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Delta CDG-ATL BusinessElite

Delta CDG-ATL BusinessElite

Old Jun 9, 09, 8:52 am
  #1  
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Delta CDG-ATL BusinessElite

Delta 29, CDG-ATL, 767-300 BusinessElite
Delta 5325 (Atlantic Southeast), ATL-MKE, CRJ-900, First
25 May 2009

The trip reports for the first two legs of this trip are here:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...0-mke-lga.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-business.html


After a fantastic week in Paris that went by way too quickly, it was time to head home. We headed by taxi to CDG, leaving our hotel (the Westin, a very good hotel, which I would use again) at 6:00am to make the 9:00am flight. We made it to the airport in about 30-40 minutes, where clearly-marked DL check-in was found without difficulty. There was no BusinessElite check-in open, but there was hardly anyone in line, so it didn’t matter. Check-in was handled by Air France staff, who, consistent with my prior experiences, were pleasant enough, but didn’t seem to be in too much of a rush. At one point, it looked like the check-in computers went down. There was a manager who stopped at each desk and tapped on each computer, then made some phone calls. All agents sat motionless, with expressionless looks on their faces, until the computers came back online a few minutes later. They then sprang back to life, as if connected by USB to their computers.

After check-in, we were directed to security via the Accès No1 line, which was short. The French security agents, obviously aware that foreigners, Americans included, are not used to the nuances of French airline security, were there to help: “Do you have a camera? Please take it out and put it on the belt. Do you have a computer? Please take it out and put it on the belt. Any other electronics, please take them out. Please keep your shoes on and walk through.” TSA agents, please note the use of the word “please,” and that speaking, rather than screaming, might help passengers to cooperate better instead of hate dealing with you. Basically, if you just did what they asked, security was not only a breeze, but actually pleasant.

Terminal 2E is quite a remarkable piece of architecture, with modern structure throughout the check-in area, and a gate area reminiscent of the hull of a ship. The use of metal, wood, and light is harmonious and beautiful. A walk to our gate to view our Delta 767-300 (wavy-gravy livery) was followed by walking in circles trying to find the Air France lounge, which Air France agents finally pointed us toward. Maybe we were tired, but it didn’t seem well-marked.

The Air France lounge was, once again, a step up from the CO, DL and NW lounges I’m used to. It was bright, with white floors, black leather furniture, and contemporary flowery artwork on the walls. Agents were available for help and greeted customers as they walked by. The breakfast spread consisted of good-quality croissants, pain au chocolat, other pastries, cheese, yogurt, good bread, juices, espresso, and brewed coffee. A couple croissants and cappuccino were perfect at that time. I strolled around the lounge and checked out the showers, which looked nice and would be welcome during a long connection between international flights.

Boarding was very orderly, and my curiosity about Delta’s BusinessElite and the whole DL/AF comparison were soon satisfied. We were greeted and directed to our seats, in Row 3, where Delta’s nice pillows, duvets, bottled water, amenity kits and headphones awaited. The amenity kits were very similar to AF, in a cloth box, with socks, eye shades, pen, and toiletries. The AF kit from the outbound flight also had a cloth shoe-bag, which was a welcome travel accessory. Despite all the criticism (and my hesitation) about a business class seat that measured only 18.5” wide, the seats were very comfortable. There wasn’t quite as much storage space to put carry-on items in easy reach as there was in AF Affaires, but it was adequate.

I think Delta’s BusinessElite seats deserve some explanation. The published 18.5” seat width makes them sound (and get criticized) like glorified coach seats. This could not be further from the truth. Like most recliners, they are very comfortable to sit in. While CO’s seats are wider, DL’s seats on the 763 have more contour and support. Seat width is not one measurement up and down the seat. I don’t know the technical terms, but the butt-width was 18.5”, which is plenty of room (at least for both of us, and I’m 6’, medium build and broad-shoulders, my partner 6’2, thinner, broad-shoulders). The seat-back fans out once it clears the armrest console, so shoulder-width is considerable more. The only major downside of the decreased width is no privacy canopy. This was no problem travelling with someone, but a little more privacy if travelling, especially sleeping, next to a stranger would have been nice.

