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Hello and welcome to this new 2-flight series of pandemic-era reviews. There is a TWA Hotel bonus at the end of this review for anyone who may be interested.
After spending the summer in southwestern France with family, it was time to head home to the U.S. before the little one was due to begin preschool. Unlike the 3-segment routing on the way to France, which got us to a closer airport (Toulouse), we flew a simpler 2-segment routing back to San Diego; however, we would be departing from Paris, a 7-hour drive away. We took the opportunity to visit with close friends and tour the city, which was pleasantly uncrowded–a perfect time to introduce our 2-year-old son to the City of Lights.
Flights in this series:
The morning of departure, we had planned on arriving at the airport about 3 hours before departure as we had a rental car to return. Pulling up to the terminal, we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a good 25 minutes, just to get to the rental car return. What a difference from the empty roads and terminals the last time I'd flown through CDG in November 2020!
Luckily there was some good #AvGeek scenery as we sat in traffic ✈
Unfortunately, after fighting traffic to get to the Terminal 2A/B rental car lot, we discovered from a note posted on the office window that the lot was temporarily closed! An important piece of information that the rental company had neglected to pass on. There were several others in the same situation–needless to say, no one was thrilled with this news.
So we sat in traffic for another 20 minutes just to drive a few hundred metres to the Terminal 2E/F rental car lot! Walking would have been much faster…
Good thing we'd planned on arriving early as we'd lost an hour with the terminal traffic and rental car return fiasco. And now, being parked at Terminal 2F, we had to make the long walk back to terminal 2A.
Then we lost another 15 minutes queuing for a lift as only one of two was working–CDG can be such a mess at times!
When all was said and done, we arrived at the check-in desks just under 90 minutes before departure. Luckily, there was no wait in the priority queue and several fantastically helpful agents got us on our way quickly. It was evident we were among the last to check-in.
We were through passport control and security rather quickly thanks to the "Accès No. 1 " fast track lanes.
Caught a view of an Air Transat A321neo just after the security checkpoint.
Unfortunately, all of the airline lounges in Terminal 2A/C were still closed at the time. Lounges are open in other terminals, so I don't quite understand why these remained closed. We wouldn't have had much time to spend in the lounge anyway.
We headed straight to the gate area as boarding was due to begin shortly.
Our gate was in the circular flying saucer-like pier on the far end of Terminal 2A–which couldn't have been any further away from where we parked at T2F.
We could see our 777-200ER as we approached the gate.
The red carpet is a bit reminiscent of the TWA hotel JFK.
As we were running a bit behind, boarding had already started before we arrived at the gate. We were able to board immediately through the priority lane, skipping ahead of the long queue in the standard main cabin boarding lane.
Upon scanning my boarding pass, it beeped with a message for the agent. I thought uh oh, it can't be an upgrade since we're already in Business and there's not First cabin on the 777-200ERs.
We were asked to step aside where another agent explained that the in-flight entertainment was not working at my seat and offered to move my seat to the row in front–the only open seat. I declined as I needed to be seated by my 2-year-old son–in this seat configuration, I wouldn't be able to keep an eye on him from another row.
Oh well, I'll survive!
Nice views of our aircraft on the way down the jet-bridge.
We entered the aircraft through the beautiful Business class bar area before turning right into the second Business cabin.
As usual, I'd selected seats in the last row of business class.
I was surprised to discover that this aircraft was equipped with the "Concept D" seats, which are laid out in an alternating forwards-backwards configuration. Though the number of seats is the same in this configuration as the Super Diamond-equipped cabins, these "Concept D" cabins are usually identifiable on the seat maps with arrows showing backwards facing seats.
We had booked months in advance so it's not surprising that the 772 subfleet changed from the time we originally made the reservation. Though I prefer the Super Diamond cabins as I find the seats slightly more spacious, these cabins are still very nice with full-flat seats and aisle-access for all passengers.
My seat was a forward-facing seat on the right side. All outer forward-facing seats face the windows…
Whereas backwards-facing seats face the aisles.
