The airline with the best average rating is Air France Hop with 7.3/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 52 minutes.More information
A week only of vacation this summer, with two destinations whose relationship will appear in the bonus stories. To go to LJU and BLQ (regardless of the order), from Paris, in these times of shortage of secondary air links, the only reasonable routing was to fly AF while passing through Paris.
(Or take the train, or take long distance buses)
AF's website allows you to buy a triangular ticket (CDG-LJU-BLQ-CDG), but AF's pricing algorithm has always been unable to handle correctly such a mundane request. For my dates of travel, two months ahead of time, it provided me a "best price" at 7460.94 EUR for two tickets!
Buying two CDG-LJU and CDG-BLQ round trips was a no-no, because we would have been at the mercy of a schedule change or delayed flight which would have made us miss the connection in CDG at our eXPE/nse, so I bought three separate tickets (CDG- LJU, LJU-BLQ via CDG, BLQ-CDG), at reasonable rates for the post-confinement high season.
My status allowing me to choose our seats at ticket purchase and I chose row 4, of course on the left in order to have correct sun light conditions. There were plenty to choose from long in advance; this is the availability at check-in the day before the flight. The available seats appear in dark gray (business), red (€ 15 extra fee) and blue. I am puzzled by the many "unavailable" seats (light gray), to be distinguished from the "occupied" seats marked with a cross.
The high season was indeed back in CDG, with a traffic jam on the ramp going through the long axis of Terminal 2, due to the congestion of the access to Terminal 2E: this is one of the design errors of Terminal 2, where space for cars and pedestrains alike have been sized for off-peak traffic.
The terminals can be entered by passengers or staff only, but that was quick, contrary to what this photo may suggest, because the security guards did not scrutinize the boarding passes or the tickets.
On the other hand, it was quite crowded landside in the terminal.
I have seen much longer lines in the past the security check though, and the Skypriority shortcut reduced the waiting time even further.
Summer traffic on the FIDS
Our flight was on time. Well, planned to be on time, actually…
Arrival at Pier 2, where a passenger leaves the white self-use piano (off screen). Going down to the lower level…
… the entrance to the AF lounge was to the left of the escalators at the end of the pier.
This was going to be our last breakfast ever there, because AF closed this lounge and its twin at Pier 1 a couple weeks later, when they opened a long awaited and much better common lounge halfway between both piers.
Two or three staff in front of the BP auto-scan terminals
Surprise: the catering was self-serve again : seating space was no longer taken by the waiting line and even better, there was no waiting time any more. I took this picture at the lower level, but the layout was the same on the main level.
No PAX Ultimate scheduled for this morning? The site which is often reserved for them was accessible and was not full: this was a good opportunity to settle there.
This space at the end of the pier provides a better view (or rather a less poor view) of the aircraft on the ground…
… but pillars block the view of the nearest FIDS
… which is located at the corner of the corridor
Let's go back to the catering: we had left home with an empty stomach in order to have breakfast there.
Emmental, mountain tomme and blue cheese: the choice of cheese has widened a bit compared to the pre-Covid years. Cold cuts of ham and turkey
The only visible impact of the health crisis here: cutlery packed in individual sets. They are made out of wood, which is more environmentally friendly than plastic, but not more convenient.
Selection of various teas
Apricot jam, honey, and strawberry jam
Corn flakes, but no muesli, much to my regret
You will learn it all about these red fruits cakes and these aperitif cookies further in this FR.
The refrigerated beverage cabinet
Old fashioned crisps
Boarding time came: going up this staircase which were in my eyes the only aesthetic success of this lounge.
No exit through the entrance of the lounge: what was originally an emergency exit was used as the standard exit in order to reduce the crossing of passenger flows.
The boarding gate was very near.
A staff had just brought a UM
The line for boarding to Venice was overflowing all the way to our side of the pier.
The QR codes linking the national sites of 14 countries including Italy, plus a specific one for Sardinia, plus Traveldoc (all countries) for obtaining the applicable health constraints and filling in entry forms if necessary.
The boarding areas were clearly indicated, but despite numbers ranging from 1 to 5, I had the impression that there were only two categories: Skypriority (1 and 2) and Economy without status (3 to 5).
We were the first in the Skypriority line: the staff who had finished taking care of the UM came to check that we had the boarding cards, the status, the passport, the sanitary document for waiting there. From August 10, i.e. two days after this flight, you also need a dPLF (digital Passenger Locator Form) to enter Slovenia, similar to the one for Italy: I had filled one in to deal with a possible overzealous employee, like when we had landed at EAP in May.
The flight was delayed by 10 minutes, but the boarding time has not been updated
Boarding was therefore delayed by ten minutes, and the other staff scanned our boarding passes and checked that we had the status, the passport, the sanitary document to pass now.
Wasn't there a bit of redundancy there? I met the first staff in the jetbridge and pointed it out to her with a smile: she apologized to me in a way only a Japanese native can do, with an unmistakable Japanese accent in French. A FN usually assigned to flights to Japan and assigned to ground duties since most flights have been grounded?
