Air France – KLM tagged posts

Trip Report: Air France Paris to Cape Town (CDG-CPT) Business Class

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This is part 4 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 864 Paris- Charles de Gaulle to Cape Town
Sched. Dep. 10:10AM    Actual Dep. 10:45AM
Sched. Arr.  10:30PM      Actual Arr. 11:18PM
Boeing 777-200, Business Class

My flight from Dulles landed at the M concourse of Air France’s Terminal 2E compound.  It was a bit of a schlep to the K concourse, which is also the part of 2E where terminating passengers have to go for baggage/immigration/exit.  There was a walk from where the plane emptied out to the Navette (shuttle) train, but it is pretty well-marked, and clean and orderly.  It was then short two-stop ride on the Navette to the K concourse, where the Sky Priority security lane moved slowly, but not terribly.  Two people pushed themselves in front of me, which seemed to be common theme with lines at CDG.  There was no recombobulation area just through security which caused a bit of a bottleneck.  The Air France Salon was just past security, downstairs.

Air France Salon CDG 2E-K

Check-in was friendly.  There were sections of the lounge on either side of the desk, but I asked where the showers were, and was directed to one side that I stayed on. I went right for the shower, knowing there might be a wait, and sure enough there was.  But with seven showers, the line moved fairly quickly, despite there only being one cleaner.  The shower room was nice, modern, and clean, with a package of a fresh bath towel, hand towel, and bath mat.  There was also a small amenity kit with shaving and dental accoutrements, a comb, a deodorant wipe, and a L’Occitane body wash.  There was also liquid soap in a dispenser in the shower.  The only things I’d wished they had were tissues and some sort of moisturizing/hand/body lotion.  The shower felt good.

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Sick in the Air: Airberlin Business Berlin to Chicago, American ORD-MSP-DCA and the Escape Lounge MSP

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Travel is unpredictable.  Award travel can be particularly so.  Add that in with the other variables that can upset a trip and a lot of it’s a gamble.  And, ooh, boy, did I have a terrible trip back from Berlin – not really the result of any airline behavior or anything, just luck.

My return ticket home from Berlin was booked for 50,000 AA miles, just before the most recent award price hike to 57,500 miles for US-Europe business class.  It used to be that Berlin was an easy place to fly from using AA miles, since Berlin is a hub for Oneworld partner Airberlin.  But when I was booking in the winter, literally zero Airberlin availability was showing—not just for transatlantic flights, but even for short flights like Berlin to Frankfurt.  Expertflyer showed plenty of availability, but it was invisible on the BA and AA sites for months.  AA’s response was the nonresponse “we understand it’s frustrating when the flight you want isn’t available for an award booking,” ignoring the fact that there was clearly an issue here for months. That made booking quite difficult, as the only partner availability out of Berlin was on BA, Iberia, and Finnair – and Iberia doesn’t show on AA.com, and flying through London involves expensive fees and surcharges.

Original routing: TXL-MAD-CLT-DCA

Original routing: TXL-MAD-CLT-DCA

Nonetheless, I was able to assemble a not terrible itinerary, flying Iberia from Berlin to Madrid at 7:25 in the morning, connecting to an AA flight from Madrid to Charlotte, and then up to DCA, all in business.  A few months before the trip, Airberlin availability opened up on its flights from Berlin to Chicago, and Dusseldorf to JFK and Boston.  But every time one of those opened up, there was no availability connecting from ORD/JFK/BOS to DCA.  And when my alert for ORD to DCA went off, the TXL-ORD availability was gone.

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Exploring Tegel Airport, or The Time I was Detained by German Airport Police and Almost Missed My Flight

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In my experience, if I’m going to have problems with my flights or anything on a vacation, it will more likely than not be on the return home. Because why allow the relaxation or positive feelings to even stay with you until you get home. My Berlin trip did not disappoint on this front.

My routing home was from Berlin to JFK on Air Berlin, in business class, connecting on American in JFK to DCA.  I had allowed for a leisurely trip to the airport from the Hyatt, planning to take the 200 bus from Potsdamer Platz to the Zoo Station, and then the express bus from Zoo Station to Tegel. The total trip should have been 35 to 50 minutes depending on wait times.  Of course as I reached the bus stop a few blocks from the Hyatt, I saw that the 200 bus was pulling away.  I didn’t worry much, because I had taken the 200 bus 5 or 6 times over the past several days, and never had waited more than 5 minutes. Something must have been up though, as the display showed the next bus was not for another 20 minutes. I thought about waiting, but then thought I should just take the S-bahn or U-bahn from Potsdamer Platz to Zoo Station, figuring there must be a way to do so. On the way, though, I passed the taxi line outside the Ritz Carlton, and decided that would just be the easiest way to go, especially since I still had 65 Euros in cash on me and I’d read that a taxi to Tegel was about 20 Euros and 15 minutes.

But the taxi hit monstrous traffic, and the driver kept muttering one curse word over and over (the only one I know in German). He ended up making a series of questionably aggressive moves before just making a U-turn and taking us on an alternate back route. He was friendly about it, though, and even with the traffic and reroute I was at the airport in 25 minutes, and the fare was 21.80 Euros.

Berlin-Tegel was supposed to close four years ago, as Berlin was opening a new airport, Brandenburg, alongside the current, smaller airport farther outside the city, Schonefeld. Brandenburg has been plagued with delays, and almost opened in February 2012, but didn’t due to construction problems. Now, there isn’t even an estimated opening date.

That means Tegel remains open...

