This is the return long-haul segment of this TPE-ICN-CDG round trip
TPE-ICN (China Airlines, 333)in French here, in English there ICN-CDG (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there CDG-ICN (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, You are here ICN – TPE (Korean Air, 738) in French here, to be posted in English later
I hated being in the dark on a day flight on the way in; how was the night flight on the way back ? This is the story.
This report begins with the wonderful travel experience provided by RATP (Paris mass transit authority) and SNCF (French Railways).
A turnstile is design to prevent anybody to enter without a ticket, or with a ticket and suitcases, but with some patience, you can make it through with the distinct feeling have being illegal despite the 9.25 EUR expense (at time of traveling).
You also must go countless steps with your luggage if you insist on not taking the traffic jams of the expressway. I counted these countless steps, all 111 of them with an intermediate level every twenty steps. Better not make full use of KE's J checked luggage allowance (2x32 kg, plus 18kg carry on).
There is an escalator going in both directions here, and a random ticket checkpoint at the top to keep the illegal feeling.
Now that you've been through the lower level of the Paris public transport game, you can upgrade to the advanced level at the central Châtelet les Halles station.
That is assuming that you manage making your way through these gates.
I shouldn't, but I am giving you a cheat code here: on the far left, there is a handicapped access (for those handicapped travelers who made through the 111 steps). There is no signage, because no foreign or provincial traveler should be helped when he visits Paris. The first time I came, the ordinary gates nearly cut my suitcase in two (there is a suitcase death penalty for not being pushed in front of its owner).
But a passenger in good faith should not follow you too closely, because the gate will not open if other users are too close. No matter if he is handicapped, a blind person will have to manage alone here.
The train doors are very wide to allow the Paris users not to let travelers leave the train before boarding themselves.
Of course, I first had to let two trains to dream destinations, patronized by many surburbanites.
These two staff wearing high visibility jackets looked at me suspiciously, maybe because I was wearing one too, and maybe because taking pictures in the Paris mass transit system (I guess they do not want outsiders to realize how derelict it is). But they do not hesitate to give information to a traveler with luggage.
From the next station (Gare du Nord = North Station), the train empties, because CDG is not really a dream destination.
The train itself, with that ruined folding seat and this rubbish is not a dream place either.
At CDG2, you must go through turnstiles designed to stop: 1 – Passengers with bulky luggage 2 – Passengers with a ticked deeply buried in a pocket 3 – Passengers with valid ticket in hand, rejected by the machine
I belon g to Categories 1 and 3, but my Paris experience allows me to make it through together with a legitimate passenger (i.e. with a valid ticket accepted by the machine and without suitcases), and with a Category 2 passenger.
This oversize display shows the arriving planes. It took me a number of trips out of CDG to realize that the reverse side shows the departing planes.
Access to the tax refund counter is much easier than in CDG1
Since I know that I leave from CDG-2E, I take this escalator, which is gigantic compared to TPE' Terminal 1 escalator.
The display of the flights departing from CDG-2E, which are few in the evening, above the automatic BP machines.
This is the list of the flights that night:
The machine refuses to read my passport, but accepts my credit card (does it mean that you must pay to board?), and asks me where I am going to, then this surprising question : François MARATHON, are you male or female?. Sure, my credit card does not tell it, but does it mean that like toilets, the planes are separated for males and females? I want to go backtrack to take a picture, but the machines must have detected a suspicious uncertainty on my sexual identity, refuses to continue and delivers a voucher to go and check in the old way at a counter.
The fiftyish staff is initially very cold, but cheers up after switching mistakenly to English at the second question. Contrary to the machine, she does not ask if I am male or female. Her neighbor is immediately very smiling when a passenger arrives. Maybe a Korean, but she speaks Japanese fluently.
It may not be obvious, but the automated passport control is in operation.
It is here on the right, but not this way, where you need a safety helmet that I did not take with me.
The staff at the security check is courteous. Please remove yoru jacket, a jacket which earns me an obviously intrigued look from the operator in front of her screen.
