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Air France A330 J class BLR-CDG-BOM + Arrivals Lounge

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Joined: 26 May 2008
Posts: 564
Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:26 pm    Post subject: Air France A330 J class BLR-CDG-BOM + Arrivals Lounge Reply with quote

This is my first trip report posted on, so will appreciate feedback. Thanks in advance.

Cross posted from my blog. Please visit the site for high resolution photos especially of the menus.

Trip Report
Bangalore to Paris Charles De Gaulle. AF191. Scheduled departure 01:50. Actual departure 02:30 (40 minute delay). Scheduled arrival 08:35. Actual arrival 08:50. Aircraft Airbus A330-200 registration F-GZCE.

New attitude
Apparently a critical component, of the new "Best and Beyond" initiative of Air France, is staff attitude. The change is visible starting right from the kerbside. I found a porter with a SkyPriority plaque waiting when you arrive.

The SkyPriority service is offered to all premium class passengers from Premium Economy upwards, and to all SkyTeam elite members from Silver level on upwards. Other than the erstwhile Kingfisher, I have not seen any other airline offer a kerbside porter service in Bangalore. Even overseas, I have seen it offered only to first class passengers.

Check-in, lounge and boarding
Despite my many requests for him to help other passengers, the porter insisted, and whisked me in to the terminal, expediting the cumbersome passport check by the CISF. I was late, arriving at 1:05am for a scheduled 1:50am flight, but which was delayed to 2:30am. Check-in was smooth, quick and efficient. My boarding passes were issued, and my baggage checked, all the way to Amsterdam.

Off I went, through immigration, on to the customs desk to declare all my camera equipment, and then through security, where I am required to take out each piece of camera equipment before scanning the bag, and where my cigarette lighter was seized, as it is not allowed. This is contradictory to my experiences at the security checks of 12 different airports in three continents I have been to in the last six months. But security checks at Indian airports are a whole different subject.

I barely had time to step inside the Oberoi run lounge at the Bengaluru International Airport, and I was thankful. The lounge is badly over-crowded, stuffy, hot, and poorly equipped to handle to the volume of premium passengers departing Bangalore. I am told that the new terminal expansion will solve this problem. Expect a separate article on this subject later.

Boarding was a smooth affair, and well managed.

Cabin product
You step in to a very calm and soothing cabin decked out in navy blue and white. Air France aircraft may have a reputation for being dirty looking on the outside, but the inside was spic and span. The smiles and welcome by the cabin crew, were genuine and warm.

The business class has 40 seats in two sections, in a six abreast 2-2-2 layout. 61 inch pitch and 21.5 inch seat width. It features shell seats and unlike some of the other angled lay flat seats, has a good headrest which conforms to the rest of the seat when it reclines fully. The arm-rest goes down during the recline adding to the width. You will also find the lack of the bottom end of the leg-rest. Instead Air France provides a type of cubby-hole inside the seat-back which I found more comfortable than any of the lay-flat seats I have experienced till now. I am a notoriously poor sleeper on angle lay-flat seats, but I did manage about four hours in Air France, which is the longest. So the seats win my seal of approval.

Unlike other premium economy cabins which are more of an upgraded economy class, on the Air France Airbus A330-200, the premium economy cabin almost identical to the business class cabin, with the exception of the one additional seat to give a seven abreast 2-3-2 layout. There are 21 seats in three rows. 38 inch seat pitch, 19 inch seat width. I was later informed that Air France is the only airline that uses the similar shell seats of its business class in its premium economy class.

The economy class cabin is bright in the national colours of France, blue, red and white. The 147 seats are in the Airbus standard, eight abreast in a 2-4-2 configuration. 32 inch seat pitch, 18 inch seat width.

The trip, service, meals, in-flight entertainment

We departed at 2:30am, about 40 minutes past our scheduled departure. Trip time 10h15m. The flight route was from Bangalore, NNW, over Mumbai, turning WNW skirting the southern coast of Pakistan, turning NW entering Iran near Chabahar close to the Pakistan border, through Azerbaijan, over Tbilisi, Georgia, over Sevastopol in Southern Russia, Moldova, turn westerly, skirting northern Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, southern Czech Republic, Germany, in to France.

The flight was quite bumpy from take-off, so meal service was slightly delayed. The French are gastronomes and the meals reflect it. The fish I had was on of the better ones I have had anywhere, on board, or on ground. Deliciously prepared, cooked to creamy perfection, not rubbery at all.

The wine list was unusual and offered decent wines, but are not a match to the cellars of Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, or even Lufthansa. Considering wine and France are inseparable, this is an area the airline has to improve on.

The pre-arrival breakfast service was good. Nice breads, butter, preserves, and an espresso machine on-board for my double espressos kept me happy.

Through the flight, the crew puts out a small buffet near the galley with fruits, cheeses, small sandwiches, nuts and chocolates for those wanting a small snack.

Through the flight the cabin crew service was good, attentive and responsive. While Air France still has a way to go before it catches up to the leaders Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, the change in attitude is refreshing, and service levels are close to its main European competitor, ex-India, Lufthansa.

If there was a let down, it was the in-flight entertainment (IFE), audio video on-demand (AVOD) system. While the content was good, it was fairly limited, and the screens are not too big. The user interface, and its navigation is, clunky and tests your patience. For a passenger flying Air France long haul about two or three flights a month, it is okay, but more than that, and you will start feeling the pinch of the lack of volume in terms of content.

Paris Arrivals lounge
All Air France-KLM long haul international flights to and from Paris CDG airport are from terminal 2E on concourses K, L, M. Looks like the concourse names are no coincidence. Air France had ground staff stationed who patiently explained each enquiring passenger how to get to their respective flights.