In the centre section, forward-facing seats are oriented inward at the feet, while backwards-facing seats are oriented towards the aisle like the window-side seats.
The little one quickly made himself comfortable in his spacious quarters…too many fun buttons and lights!
Boarding was completed well ahead of time
During boarding, cabin crew had distributed noise-cancelling headphones. An amenity kit and printed menu were already at the seat upon entering the aircraft.
Sanitising wipes were also distributing during boarding. I've been in the habit of carrying my own pack of wipes since the very beginning of the pandemic, especially when travelling with a small child who naturally feels to need to touch and explore new surroundings.
It's a nice gesture, and I'm glad most airlines do this, though the aircraft already looked and smelled fresh and spotlessly clean, as has been my experience on a vast majority of flights in the pandemic-era.
The are plenty of power-up options with 2 USB ports and 2 110V AC outlets at each seat.
The touchscreen seat control panel, in-flight entertainment remote, and reading light are located nearby.
Though I was aware and accepted that the IFE would not work for this flight, I wasn't aware that the power was not working either. None of the USB ports or AC outlets worked throughout the flight–luckily, the seat controls did work!
The traffic outside the window was much more active than the last time I'd been though CDG in November 2020, in the middle of a strict lockdown. It was nice to see the airport buzzing with activity again!
The New Air Canada livery looks great on a big 777-300ER!
Very good legroom, as can be expected in long-haul Business class.
Crew confirmed boarding was completed, but it was too early to close the doors as we still had about 20 minutes to go before scheduled departure time.
Let's have a look at the menu in the meantime.
Can't say the corned-beef and cabbage option sounded particularly appetising in August, and it just felt out of place on a flight from Paris.
I appreciated the creativeness of the the options, mixing eastern and western-influenced dishes
The alcoholic drinks menu felt reduced compared to pre-pandemic times, but still decent.
A decent wine list, though it's unfortunate that there were no French wines, aside from the Champagne. However, I like that AA always carry at least one Port option.
Here's a look at the contents of the amenity kit. In comparison, the Iberia amenity kit on the flight over to Europe were much better.
The doors were closed about 10 minutes prior to departure. It appears we couldn't leave any earlier despite boarding wrapping up 25 minutes early and all baggage loaded due to a short flying time over to New York.
As I heard the safety video begin, during push-back, I instinctively opened up my screen….oh right, it doesn't work!
Hopefully I'll get to fly on one of these beautiful Air Tahiti Nui 787s once day! French Polynesia is one of those bucket list items I still haven't checked off, and now living in Southern California means it's only an 8-hour flight away.
After a short taxi time, by CDG standards, we were off.
A video on enhanced cleaning measures and air filtration in the Covid-era was shown shortly after takeoff.
We quickly reached the French coast during climb out.
As I mentioned earlier, the inop IFE and power issue did not affect the seat controls themselves, thankfully. So I could still change position and fully recline as normal.
Though at the time AA had still not reinstated pre-departure drink services, a bottle of water had been given to all passengers in Business towards the end of boarding.
Shortly after takeoff, there was a drink service with a snack–or as my people would say, an apéritif
I enjoyed a generous pour of the champagne, but ugh…the plastic cups have got to go away in long-haul premium cabins! Glassware is slated to return this fall.
Special meals were served first as always. I definitely appreciate that as the timing allows me to assist my son with his meal, prior to sitting down and eating myself.
Wow, once again huge portions for a child meal!
My son enjoyed the child meal, but it was obviously way too much food for a 2-year-old. The only items he was happy to finish were the Kinder chocolate bar and Madeleine pastry, haha. I do appreciate that the child meal was mostly composed of healthy foods. These child meals cater to children from 2 up to 12-years-old, so the size is meant to accommodate that large age range, but it would be nice to have a toddler option for the younger children to avoid food waste.
I had already pre-reserved my meal online a few weeks before the flight. I always try to pre-order, especially since I like to sit in the last row of Business, which often gets the last choice of meals on board. And I DID NOT want to get stuck with Corned beef and cabbage in the summer! 🤣
Per pandemic-era sanitary protocols, all food is served with covers intact.