What sanitary documents? AF now provides the Traveldoc link on its website to check entry requirements for the destination country (in the past, it was up to the PAX to find the information on their own), which is no luxury at a time when the rules of the game keep changing without notice. Note that Slovenia accepts the vaccines from Sinovac Biotech (China) and the Russian Sputnik V, both of which cannot be found in France where they are not yet approved.
In any case, boarding was made much slower than usual, which allowed me to take a picture of the empty jetbridge without disturbing passengers behind me.
(AF had aired plans of pre-flight health validation of passengers providing one of the relevant supporting documents, but this is available for a limited number of destinations only.)
First sight of the nose of the E-190
AF A320 parked at a gate nearby
Second section of the jetbridge which was just as empty
The cabin, still completely empty
A glance at the cockpit on the way, and a glance from the (male) co-pilot, while the (female) captain was busy.
Reaching our seats
Over 46 cm between armrests: the Embraers provide a comfortable seat width
The seat pitch, measured from the seat edge to the seat pocket, is also comfortable
The carpeting was clean
The tilt of the backrest was symbolic (or maybe the seatback was simply a little loose?)
The absence of a post in the middle of the seat pairs allows placing my backpack in the middle, leaving room for our legs on either side.
The safety card, both sides
AF A350-900 at terminal 2E
The jetbridge leaves the plane. AF A321 in the background
The pushback was 21 minutes late; the crew did not provide a reason for this.
A taxiing AF A320
The crab driver gives his OK to the pilots for departure
Taxiing along the Terminal 2G parking area
Take-off runway 26R
Beyond the Exhibition Park in Villepinte, the Parc du Saussay
In the foreground above, the heart-shaped Carole motorcycle
The A1 - A104 interchange and the junction between the A1 and the A3
LBG, between the clouds
The loop of the Seine River at Gennevilliers
The good weather announced by the captain often means a lot of "good weather clouds"
Close-up of the Stade de France, appearing between the clouds at the bottom of the photo above.
After a 180 ° turn in order to avoid Paris from the north, this is LBG again, seen from the south this time.
I won't have a better picture of CDG this time around
The curtain separating the business rows is drawn.
I spent more time than was reasonable trying to identify this town, seen 11 minutes after having passed the level of CDG after the U-turn to the east. There were too few gaps in the clouds for collecting enough landmarks.
The trolley crosses the curtain
"Sweet or salty" used to be the perennial question of the FAs on AF's short flights before the Covid crisis. I chose salty and my wife sweet, with a coffee and a glass of water each. The restriction to one drink by PAX ("for sanitary reasons") had disappeared.
Everything you wanted to know about these sundried tomato and basil cookies, which contain 0.9% of the first and 0.7% of the second. There's also concentrated tomato in unspecified amount, but it's mostly flour and oil that I suspect is more rapeseed than sunflower and coconut.
As for the cake filled with red berries, it does contains 23% of them, but on condition that the 13% blackcurrant syrup is included, and it is more black than red IMHO.
The FAs will not pick up empty cups and wrappers after this feast. I'll fair-play: AF did not take advantage of the health crisis to permanently eliminate all food on their European flights.
I would have had to spend 79€ or 19,800 miles extra for each of us to know what special treats we would have received, but I doubt I would have had my money's worth, in a plane which has no oven for hot food, and where "champagne for all" would not have been for me, since I don't drink alcohol. We still had access to the lounges (for how long, I do not know) and Skypriority. I also wondered what leaving the middle seat next to me empty could mean in a 2+2 seat layout.
A narrow Austrian valley, probably close to Lienz
I did not try to identify this mountain ridge seen between the clouds
Villach in the foreground and Lake Ossiach
South of Villach, the spaghetti formed by the river Gail, the A2 expressway and Route 83
We have just entered Slovenian airspace: the interchange on the E61 for Radovljica, which was directly under the plane.
The E61 - E652 junction at Podbrezje
Britof, a suburb of Kranj which is probably visible from the other side of the aircraft
Fly by of LJU: the plane will go quite far before turning around to line up with runway 30
In the center, a little in the middle of nowhere, the Žeje pri Komendi business area
In the foreground, Loka pri Mengšu, a typical example of a single street village. In the background on the right, Domžale.
Domžale, a commuter town about ten kilometers northeast of Ljubljana, which the passengers sitting on the right could see, but with adverse sunlight conditions.
Saint Cunegonde Church, isolated on a wooded hill
The E57 motorway, with Domžale in the background
This is where our plane begins its U-turn, some 15 km from the runway's threshold in LJU
Crosswind leg, flying slightly beyond the centerline of LJU's Runway 30
Again the E57 motorway, seen in the opposite direction, to the south-west, with Domžale to the right.
The urban area of Ljubljana
The northern suburbs of Ljubljana, with the Stožice stadium on the left and the tower of a power station in the center.
Vodice, 2 km south of the runway's threshold
It's Sunday: the Slovenian plane spotters are out. They are everywhere around the perimeter of the airport.
A few planes which fell victims of the crisis, seen through the right window while taxiing to the terminal, including an ex-Luxair CRJ stripped of its engines and an Aer Lingus ATR-72.
