not ask for any.

In daytime, the absence of windows to the outside would have been penalized by a point of comfort, but the apron of HKG is very dimly lit anyway at night. Apart from that, it was a comfortable and quiet place for getting rest, with ample spare space and multistandard power ports everywhere. We were not awed by the catering, but we both liked the food, and dishes were promptly replenished.
On the service side, on top of a friendly welcome, the showers were a welcome plus at the end on a hot and humid day.
The quality of the internet access was good, and connecting to it was fast. The selection of newspapers was ample enough for us.

HKG would have had a perfect score if it had been possible to withdraw a BP from a machine: I had not imagined that it would be impossible for an AF flight ! Also, if you can check at any time the day you are leaving at the Airport Express stations, why not have multi-airline counters at the airport to check-in at any time too?

The fluidity was excellent in CDG (the passport check in the jetbridge wasted only a couple minutes), on the other hand, my wife was severely penalized by the late arrival of the aircraft, due to the rush hour traffic and the poor rail link.

Information on the route Hong Kong (HKG) Paris (CDG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 34 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Hong Kong (HKG) → Paris (CDG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.

The average flight time is 12 hours and 50 minutes.

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