2/25/10

Air France A380 (Paris-New York)



When I went to Cairo, I flew on KLM but on the way back to New York, I flew on Air France, its sister airline. Why? Because it's flying the A380, the world's largest commercial aircraft. After Emirates, Air France is the second airline company to fly the big plane to New York. It's currently the only A380 in their fleet, debuting to the skies in November 2009 and exclusively used on the busy Paris-New York trans-Atlantic route. Having flown on the A380 from Dubai last year, I took the chance to fly on it again. It's new, it's big, why shouldn't I?



Transit - I only had 2 hours layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport after a 4-hour flight from Cairo. Right outside the airbridge, French immigration officers were checking passports of all passengers, an indication of their extra vigilance especially on flights coming from North Africa and the Middle East. After passing through security, I went straight to my departure gate where a more intense secondary check was done on all New York-bound passengers. Everything in my possession was checked, even my wallet down to its tiny compartments for any trace of explosives while a male agent conducted a full body search on me. Never have I gone through such an intensive search since encountering paranoid Saudi customs in Jeddah airport many years ago.

Affaires Class -
that's not where I'm sitting

Boarding - Passengers trickled into the pre-departure gate slowly due to the secondary security checks. I wondered at that point if the plane would depart at 1:30 PM as scheduled when I saw a backlog of passengers waiting to be screened. One hour before take-off, boarding commenced. There were 3 lines leading to the 3 airbridges. Since my cabin is on the second deck, I took the dedicated lane that led to a flight of stairs and up into the airbridge directly connecting to the plane's second deck. Being one of the first passengers to board, it was a bump-free walk into my assigned seat by the window at the economy section.

Voyageur Class -
this is where I'm sitting

The aircraft is configured into three classes with a capacity for 538 passengers. Première (First Class) is at the front section on the lower deck and directly behind it is Voyageur (Economy Class). One floor up is Affaires (Business Class) with another Voyageur cabin behind. Two stairs at each end connect the two decks - which is truly great if only we could use them freely for a stair-a-thon exercise in the middle of a long flight.

The Seat - During reservations, I chose to sit on the upper deck since the seating configuration is 2-4-2 as opposed to the lower deck's 3-4-3. I love to sit by the window and one advantage in this cabin is the extra bin next to me which was good for storing items needed on the flight like my sleepers, toiletry kit and camera. The personal video screen in front is decently sized which offered plenty of choice for multi-media entertainment (including live views outside from the cameras mounted at the nose, belly and tail of the aircraft). Seat pitch is 32 inches - pretty much the same as the others but the seat width is a very good 19 inches (in other words, good for those with wider butts).

bienvenue!
my seat

The Flight
- As expected, we were pushed back from the gate half an hour late but the pilot announced it had more to do with resolving the entertainment technicality issue than what I thought was the gridlock earlier in the security checks (and this being a day flight taking seven hours and a half, I certainly want to watch a movie or two!). After reaching our cruising altitude, flight attendants went about distributing free headsets and menu cards. Drink service started soon after and mind you, Air France doesn't skimp - they serve champagne even in Economy Class.

bon appetit!
lunch

About an hour later, lunch was served: there were two choices and I had the Beef Ragout. Also on my tray was a Salmon starter, a Mandarin orange, Chocolate tarlet, and Camembert cheese. Since this is a French airline, I took advantage of the wine being offered and I was given a small bottle of 2008 Cotes du Ventoux La Vieille Ferme, a red wine. What can I say but this is one of the best lunches I've had in coach class 38,000 feet up in the sky!

red wine and cheese

After lunch, I wore my sleepers and went to the back of the cabin. I talked with a very friendly male crew at the galley who said it's perfectly OK to walk down the spiral staircase into the lower cabin. Which I did. It felt so good to finally do some walking up and down stairs mid-flight that using the lavatories on the lower deck became my sole excuse. I've been on the upper decks of Cathay Pacific's 747 but never had a chance to walk the way I did aboard Air France.

stairs to heaven?

I went back to my seat as soon as the seat belt signs were on: turbulence ahead. Any thoughts about this mammoth aircraft just sneezing at turbulence is certainly not true. We had moments when the plane actually jerked and the French among the passengers could only utter a very Gallic oui! One thing very obvious about the A380 is how quiet the cabin is. I could actually hear people talking 3 rows behind or 3 rows in front of me. But of course, that unintentional eavesdropping may not amuse everyone (just use the ear plugs: Air France provides them in the amenity kit along with socks and eye shade).

c'est si bon!
snacks

An hour before arrival, flight attendants brought the trolleys once more to serve snacks. I wasn't planning to eat again (as I wanted to eat dinner in New York) but I gladly accepted the meal tray so I can take a photo of it. Curious, I took one bite at the cheese sandwich, followed by another, and oh boy, it was good I ended up eating the whole thing - oops, there goes my dinner plans. I washed it down with a very great tasting yogurt drink.


The Arrival - My hope that we'll be catching up with our delayed departure was lost when the captain announced we were expecting a rainy arrival in New York. It meant only one thing: delay. On our descent, I could see from the flight path view on my screen how the captain did zigzag maneuvers just above Long Island. We were scheduled to arrive 3:45 PM but our touchdown was a quarter after 4 PM! And that was not the end of it: the runways were so busy that there was practically a traffic jam of departing/arriving airplanes and ours was put on queue in the taxi way, eventually stopping at our designated gate just before 5 PM. That's when reality hit me - I'm really back in New York City.

