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Vive La Air France

Vive La Air France

Old Jan 31, 2024, 4:18 am
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Vive La Air France

Ssshhhhh. Donít tell anyone Iím here.

I have a confession to make.

I love AF. No not that AF. The real AF.

Iíve only flown them a few times, and in a way, I feel bad, because Iíve never actually paid cash for a ticket.

Only used Flying Blue miles.

Which, letís be honest, are a cracker.

I mean, 55,000 miles for Business one way from the US to Europe?

Come on.

Maybe the good folks from Flying Blue were all sitting at a little Parisian bistro, had obviously eaten way too much cheese and were all hammered when they came up with the redemption levels.

You can tell they were drunk because some days itís 55,000 and the next - itís like 11 million (I blame that on those plonkers from DL who showed up late to the meeting and were outraged when they saw the scribbles on the back of wine soaked napkins).

This week is our company kick off meeting in London.

I work for a small firm but we have a ton of miles across various cards so our CEO (who is an airline dork like me) decided we should try and use miles to get the team to and from The Empire.

Originally, I burned some Alaska miles and pulled an AA First award, flying from DEN to DFW, and then DFW to LHR. But after I read various reviews from the Sign Me Up Scotty Credit Card bloggers, I decided against it. Flagship First sounded about as appealing as jock itch.

I know AA is a big airline. But thereís something about them that isnít quite right. I know youíre nodding in agreementÖ

Take their website. It looks and feels like it was built by the CEOís 92 year old Uncle who is off his meds. Its goofy. I mean this is a company that generated $53B in revenue last year.

If AA were a person, theyíd be that dork in your high school year book who everyone thought was a nobody until they were in a Turkish prison for ripping off 17 governments.

So I canceled that and pulled a Flying Blue Business award from EWR to CDG.

To ensure I wouldnít piss off the good folks at UA Global Services, I had to buy the last First seat from DEN to EWR.

I felt bad for at least 3 milliseconds as I swooped in less than 24hrs prior to departure and bought the last F seat out from under the 60 minions on the upgrade list who were waiting to snatch that last 757 lay flat seat to Noo-werkÖ

Twenty years ago, I remember EWR as being the worst airport in the US. By a country mile. I detested flying out of the place. Iím sure to get a job at EWR, no matter what the role, the first thing the hiring manager probably asked you to do was cuss like a sailor and your success or failure in the interview all came down to your ability to hurl abuse and insults.

I mean, when you get snarky people at SFO or DFW, itís like being kissed by your sister. Itís not pleasant but you put up with it.

When you get abused by someone at EWR, itís an epic event. These people insult you, your family, your village and your local Rabbi. And you arenít even jewish.

Anyway.

I make it to EWR ok and had to collect bags. Easy enough. Then AirTran it around to another Terminal to check in at Air France.

The DL folks, still reeling from their award redemption meeting in Paris, decided to punish AF and spoke to the Mafia who run the airport and demanded that they put the AF check in at the basement. You know you upset someone when they put you beside some tin pot airline called Spirit.

Bloody dreadful.

Check in was a breeze, only because this was a very light load.

There was an impossibly cute person checking in the Priority whatever line they have. She berated me for my bags being slightly overweight.

ďYouíre too heavyĒ she said
ďPardon me?Ē
ďYes youíre a little overweightĒ

I thought to myself cheeky young thing. I mean, I know I just got back from Xmas down under and yes, my jeans were a little tight but I blamed that on my motherís cooking.

Apparently, AF rules say your bags canít be more than 23 kgs. No clue however many pounds that is.

UA on the other hand, will basically let you check in a 20 foot shipping container. If your bag is more than 980 pounds, they simply put a ďheavyĒ tag on it and tell their hapless ramp staff to ďbend their kneesĒ.

The cute young AF person then apologized that there was no lounge facility at EWR and proceeded to give me $35 in food vouchers. Quite what happened to their lounge is beyond me.

When I made the AF booking - I purposely chose a window seat in the second cabin. I think it was the new J.

But when I came to actually check in, someone who lives with their parents, wears a cardigan and works as a load controller at AF decided to change planes at the last minute and sent a jet with much less capacity.

No matter, it was still excellent. I was in 1C.