These are the only aircraft in operation seen on the tarmac:
Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet
Seen while deplaning: a Trade Air A320 which operates flights between LJU and various Greek islands.
There was also this Swift Hellas Fairchild SA227 from on the left and this Lipican Aer Let L-410. The former was operating a daily round trip to BEG, and the latter to SJJ.
On the other hand, these CRJ-900 are inactive
The terminal and the control tower
The jetbridge is approaching
A staircase will be put into service for the back door…
… but no regrets: the passengers who are going to deplane from the rear will not walk on the tarmac, but board a PAXbus for a bus ride no longer than the length of an E-190.
All passengers standing up
The Sukhoi Superjet from the front
Seen through a nearby jetbridge: one of two South African Airways A320s stranded in LJU since the airline's bankruptcy (which is flying again with a skeletal fleet).
Going to the toilets which are clean
Walking past a promotional poster for Ljubljana Castle
Arrival in the baggage claim area where we didn't need to linger.
Our hotel was offering us a taxi on arrival: a pleasant young woman was waiting for us with a sign with my name at the landside exit.
Slovenian 101: wearing a mask is compulsory in taxis
Last picture from the airport: this DC-6 is the first aircraft from Aviopromet, now Adria Airways, which went bankrupt a few months before the Covid crisis erupted.
Why would you want to go to Ljubljana? This is the subject of the bonus that I am offering you.
Why go to Ljubljana? It's not a top destination in Europe, and yet it was my number one priority this summer. I have to go back some eight months, with the opening in the end of December of an exhibition dedicated to Invader at the MGLC, the International Center of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, housed in a beautiful castle overlooking Tivoli Park in this city.
Invader is an artist creating mosaics inspired by the game Space Invaders, the ancestor of console games, and more generally by the pixelated aesthetic of the first computer games. What is special is that he has been installing them in secrecy at night for more than twenty years, calling these clandestine installations "invasions". (He is also selling other similar works on the art market of course).
I doubt I need to go through the chronology of events this spring: when Slovenia was not hermetically sealed, the French residents were forbidden to travel anywhere. The artist installed about twenty new mosaics in the city in March, but only the locals could start looking for them. In short, the exhibition was extended by three months, until August 15; in the meantime, like many others, I had spent my confinement evenings locating them on Streetview.
So this was August 8, and my first priority when I arrived in Ljubljana is to go to the MGLC.
Did you spot the Pac-Man-inspired mosaic on the facade?
If you asked the staff politely, it was even possible to be shown the mosaics installed in the private areas of the museum, all the way to the attic of the building: this being Sunday made it easier.
Collecting the Invader mosaics using its dedicated application (a completely free game) is first and foremost the excuse for a treasure hunt for adults who have not lost all of their childish soul, especially when they have played Space Invaders when the game was released in the late 70s. The icing on the cake of this trip was that when travel to Slovenia was possible again in mid-May, geeks went with the artist's agreement and restored those mosaics from the 2006 invasion which needed it, which made a grand total of 42 mosaics, either authentic or painstakingly identical copies.
Some were very easy to find.
Like this one, above, at one end of the iconic Dragons Bridge
Others were a much harder nut to crack, for example here in an interior courtyard of a building which is obviously not visible with Streetview.
The lawn in the foreground here is open to everyone, but this anonymous downtown building has been missed by Google's car.
This was an opportunity to walk - virtually first, then in real life - through this city, and it was well worth it.
We sometimes got to visit outlying neighborhoods well off the beaten tourist track (identifying this specific building which looks like two drops of water like so many others had not been easy!)
The artist is vegetarian and seldom fails to remind this fan base about it. The problem for locating this mosaic was to determine where you can buy fruit and vegetables in Ljubljana, and this is not in your standard tour book or website.
Walking around this small city with a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, when the good weather is good, was a good way to enjoy its pedestrian city center
… dominated by a fortress
Also to discover churches which turn out to be interesting
Like St Peter's Church, whose vault is decorated with a beautiful trompe-l'œil
Day and night…
Ljubljana deserved the help of Invader for us to come and visit !
See you soon for the bonus of the next flight: there is much more to see in this small town which is as friendly as its inhabitants towards their visitors!
This was a pleasant short European flight to a pleasant small European town. The seat pitch in the AF-Hop! E-190s is comfortable, just like the 2 + 2 seat layout for a couple. The crew did their job which wasn't demanding. I have come to appreciate the Air France Play app which provides many more newspapers and magazines for free download from the moment the check-in opens than I have time to read. The "sweet or salty" catering remains somewhat symbolic, but it has not been the victim of a tempting cost-cutting.
Decent fluidity at the security check in CDG - I have seen much worse in the past in the non-priority lines. Access to CDG by car will always be undersized, as will the jetties at Terminal 2F and the landside area.
Like in any small airport, the fluidity and the overall distance on foot in LJU are optimum. The only downside is the accessibility: LJU is a bit far from the city, and you have the choice between a very cheap bus ride from the station which is quite time consuming because of the number of intermediate stops, and a taxi ride with 25€ flat rate: cheap for a Parisian, probably less so with a local income.