A hidden gem of information, at Paris, is the Arrivals Salon Lounge of Air France. Tucked away at the junction of terminals 2C and 2A, this petite lounge is easy to miss. I must apologise but the memory card of the pictures of this lounge got corrupted, and I have none to share with you. However, the shower facilities and amenities kit are the same as per this trip report on <i><a>Air France AF 006: 03/2013: CDG-JFK: J Cabin: 380</a></i> <font>(by <a>abrelosojos</a> Oct 10 2013 in Trip Reports)</font>

If you are arriving in to Paris, or have a longish connection (two or more hours) to a Schengen country, this lounge is a must visit. It has a great set of shower facilities, with one of the most complicated shower temples I have seen. Multiple jets blasting hot water just soothe those tired muscles. The lounge provides a complete toilet kit with L'Occitane en Provence personal care products, including a razor and toothbrush.

Once showered, there is a great breakfast. Despite a small area, I found the breakfast spread better than the large Salon departure lounges in concourse K when I departed back to Mumbai. There is the usual fantastic French breads, along with butter, preserves, and charcuterie. Eggs, fruits, yoghurt, crackers, cheese, varieties of drinks complete the feast.

Paris Amsterdam Paris domestic flights
Showered and fed, I headed to terminal 2F from where all the Air France flights to Schengen countries depart. Very honestly, this one hour flight both onward to Amsterdam and return, was extremely routine, pretty much like any other short-distance domestic flight.

The arrival concourse of Terminal 2F is extremely futuristic with its metal and glass construction. Makes on feel like they are in some Sci-Fi movie.

Paris Mumbai flight AF218.
An almost carbon copy of the Bangalore Paris flight, except for a more elaborate lunch starting with an L'amuse-bouche, appetiser, main course, cheese tray, and dessert. Great for a foodie like me.

The aircraft coincidentally was the same one I had flown from Bangalore to Paris, just five days earlier, Airbus A330-200 registration F-GZCE. We departed on schedule, and thanks to some fantastic tailwinds, made it to Bombay one hour ahead of schedule.

I flew Air France after a gap of almost 25 years. The business class is much like other European carriers, but with a much more calm and soothing touch, compared to the energy of Lufthansa's new business class. The change in crew attitude was refreshing, and it appears to be yielding results. There was only one seat free in business class, and none free in premium economy on my outbound flight. Even on the return to Mumbai, the flight had just one seat empty.
Bangalore Aviation
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Devesh-ji, for a wonderful trip report, coupled with some really classy pictures. AF seem to have a nice J product - and extremely innovative of them is to have the unique Y+. Your food pictures had me raiding the fridge at a quarter to eleven at night. The J class snack bar sounds nice, surely there would have been drinks also around? Juices, water, and soft drinks at least, if not the more interesting kind? Did you get priority boarding a bit in advance of the general boarding, on both the legs you have taken pictures of (BLR-CDG, CDG-AMS)? Your pictures show a rather pristine cabin all set for a flight. The second plane looks like an A321, is it indeed so? The K-L-M observation was very neat, indeed!
It is very nice that senior members of this forum are writing trip reports. For those familiar with your in-depth analysis on your site, and your lovely pictures, we are a bit surprised that this took so long in coming, that too, from a regular flyer as you. Even when you post descriptive articles on your site, it would be very nice if you could post a link here. A trip to an air show could also come as a grand trip report, on this section. Last, but not the least, your son is a good photographer - can you convince him to join this forum, too? This would be the second father-son duo here! Thanks once again, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent TR. I guess the J and Y experience on this sector are miles apart. In Y, all one gets after take off is a tiny bowl of frozen pasta salad that is expected to last the next 10 hours, while the main hot meal is served before arrival. The FA's hide the entire flight, and the seats + IFE are extremely outdated and uncomfortable, especially with the awful IFE box at the window seats. I am currently typing my much overdue TR from the summer, and hopefully will be posted in the next few weeks schedule permitting.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the fantastic TR

Could you share what were the loads like in the front cabin ? Quite a large number of seats out there I suppose
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice TR Devesh, with good quality pictures!
The SkyPriority service is offered to all premium class passengers from Premium Economy upwards, and to all SkyTeam elite members from Silver level on upwards. Other than the erstwhile Kingfisher, I have not seen any other airline offer a kerbside porter service in Bangalore. Even overseas, I have seen it offered only to first class passengers.

Very impressive if that includes Premium Economy too. Kingfisher...truly it did change our expectation level from an airline...for a short period though! I remember being approached up by a young guy in KF uniform at old DEL terminal the moment I got down from taxi.

The interiors of 333 looks great. I guess KL/AF synergy has produced some great improvements for both airlines.

Thanks for posting!
Tally Sheet:
41 Countries ||55 Aircraft types ||60 Airlines ||75 Airports
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great TR Devesh ..... you were long overdue with these Razz

You often hear how badly AF is doing out of BLR .... looks like a good product hope they do well. The premium economy is even more impressive.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Devesh sir (or should I say Uncle, since I personally know you? Razz No, I'd rather keep it formal) this is a splendid TR! The pictures are amazing, so were the write ups and descriptions. I have, quite honestly, heard only the negatives of Air France, but this is quite a big positive, however, its only J class. They need to reduce the horror stories in Y class too. I look forward to more of your TRs with time!
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice trip report! Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing this report. Good to know that an airline which has been in the spotlight for poor customer service is making all the effort to change.

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