Because I am a self confessed UA fan boy, itís always interesting to see how other airlines run.

Letís take the boarding process.

UA take this seriously and like to board their jets 3 hrs before scheduled take off.

Ok, Iím kidding. But UA people know what Iím talking about.

The UA boarding process goes something like this.

1. People who need assistance
2. People whoís dogs need assistance
3. People whoís house number is odd
4. People who used to date someone with the letter starting with M
5. Active/Inactive and AWOL military people. In fact, if you tell the UA staff that your cousins Uncle knew someone who got pregnant in the back of a minivan on an army base in Wisconsin, thatís close enough.
6. Global Services
7. 1K
8. Groups 2 thru 56
9. Members of the Quilting Association of America.

Whereas the AF boarding process is a lot more simple.

It basically goes like this.

1. Sky Priority and Business Class
2. All other minions

And thatís it.

It was a little bizarre if Iím honest.

Iím assuming AF has different levels of frequent fliers. Perhaps they group it into people who drink. And then everyone else. I have no clue.

But when the boarding time came, there were a lot of gate staff who were watching the TikTokís and didnít seem to care that the departure time came and went.

Then a bossy woman came over the PA and said everyone line up. Either group one or group two.

Then we waited.

And waited some more.

Obviously the AF Captain was trying to text his wife and his mistress at the same time and then got confused as to what he was doing so needed time to come up a good story. He had no time to worry about push back.

They eventually let everyone onboard.

I love the AF business cabin.

My daughter would say its ďbougeeĒ

Whatever the hell that means.

And this wasnít even the new Business. The swanky one.

But it was very nice. Loved the seat. And the screen. Bedding was a little basic compared to UA (admittedly they do this well in Polaris)

The AF crew were an eclectic bunch.

My sister often says I dress like a troll. So I am hardly a good judge of other peoples attire.

But I couldnít help notice that there didnít appear to be a dress code for the crew. Some of them looked like they had slept in what they were wearing, they all seemed to be wearing different parts of a uniform and it looked a little off.

But everyone was super happy, super friendly and the front J cabin seemed almost full. I did ask one of the crew and she told me the load was very light down the back but please dont go down there as nothing good would come of it. Fair enough.

The crew couldnít get the safety video to play, so they resorted to doing it manually. Well, at least some of them did. I think it went something like thisÖ
  • Your seat belt goes on like this. Voila.
  • Your life jacket goes on like that. Voila.
  • We fly across water to Paris. Voila.
  • Good chance we get wet if we crash. Voila.
Now, who would like champagne?

Take off is quick and the hard core AF frequent flyers have already nodded off. I on the other hand was impressed with their menu and because I didnít use the $35 vouchers at the airport, decided to stay up and wait for dinner.

I really do like these A350ís. They are quite swanky.

AF had real multi page menus with descriptions written in English and French. As opposed to the flimsy card you get in Polaris which basically outlines main courses which are going to cause you to be moderately ill to violently ill.

Because itís Air France, drinks starts off with champagne. For everyone. There isnít a choice. They basically pour 4 glasses to a tray and the crew scoot off down the aisles giving glasses of bubbles to everyone. I have no idea if people said no but because I was in 1C, I saw a lot of back and forth and heard a lot of corks popping. Not wanting to be rude, I told them to simply put whatever they couldnít sell on my table.

The champagne was most delicious. It was Brut Reserve Telmont.

Then dinner was served. I even took a picture. Iím sure Ben over on OMAAT is reeling with jealousy.

Hereís the thing. Iíd be curious to see the actual cost difference in what AF pay ex EWR for catering versus what UA pay.

I will say this though. I had the chicken as a main and it was actually recognizable as a piece of chicken and it was the best chicken I have ever had on board an aircraft. And that was after quite a few glasses of champers.

The crew were very attentive, kept refilling water, wine, bubbles. When I asked for an espresso, the FA who was looking after me, started to shake gently and apologized profusely that the Nespresso machine was on the fritz and that only regular coffee was available.

I could hear him in the galley moments later, yelling ďsacrť bleuĒ and insulting all things italian.