Pre-flight drinks were served, and we were welcomed and given menus by the purser. We taxied out on-time and had wheels-up at 9:30am. Takeoff was smooth, and we climbed out through a few bumps and past some cumulonimbus clouds. About an hour into the flight, brunch service began with drinks and bread. After what we ate in the AF lounge, these croissants were clearly not made in France! The appetizer plate was a square plate containing a rectangular plate and two smaller square plates, which made for contemporary presentation. Appetizers were fruit with cinnamon yogurt, smoked salmon with capers and cream cheese, and salami with havarti cheese. I was going to choose the salmon until I realized we were getting all three. They were all tasty, and this was the best course of both our meals. Neither of us were very hungry by the time our main courses arrived, since we’d just eaten breakfast in the lounge a couple hours before. I had apple-stuffed french toast, which was the Michelle Bernstein Selection and was tasty, though I only ate half. My partner had the grilled fillet of beef with scrambled eggs, asparagus, ricotta and potatoes. The steak was overcooked to smithereens, and the eggs were of high-school-cafeteria consistency and taste. Other options included linguine with spinach and gorgonzola sauce, and a cold plate with roast beef and grilled shrimp.
I have read a lot about aviation food and wine, as cooking is a big hobby of ours, and try to explain to him that steak is risky on a plane, because it is too easy to overcook. Eggs can be easily overcooked or undercooked, and we have all experienced both on breakfast flights. Fish and vegetarian dishes are a much safer bet, and cold seafood is an extremely safe bet, but both on the outbound and return he just wouldn’t listen. Any dish in a broth-based sauce, which fish often is, is a safe bet, as the broth keeps the fish from drying out, even in the likely event of overcooking. I’ve had fish and vegetarian dishes that have ranged from okay to great, and I’ve seen and had meat dishes that range from awful to great. This is also why I am pleased that Delta is rolling out more cold meals on domestic flights, as I’ve generally found the cold options better quality and more reliable than the hot ones (though there are exceptions) on both DL and NW. There are some natural constraints in the preparation, heating and finishing of airline food, whether low-end or high-end, that need to be respected. Then again, if something’s not conducive to that process, why serve it?

Cheese and ice cream courses were offered, but we were stuffed. They looked good, but we knew we could always go up front and grab some fruit or chocolate, if (when) the sweet-tooth struck. During the meal, we watched England and Scotland slide by, pointing out some of the places in Scotland we’d been a couple years before.

After that meal, I reclined the seat all the way and noticed that my feet had barely enough room under the reclined seat ahead. For my 6’2” partner, there was not enough room, and he had to keep his leg-rest down a bit. The seats were overall comfortable, though. No business-class seat is perfect, and overall we both liked these seats, despite their idiosyncrasies, which all seats have. Snuggled under the duvet, with the pillow in place and some magazines in my lap, I read a little and dozed a little for the next several hours, waking up to see the southern tip of Greenland, thanks to our northerly course, which kept us within about 90min of land the whole way. We made landfall at the Labrador coast, which is very dramatic to see from the air, with the jagged, sparsely-inhabited terrain.

The FAs came around with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and coffee about mid-flight. I headed up to the galley instead and got a banana and some Toblerone chocolate. Bottled water was there for the taking, but I don’t remember whether the FAs did a water-run. They were pretty constantly in the cabin, though, so it would have been easy to ask for some.

The lavatory wasn’t tidied-up during the flight, as far as I could tell, in contrast to the outbound AF flight and a recent NW WBC MSP-HNL flight. There were regular lavatory amenities, like soap. In contrast, the AF Affaires lavatories were kept clean and also featured facial cleanser, moisturizer and toner.

I sat up, watched Québec and New England slip by, reminiscing about good childhood times and recent vacations in Vermont and Québec. Plugging in my laptop to do some photo-editing from the trip, I found the in-seat power to work fine. I can’t comment much on the IFE, as I didn’t really use it outbound or on the return.

About 90 minutes out from Atlanta, lunch was served. I had a cold smoked salmon salad with greens and potatoes, with a side of fresh fruit (it was fresh), and breadsticks. It was excellent, and I highly recommend it. My partner had a hot chicken sandwich with pesto and provolone, with a side of salad that I think was shredded carrots and jicama. Both came with chocolates. Lunch was cleared away, and we descended past lots of thunderstorms but had a surprisingly smooth descent. Landing at ATL was smooth.

The US Customs fiasco at major airports never ceases to make me wonder why I just didn’t stay in Europe. The forms, lines, impolite agents, etc, are just a rude awakening that the vacation is OVER. Of course, there is no elite line for any part of this process (nor do I think there is one anywhere in the US, but correct me if I’m wrong). The line for passport control was about 45 minutes, and that was with an arrival at 12:30, at the early end of international arrivals at ATL. The baggage claim and customs were quick, though, so the whole process took about an hour. That’s still quicker than my past experiences at EWR and DTW. Security again had very rude TSA agents just screaming at everyone in angry voices. I made the same rant about JFK security on the outbound trip report, but why is this necessary at all? As a native Southerner, I’d expect Southerners to be more of an example of how to be nice! The South and the Midwest really have this niceness in common (not to the exclusion of other parts of the country) and should try to be more forward examples!

Overall, ATL was not a bad place to do an international connection. I intentionally booked a 3-hour connection time, which made for a very comfortable connection. Other people around me had 60-90 minute connections and were far more stressed. It’s better to have the travel day take an hour or two longer but have less stress; it’s less draining that way, at least for us. Also, although ATL was a little out-of-the-way for a flight from Europe to Wisconsin, the total travel time was actually less through ATL with a 3-hour connection than it would have been through CVG or DTW, just due to how the connections worked out.

We headed over to our connecting terminal, B. There were two crowded SkyClubs there, but a nice gentleman from North Carolina offered to let us take two seats at his table, which was much appreciated. We caught up on our voicemail and email (the free WiFi without the TMobile card is a nice improvement) and got our boarding passes reprinted, as sometimes the DL barcode readers have issues with the AF barcode. The SkyClub agent said they’ve got it “almost-solved.”

