Airline: Air France
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Route: Paris - Washington, D.C.
Date: March 2011
It has been quite a while since my last AF flight. In the meantime I had been flying a number of different airlines, so now I can compare better than before when I only flew Skyteam to reach my Platinum lifetime status.
To save parking costs I stayed the night before my flight at the Steigenberger Hotel in Langen where the Park, Sleep & Fly rate was 2/3 rd. of the estimated parking only costs at the aiport.
I did my online check-in but could not print the boarding passes without a printer. The first shuttle in the morning left at 6:00 a.m. with only two guests. I arrived at Frankfurt airport, terminal 2 D at 6:10. Plenty of time for a 7:25 flight.
I was waiting in line for the Affaires check in when suddenly a young girl approached me. "Sir, do you have your boarding pass? No? You MUST come with me". After having arrived at the CI-machine I had to put my passport in the machine and got my boarding pass in a second. Back to the CI line which had got much longer in the meantime, but no problem, the lady grabbed some other passengers and pulled them away.
First: The way she talked to people, especially Affaires passengers, was unacceptable. This lady has to learn the word "please".
Second: The CI machines (I usually prefer them!) were somehow hidden. Air France, why don't you place them somewhere where people see them?
Last but not least: I understand that Economy passengers are asked to use a machine. Economy passengers usually want to fly on the lowest prices, so you have to look for any penny in possible savings. But passenger in the premium classes should always have a choice.
The fligth to Paris was uneventful. The breakfast box has not changed for quite a time, but in Paris the big surprise: For the first time ever, when I arrived from Germany (normally I fly in from DUS or MUC) I had a finger dock at Terminal 2 D. I was out in a minute and waited outside for the bus to take me to T 2 E. I hate the long walk and the bus is very convenient. When I arrived at T2E the next bad surprise turned up. There was quite a long queue in front of the passport control, so this reminded me of Bangkok or some other Asian airports, but I had never seen this in Europe. Within 15 minutes I passed the control. Security was not too bad and took me only another 5 mins. It was just time for two fast cigarettes left before AF 28 to Washington announced boarding.
It was a Boeing 777-200 with only one row in First Class. I headed up to my favourite seat 3A and without too much delay we pushed back and were on our way to the American capital. The seats were only Nev2, so the old version without a footstop. They are pretty comfy if you are on a day flight, but I hate them on night flights. Shortly after departure the VOD went on and to my surprise they had newer movies than all the US airlines I had flown the weeks before. Seems that AF had learned a bit from KL when it comes to to onboard entertainment. The food served was not bad, but nothing special either. A good Business Class meal. The times that French cartering was something outstanding are definetly gone.
After some hours of sleep and a short meal before landing this uneventful and nice flight was over. We landed at Washington Dulles, and at the passport control nobody was in front of me, so no waiting time. When I entered the luggage hall the best surprise of the whole trip: Although it takes some minutes with those old fashioned buses to the immigration hall I had never experienced before that I pass passport control so fast and despite this short time my luggage was already waiting for me. And there were only "Priority" labeled bags on the belt. So the label is not only something to show other people which class you travel, it really did its job on this flight.
Where is Air France?
To say it clearly: Air France wants to be an upper class carrier and unfortunately it fails. They are o.k., no doubt about that, but not more. The seats, especially the Nev2s, are outdated. Fully flat is the new benchmark. The number 1 access lines in Paris are a joke. In order to be effective they would have to offer increased capacity. And last but not least they have to see who they hire. The way they talked to me in Frankfurt was a no-go.
At this moment I see Air France somewhere in the middle of all airlines. Not the best, not the worst. But during the last few years (especially since the introduction of Premium Economy) their Business Class fares have got far too expensive compared to the product they offer. Currently there is no reason for me to book them again, as long as British Airways, US Airways with the new Envoy or United with their new Business Class offer better prices.