As a French expat living in Washington, DC, IAD-CDG flights have become a sort of shuttle for me. Lately, however, I've been trying to create some more interesting routings which will also earn more miles. In the past, I have generally taken flight AF039 which is operated by an A380, but leaves at 4:40PM and arrives at the ungodly hour of 6AM at CDG. As a good #AvGeek, I always chose this flight because it was an A380; however, having flown the A380 a dozen times over the last few years, I am now basing my choice of flights more on convenience of schedule. The afternoon A380 departure made it very difficult to sleep considering that once dinner was finished it was only the equivalent of 6PM East coast time. And of course, that flight lands in Paris at midnight ET, which makes for a day in zombie jetlag mode upon arrival. Needless to say, I chose the 10PM departure for the convenience factor.
Welcome to this series of reports entitled Toulouse, the long way These reports were originally written in French–here is the complete series in French below. English versions are coming soon.
As I just mentioned, this flight was chosen for its convenient schedule. With a departure time of 10PM, flight AF027 allows for a full day at the office. We got to the airport early-ish, around 6:30 to have ample time in the Air France lounge, which I find to be one of the best out-station lounges in the system.
Apparently we arrived too early as check-in counters were not yet open, which I found odd since it was less than 4 hours before departure. As you can see, there were already quite a few passengers waiting to check-in.
Oh well, it's a beautiful day outside, let's go be Geeky and do some planespotting in the meantime!
The gorgeous Saarinen Terminal.
Eh….not much to see right now, except for this Unitental 767-400 taking off.
Yeah Amuhrricah! ^^
And this United 777-200
When I got back to the counters, the check-in had already opened and the line had cleared out in the Sky Priority lane. A warm Bonjour from an agent that I see quite often when I fly out is always nice. But…uh oh…my bag is overweight! How embarassing, I have never ever ever had an overweight bag before. To be honest, I wasn't too surprised because I had put a full suitcase inside a large empty suitcase–Russian doll style. The reason for this is that, although I travel back to France several times a year, I bring along extra bags one time a year to fill up to replenish my supply of French products (patés, foie gras, confits, etc). I thought I was being smart by not checking 2 half empty suitcases or one full and one empty that would end up crushed on arrival, but I guess I should have considered the weight. I told the agent I could just take the bag out and check it empty, but said I was afraid it could be too easily dammaged. Luckily, the agent was really nice and let the extra 3 kilos go. Thanks!!
The airport is not very crowded and we get through security in just a few minutes with the fast-track Premium lanes.
Spotted a few birds on the way to the lounge.
A TK A330
A 5-star 77W
The train to the concourses just after security
Terminal A/B Airside
Spotted this Heathrow-bound Virgin Atlantic A330 on the way to the lounge
And this British Airways 767-300ER also headed to LHR. I would imagine that LHR is the best served international destination from Washington with 3 daily BA flights (1xB744, 1xB772, 1xB763), One daily VS flight (A343, A346, or A333 depending on the season), and 4 daily UA flights (2x752 and 2x772). Considering BA also serves BWI with a daily B763, that's 9 flights a day from the DC metro area to London!
The flight is showing on-time
The entrance to the lounge is located right accross from the AF gates A20/22. I remember prior to the new lounge being built a few years ago, you could board directly from the old lounge with a jetbridge leading right to door 1L.
A few pics of the lounge. For once I actually took pics of the buffet. I generally don't take many pics in lounges as it feels a bit awkward when there are a lot of people around.
My selection is pretty representative of the food offering: jambon beurre and roast beef sandwiches on a baguette, Tuna salad on a croissant, and some cheese. There was also fruit, veggies, cakes, rice pudding and some other things that I don't remember. I drank a lemonade before getting some champagne–you have rehydrate before dehytrading :-)
Despite the very large windows in the lounge, there is not much airplane traffic to see on this side of the terminal for planespotters. Luckily, this gorgeous Icelandair B757-200 came along. I find the FI livery to be one of the most beautiful liveries out there (I'm a little biased…I used to work for them years ago, but it really is very pretty).
