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CDG-JFK, first Air France A380 commercial flight (pics)

CDG-JFK, first Air France A380 commercial flight (pics)

Old Nov 30, 09, 5:03 am
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CDG-JFK, first Air France A380 commercial flight (pics)

I haven’t posted a decent trip report for months… so here we go with Air France’s first A380 commercial flight between Paris and New York in Affaires (business class) and back from JFK the following day in La Première (first class).

Booking this flight was a long story. I initiated a thread in the Air France Fréquence Plus forum as soon as the date and destination of AF’s inaugural and first commercial flights was made public. The inaugural flight was auctioned off by AF on ebay in aid of charities. 380 seats were available on both routes (CDG-JFK and JFK-CDG). Nothing really new here (SQ had the idea first and AF was following suit) except that AF would not auction off any of the 9 La Première seats. A good number of Affaires and Voyageur seats were available and the auction was quite popular. The first seats on sale reached insane prices while the last seats went for very affordable prices, close to market prices of discounted revenue tickets. As expected JFK-CDG seats were cheaper than CDG-JFK seats. Anyway I didn’t find the dates of the 2 inaugural flights very convenient and opted to book the first commercial flight instead. There had been a lot of speculation not so much on the date of the flight as on which of the flights already existing in the GDS (and showing as either operated with a 777 or an A340) would turn out to be operated with the A380. The AF community agreed that AF006 was the best candidate for the A380 and here we go, I booked it with a considerable amount of miles since the much dreaded April fool’s day changes in AF’s loyalty program. Among the main changes, La Première award seats have become so expensive that they are now booked in the revenue “F” fare bucket and are almost fully flexible.

Unfortunately La Première award seats were not available (F0) on the inaugural flight but there was plenty of availability in Affaires (C9) and in La Première on the inbound flight the following day. I easily managed to secure an aisle seat in the front cabin of the Affaires cabin in the upper deck (all Affaires seats are in the upper deck but I didn’t want to end up in the massive rear section – 54 seats – of the Affaires main cabin).
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:06 am
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Check in

Flight: AF006
Date: 23 November 2009
From: Paris CDG 2E
To: New York JFK
Class: Affaires (C)

As a matter of interest this flight was also Delta’s first A380 commercial flight under flight number DL8550.



Check in

Check in at CDG 2E was horrendously slow due to an understaffed check in area. With 30 people in line and only 3 staffed check in counters in Affaires there was a 30-minute wait in line. And most people didn’t deign to use the check-in machines just in front of the check in desks to speed up the process by filling out the mandatory information such as address in the US etc. I did it and my waiting time at the counter did not exceed 2 minutes. There was no more security interview which was a bit of a surprise if you ask me. Delta seems to still do it at CDG.




Last edited by Falco Peregrinus; Nov 30, 09 at 5:27 am
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:14 am
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Immigration was a breeze thanks to the priority lane, followed by a quick shuttle train transfer to the remote boarding satellite where gate E61 is located.



Security was also very quick and professional with a dedicated line for Elites and business class passengers.
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:17 am
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Due to the time wasted in the check in line my stay at the lounge was compromised but I had agreed with fellow FTer Henry III, who was on the same flight, that we would meet there. The only problem was that he mentioned he would be wearing a red tie and I could spot at least 3 people in the lounge wearing a red tie. I didn’t feel like asking each of them “Excuse me, are you Henry III by chance?” so I decided to wait to be onboard to look for him. I even had time to enjoy a quick snack (sandwich, fruit salad and hazelnut mousse cake) with a nice glass of Rully:



The lounge was pretty full with half a dozen of long haul flights departing in the same 30-minute slot.



It was soon time to head towards the gate to assess the boarding process with an experienced eye.
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:20 am
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The A380 at the gate created quite a sensation with lots of people taking pictures of their family members with the aircraft in the background. Thanks to the layout of the gate area it is truly a paradise for aircraft spotters unlike other airports where you can’t see at all the aircraft you are about to board.





Well, guess what? I have just realized afterwards that Henry III is somewhere on this picture :



Flight information:

Flight: AF006
Date: 23 November 2009
From: Paris CDG 2E
To: New York JFK
Departing at: 13:30
Arriving at: 15:45
Flight time: 8:15 (actual: 7:30)
Captain: O. Lassagne
Aircraft: F-HPJA (A380). Capacity: 538 seats.
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:25 am
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The boarding area was quite crowded but the ground staff was very helpful in assisting passengers to queue in the right line. I don’t recall hearing any specific announcement regarding priority boarding for Elites.









3 jetways were in use, 2 at lower deck level and 1 for the upper deck. I am not too sure of who actually used the front lower deck jetway. Based on the cabin configuration it looks like it would be used by La Première passengers only, plus the crew and the ground staff.







(note the cranes in the background, construction of terminal S4 is going on).
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Old Nov 30, 09, 5:34 am
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Boarding was a bit slow; apparently the ground staff had to disembark the luggage of a few passengers who did not make it for the flight.



