Paris-Bordeaux on Air France Economy: minimum service for maximum price

This year, as is often the case, I took my vacation staggered, in September. But with my legs tingling, I organized a weekend getaway to Bordeaux before to try out a few good restaurants.

But before tackling the gastronomic side of this travel review, there are the “logistics” that bring me to the capital of New Aquitaine. After a disastrous night at the Sheraton Roissy, the second leg of this trip is a Roissy-Bordeaux flight on Air France in economy class.

The journey program :

#TypeReview
1HotelSheraton Roissy CDG
2FlightParis-Bordeaux – Air France – Economy (here)
3Hotelthe Renaissance Bordeaux
4RestaurantLe Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay
5RestaurantLe Quatrième Mur (Bordeaux)
6FlightBordeaux-Paris – Air France – Economy

Booking

I booked my ticket a month before leaving, in other words in the middle of summer for a midsummer departure. With the French legitimately wanting to take advantage of the easing of health constraints and get some fresh air after 18 complicated months, I wasn’t expecting competitive rates, and that’s exactly what I got.

Over 400 euros round-trip in Economy.

I might as well tell you the truth, at this price I’d normally stay at home. But I happened to have an Air France voucher dating back to the beginning of the pandemic, and as I had less and less opportunity to travel on our national airline, this was an opportunity to use it and “settle the accounts”. The trip thus cost me just under 200 euros round trip, which is a little more acceptable.

I know, I could have taken the train but the prices were just as outrageous and I didn’t have a voucher. And anyway, as long as I can avoid the SNCF….

I’d just like to point out in passing that it would have cost me less to fly via Zurich and travel in Business on Swiss if I hadn’t had this discount voucher. An option I’ll certainly choose in the future if I have to make this journey again.

Ground experience

Having stayed at the Sheraton, I woke up in the heart of Terminal 2E, which made getting to the airport for an early morning flight much easier.

As I make my way through the corridors, I’m delighted to see a terminal that’s much busier than it’s been in the last 18 months.

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Tickets are checked before entering the terminal. Because of the health situation, only travelers are allowed in.

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There’s no crowd at Access N°1 (that’s the principle of priority queues, you might say….)

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I quickly find myself “airside” in a very moderately full terminal 2F.

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I’ve got some time on my hands, so I head for the lounge.

You would certainly have liked a visit to the brand-new Air France lounge in 2F, but that’s for another time. Announced for mid-July, “technical problems” postponed its opening, and at the beginning of August it is still not in service. But at least I can show you the entrance.

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So, let’s head for the good old lounge at the end of the satellite, which is living out its last few weeks.

Lounge

The lounge is packed and I’m having trouble finding a seat. Finally, I intercept a seat that has just become available on the lower floor, but not without wandering around for ten minutes.

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I still wonder what genius designed a two-storey lounge with no elevator and a spiral staircase, knowing that on principle you have to expect a clientele with suitcases. But with the opening of the new lounge, that will be history.

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Service levels have also returned to normal, but it has to be said that Air France was one of the airlines which suffered the least deterioration in lounge services during the pandemic. It could even be said that the customer benefited, since there was an agent to serve him instead of self-service.

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Okay, “normal” doesn’t sound like much to dream about, but considering where we come from, we should appreciate what we’ve got. Anyway, in the morning for me it’s sparkling water and that’s it.

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Once again, it’s time for this lounge to bow out. Although renovated a few years ago, its furniture is well and truly at the end of its life, as my chair shows.

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There’s nothing exciting to report, but time passes and boarding time approaches.

Boarding in Paris

The flight is supposed to be fully booked according to the seat selection in the application, but it’s not yet full at the gate.

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And finally…we are told that the flight is delayed. Those who didn’t hurry were right.

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In the end, we won’t be boarding at 9.00am but at 9.20am. You won’t get me away from the idea that these delays are foreseeable and can be announced before passengers start crowding the gates, but so be it.

First of all, they start boarding a large group of families with children in great disorder. Then, finally, the boarding of priority passengers is opened. The agent apologizes for the successive delays.

I’m among the first but don’t get much further…the families are stuck in the jetway because the plane isn’t ready yet.

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Eventually, we manage to access the aircraft.

As I reach my seat in row 6, I realize it’s occupied. One of the mothers looks at me in surprise and says “ah we can’t stand where we want”. Well, no.

I’m finally able to settle in once she’s collected her things and moved to the back of the aircraft.