Anyway, I reach CDG2E's airside area,
And its infamous anti plane spotters windows, because take pictures to the outside is forbidden in CDG, like in any third world airport.
But gate 27 at the lower level for bus boarding can foil the design of the architect, and take a picture of this Air Austral 777 on a pushback tractor,
… this AF 773ER which just reached the terminal
… and the KE 773ER which will carry me to ICN. HL77784 was then barely three years old.
I did not take a picture of the kids' playground, but I did notice these strollers which are rather unusual in airports.
The lounge is downstairs, below this food court with a strong low quality fast food smell.
You must wait for the list for ages, and then wait for the door to close for ages, due to the absence of the Close Doors button which can be found anywhere in Asia.
A smiling welcome at the AF lounge, upon presentation of my BP
This may be the first time that I have to take the direction of the make-up area to reach the mal toilets. Have the cosmetics companies managed to break into the unwilling male market?
The toilets are spot clean. My 2012 dress code included a high visibility jacket in order to observe the reaction of the staff both on the ground and on board to this unusual piece of clothing (for an airline passenger, that is). So far, CDG2's staff has passed the test.
On the far right, there is a work area
..with computers which provide me the de rigueur corporate screen. If you want to surf on the internet with your own laptop, you must waste some time navigating to eventually obtain a free wifi code. Couldn't they dispose with this procedure and provide immediate wifi access in the lounge?
After reading a dozen business class FRs, the food offering of the AF lounge in CDG give me the impression of being at best in premium economy, with these uncomfortable chairs in front of tiny round tables.
Do these vegetarian sandwiches give you the impression of being soggy? They are, badly so, so much that they fall apart when you try to take one.
The cheese and dessert section is not more attractive.
I did not spill so much coffee because of an advanced stage a bad Parkinson's disease, but because the table is wobbly, at an advanced stage. After moving to another table, the staff who wose idly adding soggy sandwiches came equally idly to clean it.
Another staff to whom I mentioned that this table was unstable first hinted that I had purposefully spilled my coffee, and made it clear that this issue was none of his business because he was only giving a hand there. A French passenger who minds somebody else's business is possibly suspicious, and maybe I should have spoken in English.
There is an ample supply of newspapers and magazines.
I only had twenty minutes to visit the area, but this lounge does not deserve more than that, because it is so disappointing, although not unacceptably so. The two staff at the entrance bide me a good journey, and then as soon as I do not look at them whisper inaudible comments while looking at me with disparaging stares. Tough luck for them: they do not realize that I keep an eye on them on the mirrors of the elevator's doors, and the elevator is again very slow to come. Yes, I purposefully wear an unusual high visibility jacket, and yes, they failed the test of being immune to unusual wear.
Quick and efficient BP check at gates K37-K39
At the far end, it is an empty newspapesr and magazines stand
You are at HSBC, Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
The front of the KE 77W at dusk
We curiously walk alongside a window partition (on the right here), and have to back track a little at the far end to reach the first door.
This will be my space during a 10h30 flight. The first window is too far ahead of the seat to be really useful, and the next one is slightly too far behind, but remains useable.
Having seat 8A was not guaranteed, because if you are not a KE frequent flyer and did not buy the ticket directly from them, you are a nobody and cannot book your seat a long time ahead of time. Being a FB Elite passenger is useless and I wonder what Skyteam is for in that matter. I could only try by phone shortly (1, 2 days? I forgot) before the flight. When you want a window seat on the left (due to the sun's direction) ahead of the wing so that it does not hide the ground, that only leaves four good seats, from 7A to 10A, out of 56 seats in J. Having only one chance out of 14 to be happy a couple days before the flight does not make you feel like an Elite passenger of the airline's alliance.
A FA (who was dedicated to another part of the aircraft, maybe she was the purser?) asks me about my high visibility jacket: no, I do not work for an airline, KE or another, but I congratulate them for the flawless welcome when I boarded and started organizing my belongings for the flight : there was no special reaction and I expected that there be none.