TF-FIO, I must have flown on it dozens of times.
Champagne time :-) Cheers! Too bad they serve it in a thimble…it's like doing shots of champagne, LOL
A toast to this beautiful livery
Lots of magazines and newspapers in French for us Frenchies; there was also a large selection in English.
On my way to the Duty-Free store, I see our aircraft arriving from Paris. Tonight we have F-GSPX.
Night falling on Dulles Airport
Icelandair in the beautiful light of the sunset.
I leave the lounge for a bit to see if I can do some night planespotting. Not an easy task at Dulles because there are double windows at the gates to allow for a hallway separation for international arriving flights. This causes a glare which makes getting a good picture from the gate area nearly impossible.
The result isn't so hot so I gave up after two pics.
Turkish Airlines A330
Brussels Airlines A333. SN has only been serving Washington since June.
Back to the lounge and another Icelandair pic :-) Can you tell I like this livery? LOL
The Corporate shot. Numero_2's FR is headlining, he had just been in Washington a few days prior.
Some people have no shame, LOL. But then again, I can't blame her…that's the only full-flat surface she'll get to sleep on tonight :-) The new AF full-flat beds in J just can't come soon enough.
Icelandair leaving for Keflavík…woosh
After a few more thimbles of champagne it was time to board.
Good Evening F-GSPX
The cabin. It will end up being 100% full in W tonight with a few non-revs here and there filling up the empty seats.
The seat in maximum recline. People often complain about the recline of these seats, but in reality it's not bad and certainly better than in economy. The problem is that the headrest pushes your head/neck forward when you lay back giving you the impression of sitting up straighter than you actually are. If there was a way for the headrest to tilt back, the seat would feel much better in recline mode. That's just my personal opinion. One would think that AF would have properly tested these seats before putting them out on the market….wishful thinking :-)
Electrical outlets between the seats.
Business class outfitted with NEV3 with small IFE screens. From what I saw, the seats were looking pretty worn out.
I'm glad I decided to choose the bulkhead where the legroom is great and I can't even touch the wall in front. In the front row of Premium on the AF A340-300, I feel like there was less legroom (see here, in French) http://flight-report.com/fr/report-2521.html
The pillow and cover are the same as in Business. I like the new cover better than the old scratchy one.
Dirty scratched up window :-(
Business class seen from my seat towards the end of boarding.
Video of the takeoff…night departure so obviously not much to see, LOL
The amenity kit is handed out about half an hour after takeoff along with the menus.
When I'm in the first row, I like to use my carry-on as an ottoman. There is no foot rest in this row, just a leg rest, so it makes a big difference in comfort.
Flying over New York
The mini Y cabin just behind W
About 45 minutes after takeoff, the meal is served. On short TATL flights, there has not been a separate aperitif service for a few years now, so they serve them at the same time. As always on AF, I get some champagne for before dinner. One good thing about AF is champagne in W and Y.
When the flight attendant handed me the meal tray I saw it looked different and remarked nice, a real glass (in French, of course). Our male FA was very professional and pleasant btw, and he replied Oui monsieur, it is new, we have improved the service in our Premium cabin. You'll also notice that we now have stainless steel cutlery. Yep, sure do…very nice. As someone who regularly flies in W, I've been saying for a long time that the product needs to be enhanced to better differentiate it from Economy. Our nice FA added Air France has been listening to its clients lately and we are making a lot of efforts to make improvements. Indeed, merci monsieur.
I find the new meal tray to be rather visually appealing despite its smaller size. There are definitely many more things on which Air France can improve but it is nice to see that efforts are being made at AF while most other airlines are still in a race to bottom.
I chose the chicken which was pretty good. I find AF's catering to be generally better than most airlines in Y. Although I feel that W meals should resemble J-class meals more than Y-class.
Appetiser: Subric de noix de Saint-Jacques et saumon fumé. (I don't really like the menu's translation, but I'm not even going to try, LOL. I found it a little on the small side, but very good and imaginative.
The same cutlery as Business
And a Poire Williams night-cap.