We headed over to our gate, through a very crowded terminal. The CRJ-900 arrived with a slight delay from Toronto but left pretty close to on-time.

This is our second CRJ-900 flight, the other being with Mesaba, and it’s becoming one of my favorite domestic airplanes for first class. The seats are very comfortable, the windows are large, the ride is smooth, and the front cabin is super-quiet. The overhead space on the C/D side of the plane is normal-size, while there are little overhead bins on the A-side, which can hold purses or camera bags, but not much more. I used the little one for my camera bag and placed my carry-on backpack on the C/D side luggage bin. The FA up front had a heavy New England accent, which was a fun juxtaposition for Atlantic Southeast Airlines. At one point, she told the food service guy who was loading the plane, “I don’t have enough snacks.” He replied, “Well, that’s all I got on the truck.” “WELL THEN GO GET MOAH!!!” And he did.

We had a super-smooth and quiet takeoff and climb past some thunderheads, and headed north. Drinks were constantly refilled and the snack basket (proudly kept full by the FA who fought for our snacks) passed several times. I felt this was more than adequate for a 90min, mid-afternoon flight. She went back to help the coach FA a few times, too.

After a smooth descent with a good view of downtown Milwaukee and the lakefront, we landed and started taxiing toward the old DL gates. I commented to my partner how odd that is, as I thought DL had moved into the NW gates at the other concourse. Just then we flipped a U-turn on the ramp and headed back toward the NW concourse. That got a few chuckles in the cabin. As our FA opened the door and felt the 50-deg Wisconsin May weather, she grabbed the microphone and said, “Put on yoah coats; it’s FAREEEZING heah!”

Baggage was quick, typical of MKE arrivals, regardless of airline, and soon we were on our way home to Madison.

Overall, Delta was very good, as was Air France (see the outbound trip report at the link at the top of this report). They are different, with the AF service more French in quality (reserved but technically excellent, with good food but not overabundant portions. DL had more American-style service, with new-world wines, more casually-friendly FAs, and abundant quantities of food that was overall good quality. Seats on both were different but both good. I would not hesitate to fly either internationally again and would probably choose based on convenience. For all the bashing DL’s 763 BusinessElite seat gets, I thought it was comfortable, even as a big guy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this plane on the MSP-HNL run in the future, as A330s will probably be needed for higher-capacity and higher-profit-margin routes. Delta’s new seats going in on the 777s and 764s will, however, be welcome.

Thanks for reading my trip reports. All comments and constructive feedback are welcome!
msntriathlete is offline  
Old Jun 9, 09, 10:10 am
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Once more, very pleasant and upbeat reading during lunchtime in rainy Montreal. Merci encore une fois.
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Old Jun 9, 09, 11:53 am
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Originally Posted by msntriathlete View Post
The US Customs fiasco at major airports never ceases to make me wonder why I just didn’t stay in Europe. The forms, lines, impolite agents, etc, are just a rude awakening that the vacation is OVER. Of course, there is no elite line for any part of this process (nor do I think there is one anywhere in the US, but correct me if I’m wrong). The line for passport control was about 45 minutes, and that was with an arrival at 12:30, at the early end of international arrivals at ATL. The baggage claim and customs were quick, though, so the whole process took about an hour. That’s still quicker than my past experiences at EWR and DTW.
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uavking is offline  
Old Jun 9, 09, 1:51 pm
  #4  
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Another excellent report! Glad you enjoyed both DL and AF.

The food sounds excellent on both carriers, though I agree that you always have to think twice before ordering steak.
MatthewLAX is online now  
Old Jun 9, 09, 6:16 pm
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Originally Posted by MatthewLAX View Post
Another excellent report! Glad you enjoyed both DL and AF.

The food sounds excellent on both carriers, though I agree that you always have to think twice before ordering steak.
I had steak on AC in Executive First (B777) and it was quite tasty, certainly not overdone. Except for salmon, my experience with other fish was not always that great.
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Old Jun 9, 09, 7:47 pm
  #6  
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I think its great trip reports and I don't see the photos of your trip. Maybe next time if he need to get better pictures inside of the aircraft and the AF lounge, too. Also, I am flying next trip out of PHX-ATL-ZRH end of December 22-29 in the BusinessElite Class. It will be my third TATL flight out of USA. I will have more enjoyable the flight out of PHX on December 22. I am flying in J class for ATL-ZRH-ATL & F class for PHX-ATL-PHX. So it will be more comfortable to get sleep in the J class. I am sitting in the front row. I will have write the trip reports & included the photos, too.
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Old Jun 9, 09, 8:29 pm
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Great TR, glad to read the comparisons you saw between DL and AF. My experiences with both airlines are very close to what you saw and went through. ^
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Old Jun 13, 09, 6:00 am
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Awesome TR thanks.

Great to read a positive TR on AF - as many that I have read have been less than complimentary.

Sometimes it depends on how well you treat people, as to how well they treat you in return. This obviously is a skill you have well honed - as you seemed to get the best out of the crews you travelled with.

My thoughts are still with the AF crew, as I write this they are still reporting on Television news - that they are retrieving items from the ocean.

May all their souls rest in peace.

Adam
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