The airline with the best average rating is Air France with 7.5/10.
The average flight time is 7 hours and 32 minutes.More information
I was invited to a friend's graduation at MIT in Boston, and decided to extend a bit more my holidays, to finally visit the one and only New York!
Flying blue Miles earned with this flight: 2160
(before the program changed to a revenue-based model)
My previous flight from London arrived on time at terminal 2 E, hall K as usual. I had a little bit under 2 hours of lay over, and so I had a chance to relax.
My flight was announced on what is now gate L49, indeed, since 2015, the lay out of this part of the Hall L changed: where wider jets were used here at the time, now the gates have been doubled and host narrow-body jets.
Aircraft: Boeing B747-428
Engines: 4x GE CF6
Age: 12 Years (in 2015)
Layout: C36 Y396
Observation: Aircraft is now in active service at Saudia under the tail reg. TF-AAJ.
Air France progressively retired its 24 B747-400s, with the last unit to be seen no later than winter 2015. These aircrafts were typically operating on routes where we can nowadays mostly see the A380 or B777-300ER. Indeed, the last flight of this jet happened a couple of months after this flight, from Mexico city, AF439 on the 1st of November 2015 (the A380 is usually on the Paris-Mexico route).
The AvGEEK bit
When Air France received its first B777s in 1998 as a replacement of its Jumbo, the french airline was still operating a mix of 30 B747-200s/300s/100s and 13 B747-400s.
Air France has always been a loyal customer of the Jumbo, with 99 units through its history:
making the airline one of the very first and the longest to have used the Jumbo.
The last scheduled flight was operated to and from Mexico City on the 11th of Januray 2016, just before last two units were used for special farewell flights over France for a very last time.
Air France, like many majors, used the B747 to enamble mass tourism- since the very first flight in 747, the airline carried 250 millions passengers, having accumulated more than 100,000 of flight time just for one (of the most used) unit.
Air France decided to retire its B747s as the B777 is offering very similar capacities. However the main reason was in fact that the jumbo was 40% less efficient than the B777-300ER! (so a lot more fuel for example on a Paris-New York flight)
I remembered looking at the cabin map carefully months prior departure and to my great surprise, I realised the second desk was an economy class! And i was not disapointed: what more delightful for a first time on a B747 to go through the Business jetway, go up the stairs reach my seat and enjoy the whole flight what was designed to be the prestigious desk!
See below per Air France the seat mapping.
When the boarding ended, we heard an announce from the captain, and pushed back. I still remember to this day the sound of the ignition of these 4 engines…
We left the gate on time and started taxiing towards the 26R runway.
After a smooth take off, the crew offered to all the cabins the usual Champagne de Bienvenue, which, is not that common for an economy class. They also handed to us the menu of the day, and soon after we were able to use the In Flight Entertainment system.
The crew quickly came back to hand us over a pair of headset, a sleeping mask as well as a refreshing towel. Again not all of the airlines offer this service in Economy, however the plastic element wrapping them felt a bit unflatering.
My seat, 60L, not only was a window seat, but had the particularity to have side bins (just like on the A380 on the upper desk) to store personal items and a more generous legroom as there was no seat in front of me. These two, adding to the fact that my seat was directly behind the cockpit, and I had no other passenger next to me, made me feel i was travelling in Business class!
The seats - same as currently found on the A380, were ok for the time I guess, but i would judge them severely for nowaday's standards. Although they seemed quite large, they were not that confortable, and lacked fixing point as i could feel everytime the person behind pressing on his IFE..
The screens of the IFE were rather small as well, however were compensated by the - above average- choice of movies available.
The upper deck had its on toilets and buffet/drink so i must admit i never went on the lower deck.. You could help yourself with alcoholic/soft beverages, which came in handy as the crew attending it was grumpy and preocupied reading their newspaper.
The configuration of the cabin - 3 on each side - like a narrow body jet, made the upper deck a more cosy place.
Here the magazine at the time… So nice to see the B747 still on the fleet page! Look at the amount of A340s that were still operating
And the complexity of the regional fleet!
Food was served almost 2 hours after take off, and as usual with Air France, on a 3 course tray. Again, having travelled economy with other Majors, I can safely say the food offered felt above the average in portions and quality. The choice of Red or White french wine free of charge is also a plus, together with the dessert that always seems to stand out for an economy class.
We arrived on time however my ESTA (electronic Visa) and I had one of the most unpleasant welcome from a passport control officer to this day - he was making rude jokes/ comments to anyone who isn't an American Citizen.
The end of the B747 with Air France is definitely the end of a mysthic era, and I am glad I could experience it before the 777 era.
I can't unfortunately compare with other B747 services however comparing to another long haul flight on an Air France B777-200 a year earlier(with seating configuration of the time) , I can tell the upper desk of the jumbo felt a more confortable economy class.
Since 2015 Air France has definitely begun to up its game, offering a better passenger experience to all of its classes.