The P cabin is beyond the front partition; it seems to be marginally more comfortable than the J cabin (especially the smaller front J cabin, with only two rows), apart from the larger IFEs. It does provide more width per seat, being a 1-2-1 layout versus 2-2-2 in J, but that means that you need to choose between a window seat and traveling next to your companion (spouse, colleague, whatever…). I am unlikely to ever be faced to this cruel choice :)
Distribution of the welcome drink
Once being served, I take a picture of that tray….
… and inadvertently spill my glass of orange juice on the floor. A FA rushes to wipe off every single drop of liquid while I apologize to her and my neighbor who had not settled in yet, and whose seat has been spared.
My neighbor is a Japanese in his sixties; the FAs who will handle us during this flight are fluent in Korean, Japanese and English.
The slippers that I forgot to mention in my FR of the way in, and the amenity kit. Earplugs are missing – I found the plane to be quite noisy.
The IFE's remote control – the IFE is not tactile, and would too far away to be used that way…
… because the seat pitch seen here at destination in daylight is enormous.
These two vertical boxes are for Literature only. I know that this word has a much broader meaning in English than in French, but I find the association of the words literature and in flight magazine + duty free catalogue amusing.
There are two 110 VAC multistandard plugs between the two seats; they powered my laptop without a problem on the way in.
But on the way in, it was not the same 77W, and this one is unable to feed my voracious and hungry laptop.
And of course, since I started working again on this FR after waking up, my laptop starved at 6:33 French time.
Would you be so careless that you would leave on Flight Report duty without a spare battery for your camera or your laptop? Of course not.
I followed the advice of Mr. Windows, and my spare battery allowed me to hold until I reached KE's lounge in ICN.
[IT support provided me a new laptop since; the new one has a better autonomy – not enough for a flight to Asia though. I asked for a spare battery and they curtly told me that I have no need for one, proving that they do not know why we need portable computers in the first place].
This FA puts herself the small bags of the passengers in the overhead bins (there is a dearth of underseat storage for takeoff and landing) and brings them down herself once the sign is switched off… but not my laptop case. I do not blame her: the FAs of the other airlines do not put any luggage in the overhead bins themselves, with the acceptable justification that passengers can do it themselves if they could carry them all the way to the aircraft, and also that the FAs would eventually have musculoskeletal disorders if they do it for all passengers.
The safety card is in a plastic protection
CDG2E and 773ER AF by night
An IFE option provides the front camera image, which is rather poor by night.
We pass by a blurry Aeromexico.
A really poor view of the surroundings of CDG just after takeoff (on time)
The curtain and sign which separate us from the P cabin
There come the menu
Dinner starts with a glass of fruit juice (probably champagne too, or some look alike)
Then this thing which is mostly a thick slice of cucumber
And a tomato-mozarella salad. Granted, this is cheap stuff, but the dressing with balsamic vinegar is excellent.
Wine is offered off a wicker basket, like on the way in
But this time, the FA has the passenger taste first while displaying the bottle, before filling the glass once the passenger has agreed.
I may be completely ignorant in wine culture, but that seems to meet the basics of wine usage; I do not remember seeing that on board another airline.
Catastrophy! The FAs made a mistake and forgot to serve soup first. They pass around to apologize to each and every passenger, always in Korean, English or Japanese.
I chose the seafood noodles. The quality of the ingredients was not the issue, but the result was very disappointing: soggy fritters in spaghetti floating in oil.
Wham! A noise of clashing (but not broken) tableware betrays the passenger in 7C, who is even clumsier than I am. Ensues a ballet of FAs cleaning the mess, while one apologizes to each and every passenger for the trouble – again, I never saw that in another airline in such circumstances. A new meal, including a new tablecloth is provided to that passenger with a small delay.
I did not try the cheese (I was really not hungry), which unlike on the way in was on pre-prepared plates, not cut upon request. No wonder: Korean catering companies knows a lot better about cheese than the French ones. You cannot blame AF for being such a disaster when it comes to cheese (OK, I should not indulge in AF-bashing in a non-AF report…)
No, there is no other choice than a vanilla, or vanilla-strawberry ice cream as desert, and that is a real disappointment. The coffee is correct.