After the meal, an in-flight supervisor came by and asked us if we had enjoyed the meal and the flight so far. That's the first time that's every happened to me on AF. She was super sweet and told us that she likes to get the opinion of loyal customers like us (I am Plat and my partner was Gold at the time). She told us that her colleague had informed her that we had mentioned flying often in Premium so she wanted to see what we thought of the improvements which had been introduced only a few days before. Someone who actually cares…how refreshing! After a little conversation she left us thanking us for our loyalty and saying not to hesitate to ask her if we needed anything.
Wow…obviously this kind of individual attention is very pleasant and unexpected! I've often had very good crews on AF and most other airlines. I think because I used to work in the industry that I find it pretty easy to get along with crews and get to know them. This was different because we were being recognized for our SkyTeam status and not just my status as an ex-non rev :-)
After the meal I started the movie AfterEarth but it was pretty bad despite the nice special effects, so I had a difficult time staying interested. IMO Will Smith's son has not quite inherited his dad's acting ability…I'm sure he'll grow into it. That and he was doing some kind of weird half-British Transatlantic accent that I totally didn't get and distracted from the film. OK…I'll stop, this is Flight-Report not Film-Critic-Report :-)
Living in the US, I fly DL much more than AF and DL always has the a/c in arctic-mode, which I actually like. I usually find AF planes too hot as a result. Hot and completely bored with the movie, my partner and I pop over to the galley for a midnight drink. The in-flight supervisor from earlier is there and greets us warmly. She offers us Cognac or wine to go with our waters as we chat–I never say no to cognac :-)
After a nice little chat about the airline industry, travel, and the Air France improvement programs Transform 2015 the cognac starts to take effect and I'm ready to sleep. We're over the Canadian Maritime Provinces when I start to fall asleep. The bulkhead seat along with my make-shift ottoman made it easier to find a comfortable position to sleep for a few hours.
I wake up just south of Ireland.
What a shame…the dinner was such a nice improvement, but breakfast is still as boring and simple as ever. At least DL gives you a banana…some fruit would be nice.
We take a different flight path than usual flying along the Normandy coast before turning south towards Paris.
The first row of W to give you another impression of the legroom at this row.
Landing with a good view of Terminal 2.
DL A332 taking off.
Another DL a/c, a 763ER this time
We follow an AF 77W. Coming from the north runways it takes a long time to taxi to Terminal 2E which is much closer to the south runways. The long taxi gives me the opportunity to do a lot of planespotting. .
We park at Terminal 2E S3 (Hall L)
Last view of our aircraft
For a flight that arrives this late in the morning after the main rush (11:30) I was surprised that immigrations was so packed. There was only one agent for the Sky Priority queue. It took almost an hour to get through. CDG is so hit or miss!
Before leaving you, here are some bonus pics of Paris.
The night I arrived I fought againt the jetlag because I had a Mylène Farmer concert to go to at Bercy with my good friend and fellow Flight-Reporter KL651. I quickly forgot the jetlag and really enjoyed the amazing show.
Even though I'm French, though not Parisian, and have been to Paris many many many times, I still find it to be the most beautiful city in the world …Parisians….that's another story :-) J/K…kinda
le Musée d'Orsay
Paris by night
Thanks for reading! Leave a comment :-)
Air France Lounge
Washington - IAD
Paris - CDG
Comfort: I admit it's not the easiest seat to sleep in, but honestly, I'll take the Premium seat any day over AF's sardine class on 777s with the 3-4-3 configuration. Crew: Professional, smiling, pleasant, and attentive. They were perfect and I really enjoyed speaking to them! Catering: I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements. Nevertheless, the main dish is still the same as in Y and the breakfast was the same old lame breakfast they've always had, which isn't even fit for Y. IFE: I'm not an AVOD expert, but based on the look of the Airshow and the limited choice of movies, I would imagine this was an older generation of AVOD as it is not as nice as the IFE I've had on A380s or newed 77Ws. On-time departure but we did not get to the gate early since we had a long taxi time from the north runways.
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