Air France A380 Econ­omy Class

Business Traveller (Africa) - - FEATURE – REMOTE WORKING - Kate Kennedy ■ CON­TACT W: kaiurl­fu­ralan.ceo.mco.za

BACK­GROUND:

Air France op­er­ates daily re­turn flights from O.R Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Paris-Charles de Gaulle with ei­ther an A380 or a Boe­ing 777. Paris-Charles de Gaulle pro­cesses nearly 79 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year.

PRE-FLIGHT & CHECK-IN:

I de­cided to check in on the Air France mo­bile app which al­lowed me to re­serve my pre­ferred seat and or­der spe­cial meals. I joined a long queue for econ­omy pas­sen­gers at O.R. Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port to drop off my lug­gage and re­ceive a printed board­ing pass. This wasn't strictly nec­es­sary as I had a dig­i­tal board­ing pass on my phone, but I do still like to have a phys­i­cal one, be­cause you just never know. Econ­omy class pas­sen­gers are al­lowed to check two bags into the hold, but the air­line seems to be quite strict about the weight al­lowance of 23 kilo­grams; many peo­ple with over­sized suit­cases were pulled out of the queue and asked to weigh their lug­gage be­fore pro­ceed­ing to the counter. There was an­other queue at se­cu­rity, but all in all, the process of get­ting air­side wasn't bad – about 45 min­utes.

LOUNGE & BOARD­ING:

Air France has its own lounge in in­ter­na­tional de­par­tures, but as I wasn't trav­el­ling on a busi­ness class ticket, I opted to wait at the board­ing gate, which was about as far from pass­port con­trol as it's pos­si­ble to get (but still only a five-odd minute walk). Seat­ing for econ­omy pas­sen­gers at gate A16 is lim­ited given that the A380 car­ries nearly 400 pas­sen­gers in this class and that this flight was about 90% full. But I even­tu­ally man­aged to snag a seat. Board­ing is done in sec­tions and pas­sen­gers are called out by zone, which re­duces the chaos on­board some­what.

THE SEAT:

I chose seat 30G, in the mid­dle of the main deck. It's an exit row bulk­head seat on the aisle in a 3-4-3 cabin lay­out. Upon set­tling in, though, I re­alised my mis­take. Yes, there's ex­tra legroom and it's close to the bath­room, but both arm rests are thick and im­mov­able, cut­ting into the pre­cious seat width that my ex­tra-large frame dearly needs. A very kind cabin at­ten­dant man­aged to find me a lit­tle more room fur­ther back in the cabin and I moved to a bulk­head win­dow seat with an un­oc­cu­pied mid­dle seat af­ter take­off, which made the trip much more com­fort­able.

THE FLIGHT:

We pushed back on time and I was able to watch the taxi­ing and take-off from the tail cam on the over­head TV screen. Drinks were served 30 min­utes into the flight, with the din­ner ser­vice fol­low­ing an hour later. The tray came with a salad, bread roll, but­ter, a wedge of cheese and tiramisu for dessert. I chose the chicken breast in a tomato gravy with potato and baby mar­row, but I feel like the fish curry was prob­a­bly the bet­ter op­tion – the aroma waft­ing from my neigh­bour's seat was mouth-watering. Once my tray was cleared, I browsed the in-flight en­ter­tain­ment, which had a wide se­lec­tion of movies, TV se­ries, music and games, on the touch-screen mon­i­tor. There was a fair bit of mild tur­bu­lence through­out the night, but it didn't trig­ger the seat­belt sign. A snack bar was set up in the gal­ley af­ter lights out, with drinks, sweets and bis­cuits avail­able for self-ser­vice. I man­aged to get a few hours of sleep be­fore the break­fast ser­vice be­gan, which con­sisted of warm bread and but­ter pud­ding with blue­berry com­pote, yo­ghurt, fruit salad, crois­sant and a bread roll. A very good morn­ing meal by my stan­dards.

AR­RIVAL:

We touched down on sched­ule and the plane was emp­tied in fair time. I jumped on the train to the main ter­mi­nal where I joined a very long queue at im­mi­gra­tion. It took nearly an hour to reach the front, but once I was there, I was pro­cessed quickly and moved on to bag­gage claim where my lug­gage was get­ting dizzy rid­ing the carousel.

VERDICT:

A de­cent on­board prod­uct cou­pled with re­li­a­bil­ity and on-time per­for­mance makes Air France a good op­tion for your next trip to Europe.

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