Overall, this meal is not bad, but very disappointing and below the standards of excellence in comfort and FA interaction.
Before going to sleep, I go to the toilets for the usual need of every Flight Reporter: take pictures of them. They are of unequal size, much wider on the right than on the left in order to accommodate the babycare folding table which is for female use only according to the pictogram, and much more narrow on the left.
There is a handle and a ramp for disabled passengers, and a small folding table in front of the toilet seat to put any personal belonging.
Yes, I know that vertical framing is not a good idea in a FR, but my neighbor had already settled in and I did not want to disturb him. The seat is not strictly horizontal in the night position, but it is not far from it and it did not disturb me at all. The clear spot is due to the lighting.
A minor comfort detail: these two controls lit in blue at night are within immediate reach when you are in the reclined position, so that you do not need to get upright to find the control used when the seat is the upright position.
After five hours of sleep, I wake up just in time to see the coast. In the middle of Siberia? Yes of course, it is Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater body on Earth.
I had neglected to switch off my phone (yes, I shoud have, and was lucky the perturbated avionics did not land the plane in Pyongyang) and was surprise to find this SMS much later at home.
The cabin is progressively lit at 5:20am Paris time, i.e. 12:20pm Seoul time, and service starts with this glass of fruit juice (by the way, I always forget to mention the oshibori).
My Japanese neighbor chose the Asian menu of course
And in retrospect, I should have done the same, because it seemed more tasty. I do not care much for omelettes.
I like the shapes of the salt and pepper set (an ellipsoid and a hyperboloid, for the mathematically inclined)
The dishes and the tray are quickly taken away by the FAs minutes after they are finished: a welcome comfort when you want to keep typing your flight report. I am too often embarrassed too long by the remains of the meal. I therefore had fruit and laptop as a dessert for this breakfast.
The air route is a serious of turns to avoid Mainland China's naval base in Dalian, the North Korean's airspace and other probable off-limits areas.
This is North Korea in the distance, which appears devoid of any building.
On the other hand, these are South Korean islands
… because of this fast ferry.
Anyway, after a number of zigzags, the plane seems to have landed, prematurely on the IFE.
The final descent is chased by the plane's shadow: at the approach of an island…
… better, with the horizon and the landscape,
… and last finishing touch of the framing, with the wing and reactor.
Framing is eventually impossible, because the shadow is on the runway and so is the plane, on time.
The geovision displays the map of the airport, but not the actual position of the aircraft in it.
Eastar 738, a Korean low cost airline
Between a Business Air 767 (Thailand) and a 744 KE, a Jin Air 738 (thanks for EuroAirport68 for the identification).
A Falcon 7X
A333 Etihad, in special Abu Dhabi Grand Prix livery
We turn around the end of the terminal dedicated to foreign airlines
Business Air 767
Shandong Airlines 738
This A320 is the best item in this plane spotting while taxiing: this is half of the entire fleet of Air Bishkek. We are still looking for a volunteer to write the first Flight Report on that Kyrgyzistan airline.
CZ A321 …
…and CA B737: it much more commonplace in this part of the world.
ICN is KE-land, filled with light blue planes everywhere, including the remote cargo area.
And closer too, with that whale parked pier side.
Air france Lounge - 2E, Hall K
Paris - CDG
Seoul - ICN
I slashed the comfort rating on the way in. I am not going to do is again when I obtained the seat I wanted (even though advance seat selection was impossible) and I was not bothered by the window shade issue. The comfort of the seat is exceptional: I found very easy to avoid my sleeping neighbor, much easier than in other J seats with a similar layout. I do not find it justified to choose an aisle seat for the sole purpose of being able to move around during the flight. On the other hand, the power plug which did not provide any power is penalized. The FAs are flawless, including in their management of incidents. Not only do they always smile while addressing passengers, but also between each other. The only serious disappointment was the food, which was well below expectations. KE would only need to improve this to reach the top level. The lounge in CDG was definitely below standards on all accounts. Entertainment is the only acceptable rating item, despite the needlessly cumbersome access to the wifi coverage. I wonder who would want to pay for that.
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