While AF provides an excellent product - any flight from New York to Europe is going to be quick. Sleep is hard. We were scheduled to be 7hrs 5 mins, but as a result of the jet stream plus the fact that the captain had to meet both his wife and mistress within 2hrs and had both feet on the throttles, the Airbus twin jet screamed its way across the pond and landed in record time.

The thing I like about AF is that they dont actually take themselves too seriously as a brand. They take wine and food seriously - both on the ground and in the air. Their crew appear to well trained, apart from the ones who are sleeping with each other, and their fleet is modern and up to date. I really like them. UA would be well to book some Business seats on AF and have their catering folks take copious notes.

Whatever sense of calm you might have achieved while flying to Europe, once you land at CDG, all bets are off. The place is nuts.

You walk thru a maze and then come to immigration. Thankfully, Sky Priority people had a faster lane but it didnít help much because we were all funneled to the one agent. To be fair, it didnít take too long. You then drop down a level and pick up bags, which were a lot quicker than most US airports. Then you walk thru a lot of bored customs folks who really couldnít care less what you are bringing into their country.

My final destination was London and I decided years ago that I would try and avoid CDG and LHR for domestic flight transfers so I had booked a seat on Eurostar, which is about a 45 min car ride to Gare du Nord, or apparently thereís a rather rustic domestic train you can catch from CDG to GDN.

I love Eurostar from Paris to London. Itís civilized, efficient, the wifi worked the whole way and was quick and someone brings you a meal and a glass of wine. Itís 2hrs 15 mins soup to nuts.

You could easily spend 2hrs trying to find your gate at CDG and Iíve spent what felt like 2 days trying to navigate LHR and moving from one terminal to another on 3 buses, 2 donkeys and a drunk camel. And Iíve been going to and from LHR for 25+ years.

So thatís it. My Air France ride to Paris.

If you havenít yet flown them, you need to add them to your bucket list. I definitely want to try La Premiere before my liver fails. You should too.

Safe travels my pathetic friendsÖ
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 3:34 pm
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@eightblack is back!
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Last edited by 000; Jan 31, 2024 at 3:47 pm
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 6:32 pm
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Originally Posted by 000
@eightblack is back!
You beat me to it! 😀 Welcome back. I still think of your road trip to JFK in the snow all those years ago and smile. I hope your family is well.
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 7:02 pm
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Yay! A treat to find a new Eightblack TR!
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 7:05 pm
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Smile

Originally Posted by eightblack
Ssshhhhh. Don’t tell anyone I’m here.

<clipped quoted post>
Oh my god eightblack is back, Thank the Heavens. That said, you have a couple of trs that are not finished!

Last edited by JY1024; Feb 4, 2024 at 11:23 pm Reason: clipped quoted post for readability
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 7:15 pm
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That was a very short visit
Hope to see you soon
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Old Jan 31, 2024, 7:59 pm
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Enjoyable report

Whereís the final episode of your Lake Como trip?
eightblack
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 1:16 am
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He’s back! Here I am, bored sitting in the QF F lounge and find another eightblack report

Staff are lovely here and drinks are flowing.
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 1:41 am
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OP is full of wit, and I loved the post! but in the event anyone thinks the comment about Flying Blue awards is hyperbole, I can assure you they are not. I'm flying from Italy to MSP Instead of SEA because it was a difference of 70,000 vs 1,000,000 miles.
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 7:41 am
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Really like your no-nonsense personal experience accuount
Its high time airlines realise that respecting the premium customer and their needs should be the focus of their product at all levels, from check-in, security, lounges, boarding, welcome and greeting/seating, food and wine product, bed quality etc etc
US flight attendants are unlikely to ever embrace the concept of ethical customer service
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 9:05 am
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Any new TR by eightblack is an event! Thanks for a wonderful read!
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 11:20 am
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Fantastic trip report love your sense of humourÖ
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 12:35 pm
  #13  
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Loved this trip report! Maybe I should do something similar...
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 2:38 pm
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Thanks for the report. I’m always happy on AF. A few winters ago, I got an ORD-CDG business class ticket for 29,000 miles, due to winter sale and transfer bonus. But I’m happily flying this month for around 55,000 miles. And the new ORD Delta lounge is a nice way to start a trip.
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Old Feb 1, 2024, 7:02 pm
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Spectaculaire, merci!
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