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The average flight time is 8 hours and 12 minutes.More information
Today, we'll come back from the West Indies with two exclusive presentations: NavigAIR service in the return direction, and "Caraibes" premium economy, as retrofitted on Air Caraïbes A330s.
The detail of the trip is described in the first leg. As a reminder, Navig'AIR is a single ticket including the Paris-Guadeloupe flight, the shuttle to the port, and the ferry to smaller islands. Plus you are guaranteed help in case the plane or ferry is late.
That is how the return was sold to me:
You can see that the ferry trip is sold under "TX" flight number, as a LSS-PTP 25 minuts flight. However, LSS is les Saintes airport and the boat don't leave from there (only light aircraft do). Il also arrives at Trois-Rivières port, 52 km away from PTP airport.
Talking of LSS, here is a view of the 544 meters of its runway, seen from the Camel, the highest point on the island.
And a short bonus of the local fauna and flora.
But it is now time to head towards Paris. Here is the village, and the ferry is waiting for us at the wharf.
14:30, the ticket office where I need to ask for my ticket opens in 30 minutes. I stop at this "economy class lounge", which offers drinks for a few euros, and a view on the "gates".
The ticket office gives me my ferry ticket in a coloured pocket, before boarding the boat.
15:35, we leave ten minutes early. There are a lot of people visiting the island for the day and going back on the main island, so two ferries operate the 15.45 trip. I missed the Antoinette ship (seen above), which is more comfortable.
16:05, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we've arrived at Trois-Rivieres and hope you had a nice day or stay in les Saintes. Please leave your luggage onboard, they will be unloaded by the crew".
On the right, lucky passengers about to leave to Les Saintes.
Straight ahead, somebody is waiting for us. We are driven by a company also selling the transfer for 50 euros, instead of the anonymous car one week earlier.
A bottle of water is offered, and we are four to board the minibus.
The manager of this small company seems to like labels, that can be seen everywhere in the minibus. For instance to remind us his "luggage policy". The drive is quick, less than an hour, since we are a Sunday.
17:05, boarding starts in two hours, and we arrive at the airport.
Two Air Caraïbes flights leave for Paris this evening, each having several check-in counters.
Signage is poor, and I end up at an economy check-in desk, but there is no waiting. My boarding pass mentions "V1P fasttrack".
Boarding is announced at 17:45, 2 hours before take-off. Of course.
This evening's flight programme, with 7 flights to Paris-Orly.
Is than a Bobus, or an Embrardier ?
I struggle at finding the fast track to the gates…
It was actually next to the weird plane model. Anyway, it is efficient, bringing to the front of the normal lane.
Of course, we end up in what looks like a supermarket, where prices are quite interesting for local alcohol.
An AF 777 is about to leave, as well as a Corsair 747.
Its boarding process is impressive, ordered with priorities, rows (aft to front) and seat letter (to use gate A or B)! Announcements feel like a Battleship: "we are now boarding passengers seated rows 52 to 69, letters F G H J K at gate 9A, passengers from rows 52 to 69 letters A B C D E at gate 9B, Premium and Business passengers can board at their convenience BETWEEN the two gates, passengers from rows 10 to 51, please remain seated". Pfeeeew!
Anyway, boarding this full 747 in high-density seating finished in just 40 minutes. During this time F-OFDF arrived at gate 10. Born in 1999, this A330-200 is the oldest aircraft in the fleet. His big brother, F-OPTP became since a few years the French President aircraft, after being re-configured and painted.
19.00, boarding starts with two lanes but absolutely no signage. Only priority for families with young children is called. Passengers coming from the lounge are escorted, but nothing for the other priority passengers. Quite disappointing.
We are well welcomed at the door of the aircraft, and turn left to the premium Caraibes class and its 3 rows, just behind 2 rows of Madras business. It was retrofitted mid-2018. The first row has a legrest, while my second row only has a footrest.
The cabin really feel roomy, especially after the outbound leg in A350 10 abreast economy. The seat has a very large screen, a USB and power sockets.
A pilow and blanket are on the seat, these are the same as in economy. Surprise, there is something yellow looking like food in my blanket. A cabin crew promises to find me another one.
A quick look at the business class, with lie-flat (160°) seats, whereas full-flat seats were installed in the A350s.
Flotation test: the jacket seems to be here. The legroom at the first row looks very nice.
A trolley comes to offer an iPad loaded with reading material.