I had pre-order the Fried Paneer because I love Indian food–it was technically the vegetarian option.
Baby leef, zucchini, grilled artichoke, eggplant purée
Makhani sauce, dal tadka, basmati rice and paratha bread
Views of the southern coast of Ireland during the meal.
Cabin crew were through the cabin regularly during the meal service offering drinks.
I had a Port with the dessert.
Overall the meal was good, though pandemic-era cost-cutting was evident. Meals served on one tray were only found on overnight flights prior to the pandemic. Day flights like this had properly coursed out meal services with several dessert and cheese plate options, and of course, the famous ice cream sundaes. As a Frenchman, I missed having the option of a cheese course.
My son went to sleep shortly after eating during for his normal nap time, which allowed the grown-ups a few hours of relaxation. This is one of biggest reasons we continue to fly Business whenever we can find a decent deal–a well-rested child is a happy child and a happy child means happy parents!
Quiet cabin after the meal service.
The bar area was already set up, just minutes after the meal service was over.
There were self-serve snacks and water bottles. The biggest noticeable difference from pre-pandemic times was no alcohol or other drink options.
The screens showed some nice scenery from Paris.
I was able to have a quick nap myself and woke up as we were passing the southern tip of Greenland approaching North America.
Once my son woke up from his nap, we switched seats so I could check out the IFE for a bit. He always prefers the familiar animated programmes loaded on his own tablet.
As always there is a good amount of content. The only major difference in IFE content from pre-pandemic times is that Live TV channels were unavailable for more than a year, but have recently returned.
Content can be searched in a list view, for those who know what they are looking for…
Or in the traditional library view with thumbnail images for better browsing
There are many international films and programmes in a multitude of languages, which I always appreciate.
New release blockbusters, children's programming, sci-fi, rom-coms, documentaries–there's something for everyone.
There are also a few simple games.
As I can never really 100% concentrate on watching a movie when travelling with my kid, I put on a big destruction movie full of special effects and action with a simple plot that is easy enough to follow along when starting and stopping multiple times.
Although this scene was reminiscent of the evacuation of Kabul that was happening at that time, it was a scene from Greenland.
About an hour before arrival, the pre-arrival meal was served.
I went for the barbecue beef and brie sandwich option, which was served hot. The burnt cheese on the plate wasn't great visually, but it was pretty tasty. I also appreciate the hot option for a pre-arrival meal on a short TATL flight, as most European carriers tend to serve a cold "tea time" style light meal.
I feel like I've been getting this same dessert for years on westbound TATL flights with AA. Nevertheless, it's quite good so I'm not complaining.
We began our descent as cabin crew were concluding the meal service
Since I didn't have a working IFE screen, I couldn't watch the moving map, but I could track our flight's progress on the AA app for free through the Wi-Fi.
We were due to arrive at the gate over a half hour early.
The weather wasn't great with some low clouds, light rain, and windy conditions.
The area had just been recently hit with some major flooding and was about to get some more from a Tropical storm, just a few days later. We were lucky to fly in and out of JFK when we did.
We ended up landing and arriving at the gate even earlier, after a short taxi time.
Ah JetBlue Mint…an amazing experience. If you missed my recent review of JetBlue's Mint Business class, you can check it out here.
We parked at the gate at Terminal 8 almost 45 minutes ahead of schedule!
With Global Entry and few international flights arriving at AA's Terminal 8 at that time, we were through Immigrations and Customs in minutes. Our bags were even delivered quickly, which is always hit or miss with AA.
A nice welcome as you walk out of the customs area to the international arrivals hall.
We headed strait to the AirTrain to get to the TWA Hotel at Terminal 5.
There are signs indicating the direction to the TWA Hotel from all terminals.
We were on the train platform before our aircraft was even scheduled to arrive at the gate!
Thanks for reading! My second TWA Hotel review is below and ratings/conclusion of the whole flight experience further down the page.
It was a quick hop from T8 to T5.
The TWA Hotel's location is well indicated from the moment you step off the plane. The shortest route takes you through the garage and covered walkway
Luckily the rain stopped in time for us to cross the street to the hotel.