The boarding process lasts, lasts, lasts….and eventually comes to an end. I’ve never had fun timing boardings, but one day I’ll have to. I have the impression that Air France boardings are always longer and less efficient than those of other airlines, but perhaps that’s a feeling skewed by habit.

42 minutes after family pre-boarding began, we were finally told that boarding was over. But there are still plenty of people standing in the aisle.

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We are given a health follow-up form to fill in and hand in on disembarkation. Bureaucracy at its worst.

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The cabin of the Air France A320

Nothing but the classic here.

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I really like this cabin, actually more than others I’ve come across on Air France medium-haul flights. Leather is still more comfortable than fabric, the table is an acceptable size and the seat doesn’t feel like it’s shrunk in the wash.

Legroom is quite good. We’ve seen better, but for such a short flight and in economy it’s enough.

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On the other hand, the cabin is starting to age. Wear and tear? Lack of maintenance? Of cleaning? Maybe all three.

The flight and the service on board

After a short taxi to reach the south doublet, we take off without delay and are finally airborne.

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The service begins. From the front in business, from the rear in eco. Once the business service is over, the crew members in charge of it are not positioned at the front of the eco-cabin, but in the middle, to go back up.

The moral of the story is that if I’m in row 6, I’ll be served at the beginning of the descent.

Asked what I’d like, I ask for a sparkling water. The flight attendant looks at me darkly, “but there’s no sparkling water, sir !!!! “. Still water or fruit juice. My apologies, I didn’t mean to sound rude, I haven’t been following all the episodes of the reduction in service on domestic routes. In future, I’ll know that if I want a Perrier, I’ll have to avoid traveling at breakfast time. I wonder how she would have reacted if I’d asked for a glass of wine…. I hesitate between a slap in the face and a heart attack. Meanwhile, my neighbor was laughing her head off.

So I have my “snack” and my glass of still water.

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I’ve got to eat fast because we’re about to land. The advantage of lightweight services, you might say.

Very quickly, the cabin has to be put into “landing” configuration. Onboard staff clear away and make sure everything is ready.

The same woman who had made me feel so strongly that I should have known they didn’t serve sparkling water in the morning walks down the aisle, saying in a dry voice to passengers who haven’t yet lifted their table …. ” table !! table !! table !! table !!!”. Absolutely classy.

The crew

What to say?

Overwhelmed at boarding, cold and unfriendly during the flight (at least for the person I had to deal with), if it’s to provide a service like that they might as well not provide it at all.

Landing and arrival in Bordeaux

I’m looking out of the window to take my mind off things, and I really like the approach to Bordeaux. For the anecdote this line, or rather the defunct shuttle between Orly and Bordeaux which was sacrificed on the altar of ecological concerns engendered by the virus (if someone can explain to me the link between the two…) is very dear to me because it was by accumulating return trips at the rate of one or two per week that I unwittingly earned my first gold status with Air France…

Soccer fans will recognize the Matmut Atlantique stadium.

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Then the lake district… Top left, near the bridge, is the Renaissance Hotel area, which you’ll discover in my next article.

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Beautiful view of the Garonne cove and the so-called Port de la Lune.

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We’re getting closer to the ground and the roofs of the houses above Merignac…

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And we land without a hitch.

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We drive towards the terminal and, while no aircraft is parked at Terminal B…. we’ll park at a remote point and disembark on foot.

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There follows a long walk through Terminal A to the exit. One more path with many stairs, which will be much appreciated by people who have to carry suitcases.

Bottom line

A standard service on a domestic flight, that’s not what I’d question with regard to price. Service is one thing, yield management another, and just because you’ve paid a lot for your ticket because of high demand doesn’t mean you can expect better service.

I won’t dwell on the lounge either, it’s history now and the new 2F lounge looks superb.

But between the chaotic boarding and the attitude during the service and the preparation of the cabin for landing, there’s still a lot to complain about. After all, I don’t mind that over the years they’ve cut back on every possible expense, but the absence of sparkling water (yes, I insist on it) on morning services (and only on those) and the offended look on the cabin crew’s face when I dared to ask for it… I prefer to laugh about it.

But I’m not going to complain, I got a much better service than a passenger who, at the same time, pays €500 for a business ticket between Paris and London.

In short, it was an opportunity to liquidate a voucher. I’ve still got a Paris-Bordeaux planned for this autumn and then I think I’ll have to consider more “exotic” itineraries.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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