19:45, the captain announces a 8:10 flight, as scheduled, and that we wait for a last passenger.
The stewardess that took my blanket comes to tell me that a new one is arriving from the rear of the plane. Apparently that's a long way on an A330-200.
We start taxiing and backtrack the runway after the landing of a regional plane. The cameras allow to cope with the lack of window.
Amenity kits are given after the climb. It is a soft fabric pocket, with a few differences with economy class: toothbrush appeared, socks are longer, the eyeshade a little ticker.
An oshibori is then offered, while the curtains are closed in front and behind us. It gives a very intimate feeling in the 3-rows cabin.
I ask for updates of my blanket's journey from the "back of the plane" to another stewardess that is surprised and quite rudely says that she'll enquire about it.
While waiting, here is the iPad. It includes newspapers, magazines, a few books and the airline's magazines.
But it also starts to smell good. Let's have a look at the menu (in French, sorry). A fish custard in Entrée, the same fish or chicken as in economy, cheese and grapes, a lemon cake and better wines than in economy.
20:45. Aperitif is served by a new steward, doing first the left aisle, then the right one.
I have a planteur rhum cocktail, which isn't very good (it is an industrial premix). The main dish order is taken at this moment, with the full description given. Well, I'll try the "sea bream casserole with tarragon sauce, safran rice and jardinière vegetables".
21.15, here is the tray. Besides the main dish, all the dishes are reusable. The quality is good and quantity is fine.
The entrée looked small, but is plenty enough when eaten with bread. The main was well cooked.
Apparently, I liked it.
22.00, the tray is removed. I ask again for my blanked. I know the crew is performing the service, but I'd really like to sleep.
The stewardess seen on the ground finally comes with a new blanket, we are here:
Toilets are clean, but lack soap.
Un petit tour aux WC, propres, mais sans savon.The seat recline is generous. As a consequence, when the seat in front is reclines, you end up with your screen in the knees! And it is no more possible to open or close the table without asking the front neighbor to move his seat!
Anyway, the seat is comfortable and I'll manage to sleep until 2 hours before landing
It is 2.30 in Guadeloupe, 7.30 in Paris. Drinks and biscuits are available in the galley. I try to walk along economy class, but will quickly go back to the front as the alley is especially narrow in the chosen 9 abreast layout!
New visit to the toilets, quite large and clean. The flower is reserved to the ones near the Premium Economy. However, as previously, there is no soap.
Back to my seat, I'll play a bit with the screen. the experience is quite good. A remote control is available in the seat, and I'll notice that there is a second jack socket here.
7:45, arrival-100 min: lights are turned on, and after 15 minutes, this breakfast is served. It is disappointing. Pastries are just warm and dry. The bread is announced warm on the menu, but is cold.
Trays are removed after 10 minutes, apparently the crew has work to do in another cabin.
8:25, an oshibori is offered, and quite nice to wake up.
8:45, descent begins, landing is announced at 9:25. Let's review the safety instructions.
8:55, a new oshibori is distributed. Is guess we really smell bad. Or maybe the first one was to be given before the breakfast?
Sun comes in the cabin as we fly around Paris to land facing West. You can notice the "screen in knees" effect when the seat in front is reclined.
9:23, landing on Paris-Orly runway 26. The nice weather that followed us since Guadeloupe stayed above the clouds.
We are facing a company A350 being pushed back.
According to this photo, it is 9:30 local time when the marshaller crosses his arms over his head, ICAO standardized sign meaning "holidays are over!". The screen agrees. The crew seems not to believe it, so that we spend the first minute after the seatbelt sign is turned off in the dark.
But we are actually in Paris, and a bus brings us to the terminal. A last look at this plane, wearing the old livery, and after an efficient immigration control, we reach the baggage delivery room.
Bags are quickly delivered, and at 10 I board Orlybus shuttle. Quite a different ambiance from the ferry where we were still a few hours ago!
Navig'AIR product was much more convincing this way, without the luggage mess.
The Premium Economy is definitely worth the extra cost, especially on the "old" 330 with a 7-abreast, compared to the "premium" 9-abreast in the 350s.
The catering was very nice for the first meal, much less on the second. The crew was quite nice, the the blanket episode completely wasted it.
In a nutshell, many possible improvements, but nothing that will prevent me from flying with Air Caraïbes again. It is one of the best options between Paris and the West Indies at the current price level, besides the densified cabins (Y on 330/350, Y+ on 350).