There was thus plenty of time to settle oneself, enjoy a glass of Lanson Black Label Brut, explore the surroundings and search about for Henry III and orbitmic (3 FTers on board, not too bad).
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Old Nov 30, 09, 6:17 am
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Nothing serious and at 1:35 the crew announced that boarding was finished. Doors were closed at 1:55 and the traditional “PNC aux portes” announcement took place at 1:58 immediately followed by pushback at 1:59. The captain (or was it the crew?) turned on the fintail camera while we were taxiing towards runway 9R-27L. From the top of the fintail the A380 really looks impressive.




Last edited by Falco Peregrinus; Nov 30, 09 at 10:40 am
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Old Nov 30, 09, 6:28 am
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So we eventually took off at 2:21 and made our way to JFK at a cruise altitude of 38,000 feet with some parts of the journey at 40,000. It was time to relax. The A380 is a very silent aircraft, I could hear 60A and 60B chatting while I was myself seating in 62L! (I agree, 62L doesn’t sound like a business class seat number but we’ll have to get used to it. The last seat of the aircraft is 94L and there is no row 13). The seats are the same as the existing Affaires seats of AF’s long-haul fleet albeit the latest generation. They are lie flat seats in 2x2x2 configuration (like in AF’s A330 and A340), which is better than the dreaded 2x3x2 configuration of 772 and 77W. There are 26 seats only in the front Affaires cabin and I think they can all be considered as good seats except maybe 64 A & B at the rear which are close to the galley and the toilets.









I was in 62L and 62K was empty. The major innovation is the change of IFE provider. Rockwell had been blamed so many times by passengers that AF and Airbus eventually decided to go for the Thales IFE system on the A380. Nicely designed remote (doesn’t look very robust though) and Sennheiser headsets:






Last edited by Falco Peregrinus; Nov 30, 09 at 6:34 am
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Old Nov 30, 09, 8:06 am
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There are still a lot of hiccups with the Thales system. The IFE did not start 4:30, 2 hours after take off that is.





It seems that Thales is providing technical on board support for all A380 flights for a few weeks (a PNC even mentioned 3 months!). The Thales engineer was wearing a Thales name tag around the neck and was pacing the aisles during the whole flight, regularly intercepted by passengers who were shouting “Monsieur Thales, ça marche pas !” (Mr Thales, it doesn’t work!) at him.


Last edited by Falco Peregrinus; Nov 30, 09 at 8:13 am
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Old Nov 30, 09, 8:14 am
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Drinks service started at 3 PM (a glass of Crozes-Hermitage Les Allégories 2006 for me) with a small pack of Fauchon cheese crackers.

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Old Nov 30, 09, 8:18 am
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30 min later, the “traditional service” (lunch), as AF calls it, commenced.

Choice of Hors d’Œuvre

Terrine of duck foie gras accompanied by gingerbread and onion marmalade with Sultana raisins

or

Tomato crumble with goat cheese and baby spinach complemented by Breton seaweed vinaigrette

Choice of Main Course

Tournedos of beef with béarnaise sauce, potato galette and buttered broccoli

or

Poached salmon with green peppercorn sauce, sautéed red beets and artichokes with tomato and jus

or

Plat du jour: duck confit accompanied by sautéed fingerling potatoes with herbs and mushrooms in a Bordeaux style sauce

Our Special Selection of Cheese

Camembert, Fourme d’Ambert, Sainte-Maure

Assortment of desserts

Sachertorte, apple tartlet, sherbet served with cookies, choice of fresh fruit

Expresso is served at our bar Espace


Wine List

Champagne Lanson Black Label Brut

Chablis Champs Royaux 2006 William Fèvre

Crozes-Hermitage Les Allégories 2006 Antoine Ogier

Haut-Médoc Château Cantemerle 2003 ou 2004, Grand Cru Classé

Beverages

The Genlivet 12 years old, Ricard, Bourbon, Gin, Vodka, Bitter, Vermouth

Porto Tawny 10 years old

Cognac Delamain Pale and Dry XO Grande Champagne 1er Cru
Calvados 12 years old
Armagnac Hors d’Age
Pear brandy
Chartreuse jaune

Heineken beer

Fruité fruit juices : orange, tomato, apple
Pepsi, Pepsi Max, 7up, Schweppes Indian Tonic, Schweppes Agrum’

Nescafé coffee offered with a chocolate
Espresso illy and decaf Espresso illy
Teas and herbal tea selection: « La découverte des grands jardins », Fauchon
Van Houten hot chocolate

Mineral water

Saint Amand still water, Saint Amand sparkling water, Perrier
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Old Nov 30, 09, 8:22 am
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I went for the tomato crumble, with a glass of Lanson Champagne.



Followed by the poached salmon (I had a look at the duck but it wasn’t really mouth-watering) with Rully (the Chablis listed in the wine list was not available).



The tomato crumble was good; the salmon was OK but overcooked and did not really match the red beets.

Cheese was served with the diehard dummy vine leaf with small print on it (“Feuille factice – Reproduction interdite”: “Dummy leaf – All rights reserved”).



Note the slightly runny Camembert.
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Old Nov 30, 09, 10:37 am
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Great job! Keep it coming.
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Old Nov 30, 09, 11:22 am
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Thank you so much . Looking forward to the next installments as well as the flight back ...
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