My first impression walking through those doors was negative from the onset. Having been in France for over 2 months, we had a good amount of baggage that I was pushing on a cart, while the other handled carry-on bags and the kid. Needless to say we had no free hands. There were about 4 or 5 valet or bell-hop hotel employees standing at a podium just feet away as we approached the doors..not a single one offered to help open the door as I struggled to keep the door from closing on the cart with my feet while pulling it in simultaneously. Not one…they were just standing there watching.
Check-in was quick on the self-serve kiosks, which I'd already used on my previous stay. Unlike my previous stay, there was no effort made by desk staff to greet customers–they were just chatting away. The poor service continues!
This time I didn't upgrade to a Runway view room as it was about a $150 difference from the Saarinen Terminal view I'd booked. It especially didn't seem worth it with the rainy weather. I'd already found that the Saarinen Terminal view room at $300/night was more expensive than my previous stay 2 years prior.
More disappointment as we walked to our room. I found the iconic red carpet in the tubes leading to the JetBlue terminal and the hotel towers to be absolutely filthy! You can't quite see it in this photo, but there were huge stains everywhere–it's like they've never been cleaned in the two years since the hotel opened.
The carpet in the actual hotel towers was in a much better state, thankfully.
The room itself was nice, though on the small-side for a US hotel.
Snug quarters, but nice AvGeeky mid-century decor
The view of the Saarinen Terminal was very nice, though keep in mind, people in the TWA terminal can see into the rooms in the towers.
We also had a partial Connie view.
As our luck would have it, there was a private event in the central part of the TWA Terminal building, so we could only visit the outer parts of the building as well as the mezzanine.
My son loves cars so at least this was fun for him.
Definitely a cool place for an Aviation-themed wedding!
The rest of the terminal was pretty quiet.
We took advantage of another break in the rain to check out the Constellation.
Unfortunately, the Connie bar itself was closed, but we were still able to walk around the aircraft and my son enjoyed running around a bit and being so close to a plane. I will turn him into an AvGeek yet 😁
The nighttime view of the terminal was even better.
You can find the full review of my first visit to the TWA Hotel here in the bonus section. That first time was a much more positive experience and includes images from the rooftop pool bar and inside the Connie.
I did not visit the rooftop during this stay as it is no longer free to hotel guests, except for early morning hours. The hotel charges guests up to $50 per person on weekends just to access the pool area for a maximum of 1h45m! Absolutely ridiculous.
From the exorbitant fee to access the rooftop, to the rude, unhelpful and apathetic staff, to the sad state of the iconic red carpet, this experience really dampened the good image I previously had of this otherwise beautiful hotel.
I will say that it's very convenient to stay here when you have a long layover as it is the only hotel on airport property. The AvGeek in me will always want to gravitate towards this hotel, but I'm very disappointed with how far the TWA hotel has fallen in only 2 years.
The flight experience itself was generally pleasant for a pandemic-era flight with a lovely crew--and you can't beat a 45 minute early arrival into JFK!
Cabin - The cabin is comfortable, modern, and private, with fully flat seats allowing direct aisle access for all passengers, though this isn't the best cabin on AA long-haul metal. The Collins Super Diamond seats found on most of the 777-200 fleet and all 787-9s are a bit more spacious and all forward-facing.
Cabin crew - Very nice and attentive. They had fun with passengers and each other, but stayed professional. You could tell they took pride in their jobs and offered great service. We also enjoyed several friendly chats and I really appreciated comments about how well our son was behaved for his age! Proud Papa 😊
Entertainment - It wasn't working, so I had to deduct some points for that, but otherwise there's a good selection and nice Bang & Olufsen headphones
Meals - Tasty main meal, creative menu options (though Corned Beef in summer?), decent wine selection, and I always appreciate the snack bar set-up on AA. However, on the negative side, it's cheap to still use plastic cups in premium cabins over a year and a half into the pandemic. The cost-cutting was also obvious with the smaller portions presented all in one tray, whereas meals on daytime flights in pre-pandemic times were properly coursed with more dessert and cheese plate options.