36 comments:

  1. paulbenedictp10:36:00 PM

    Thanks for sharing your Air France seat and that French meal with me! U

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  2. sidney17:11:00 PM

    I love to travel but more and more I hate to fly... the security is just getting too tight... and passangers are considered like a herd of animals...
    I thought the A380 would look much bigger. Anyway I think it is a special experience to travel on the world's biggest plane.

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  3. pusangkalye11:28:00 PM

    kelan kaya ako makaka-experience ng luxury cruise na ganyan? hehe---kabuhayan showcase ang value kasi e.lol

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  4. Baligtad tayo, we took Air France to Barcelona from SFO; then took KLM from Madrid to SFO.

    I really don't have any high expectations on airline food, but some of them is even good you know. I'm happy if there is wine, cheese, and crackers = I will survive a 11-hour trip :)

    So already planning on the next adventure?

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  5. Thanks for sharing the inside of A380. Do you find the airfare for this a bit higher? I wish it will fly out from LAX somedays!

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  6. The Nomadic Pinoy9:09:00 PM

    You're welcome Paul.

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  7. The Nomadic Pinoy9:11:00 PM

    The plane looked smaller from my perspective because I was standing at a higher level. If I was probably at the ground, that's when I can fully feel its size.

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  8. The Nomadic Pinoy9:13:00 PM

    Kapag lumago na ang kabuhayan showcase mo, for sure kaya mo na rin maranasan ito.

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  9. The Nomadic Pinoy9:15:00 PM

    Malalaman mo rin Maria kung saan ang sunod na pupuntahan ko. Nasa planning stage pa kasi.

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  10. The Nomadic Pinoy9:18:00 PM

    The airfare wasn't higher compared to the other aircraft type Air France flies to New York. It has more to do with seat inventory and it so happened I booked my ticket well in advance so I got a good price.

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  11. Wow. Very nice review. I should try catching the A380 sometime soon. But unfortunately, I am not flying to Paris, Dubai, Singapore, or Sydney in the near future. Tsk tsk tsk.

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  12. i was traumatized by french transport systems, thus my reluctance to fly air france. the food looks great, though - even the snack. and free champagne! :) i have to ask - are their fares any better?

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  13. Wow, high end plane (walang ganyan sa Pinas). Sosyal! Ü

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  14. I'm dying of envy. Not just because of your A380 experience, but of Air France's impeccable service! That lunch looks super yummy

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  15. the food seemed nice! not your regular plane course, i guess.

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  16. wow... nice!! they serve sashimi =p a380?? hohohoho nice!! i wanna fly with air france once also!!! cairo? i plan to visit eygpt next year :)

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  17. everything's nice! and yes,
    i'm drooling at your food trays-lunch & merienda! =)

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  18. Airport security is getting to be a real pain in the you-know-where. Sobra na! It is taking the fun out of air travel but it is something we have to deal with if we want to go places.

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  19. The Nomadic Pinoy6:24:00 PM

    Just like any airfare, it depends on when you buy it. I booked mine way in advance so I got a good price.

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  20. The Nomadic Pinoy6:25:00 PM

    I think there are other airline companies besides Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates and Air France waiting for their A380s to be delivered.

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  21. The Nomadic Pinoy6:26:00 PM

    Sosyal lang Chyng kapag nasa First Class or Business Class.

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  22. The Nomadic Pinoy6:27:00 PM

    It's really the inflight service that matters most but taking a flight on a brand new plane makes it perfect.

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  23. The Nomadic Pinoy6:28:00 PM

    As far as food quality goes, it's up there with Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

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  24. The Nomadic Pinoy6:29:00 PM

    No Fufu, it wasn't Sashimi but salmon with tomatoes and cucumber - really good! Do visit Egypt, you'll get a mega-dose of history.

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  25. The Nomadic Pinoy6:30:00 PM

    From a foodie like you, I know this kind of spread is a real treat!

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  26. The Nomadic Pinoy6:32:00 PM

    Security measures are really getting OTT but we've got to live with these for a long time indefinitely.

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  27. i love your pics :) i wish i can be a jetsetter like you!

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  28. Never pa ko nakasakay sa plane na may meal kahit international, heheheh lagi kasi budget-airline. The food looks really good. :-)

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  29. i love your pics :) i wish i can be a jetsetter like you!

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  30. i love your pics :) i wish i can be a jetsetter like you!

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  31. Fantastic A380! It's the best cabin design and food I've ever had for a long haul flight. Seat pitch of 32" seems the same with A340. I hope my 12-hour flight to London in May would be ok with A340... Thanks for sharing.

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  32. late comment... but anyway, i always enjoy reading your posts 'bout your air travels!

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  33. Good read! My mom and I are taking the JFK-CDG a380 in September. We chose our seats online and it didn't give us any option for the upper deck. Did you have to do something special to sit up there when ordering your ticket? Thanks!

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  34. Gogarygo,
    I booked my tickets through another website which allowed seat selection on the upper deck. I also checked AF's website to change seats but the upper deck was blocked. Strange, really.

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  35. Anonymous11:32:00 PM

    I just took an Air France flight aboard a Boeing 747-400 from Paris to SanFo and it took all of 11.5 hours. Seat pitch at the economy section was also 32", not much different from other airlines/aircraft. I think even PAL's economy section had more legroom.

    But food was nice! I liked their salmon salad!

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