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Anatomy of an Award: Labor Day in Berlin on Short Notice in Premium Cabins

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A few weeks ago, I decided I really needed to get away for a long Labor Day.  Preferably to a city where I could explore nightlife if I wanted, but also could lose myself walking or sitting at a cafe.  Oh, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I didn’t want to repeat a city I’d been to recently, and I wanted to be able to get there relatively quickly from DC.

Berlin seemed like a great choice, as I’ve only been once — in 2004 with my study abroad program on a “study tour.”  10 years older, and for leisure travel, it would be a completely different city.  Berlin is also a very reasonably priced city, and would serve as a place to use my expiring free Hyatt night that I get as a Hyatt Visa cardholder, as the Grand Hyatt Berlin is somehow only a category 4 hotel.

But late July is not the best  time to be looking for premium transatlantic availability for Labor Day,  particularly to a city like Berlin that has almost no direct transatlantic service  — just Newark to Berlin on United, and Chicago and JFK to Berlin on Air Berlin.  So I wasn’t surprised to see there was nothing available on the days I could travel.  So I watched  both Star Alliance and One World availability on all transatlantic flights like a hawk for a few days, and when a flight from Venice to Philadelphia on US Airways in Business class opened up, I grabbed that for 50,000 American miles  (which ends up as 45,000 miles since I’m an AA credit card holder).  Unfortunately, there was no Air Berlin connection into Venice that would get in that time, so I figured I’d fly in the day before and have 22 hours in Venice.  I hadn’t realized how expensive Venice hotels were though, and 22 hrs is kind of a rush through a city like Venice.  So I figured I’d keep my eyes open, as AA has a free change policy on award tickets so long as the origin and destination are staying the same.

I wasn’t that concerned about an outbound flight, because I...

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Israel Trip Report: Starting Out IAD-CDG-TLV in Air France Business Class

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This post is the first in a series describing my recent trip to Israel with my boyfriend. Our trip included Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Pride.

Air France Flt. 39  Washington-Dulles to Paris – Charles DeGaulle, Business Class, Boeing 777-300 ER
Dep. 4:06 PM   Arr. 5:15AM +1
Air France Flt. 1960  Paris to Tel Aviv, Business Class, A320
Dep. 7:15 AM Arr. 12:45PM

We left our apartment in downtown Washington three hours before our flight out of Dulles, which should have been ample time. We had picked up a one-way rental from Avis near our house, and the drive took about 35 minutes, and rental car return didn’t take too long. But Dulles sucks. There was a 5-10 minute wait at the Sky Priority check-in counter for Air France, and then security was dreadful. The priority lane at Dulles is useless, as everything merges at ID check. The lines for individual x-ray screenings were very long, and we are directed to a specific line– which unfortunately had several babies, pets, and illiterate travelers. The other lines, of course, moved at a decent pace, and then they opened up several more lines. But 30 minutes later, we were through.

Dulles A Gates

Dulles A Gates

Air France-KLM Lounge at Dulles

Air France-KLM Lounge at Dulles

We took the train to Dulles’s A-Gates, and finally we got to the Air France/KLM lounge, right across from our gate, about 30 minutes before scheduled boarding. The lounge was pretty crowded, and we had trouble finding two seat...

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Trip Report: Of French Public Transportation, and Flying Air France from Montpellier to Paris-Orly

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Air France Flt 7551  Montpellier MPL to Paris-Orly ORY
A321, Economy
Dep. 5:20pm Arr. 6:40pm

From Montpellier, we planned to fly back up to Paris, as the train would be quite long, and quite expensive. We were able to get tickets on Air France for about $65 each, which was pretty reasonable.

MPL Airport

MPL Airport

The Montpellier airport is a bit out of town, but only about 5 miles.  Though the hotel offered a 25 Euro black car service to the airport, we decided to be thrifty and take public transport, since it seemed easy and we had plenty of time on a weekday afternoon. The first part of the trip — a 3 stop, 7 minute journey on the tram for 1,40 EUR — was easy. Once we got to the transfer point of the Place de l’Europe, though, we discovered that we had just missed a “Navette” (or shuttle) bus to the airport, and the next one wouldn’t be for 55 minutes. We would still have been fine for our flight, but there wasn’t any cafe or anything nearby, and sitting outside with our luggage for an hour wasn’t appealing. There weren’t any taxi stands in sight, though, so no readily apparent alternative existed.

A Spanish tourist then came by and asked ...

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Trip Report: From Vienna to Amsterdam to Helsinki to Turku: KLM and my first lost bag experience

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KLM Flt. 1838, Boeing 737, Europe Business Class
Dep. VIE 6:55 am ,  Arr. AMS 8:50 am
KLM Flt. 1167, Boeing 737, Europe Business Class
Dep. AMS 9:40am, Arr. HEL 1:05pm

Starting this trip, there was a flight with a tight connection I was worried about missing, and there was a concern about flying an airline with a record of spotty service.   Those flights (on Aeroflot on the return trip), alas, went fine, and it was a relatively simple KLM connection that caused some major stress on our trip.

We woke up at the Courtyard Vienna Messe at the entirely uncivilized hour of 4:30am, and headed on an easy drive to Vienna’s Schwechat airport, dropped off our car at Sixt, and took a loooong walk to the actual check-in area, involving lots of elevators and stairs.

Austria and Finland aren’t a natural pairing, and although Finnair does fly twice daily nonstop, codeshared with Austrian, there is no Sky Team option.  Our options were thus to either buy coach tickets nonstop, or take a connecting flight on KLM in business for free as part of our main mileage redemption.   We opted for the latter, as the nonstop flights were pretty pricey, and the total travel time on KLM via Amsterdam wasn’t too bad.

Check-in at VIE

Check-in at VIE

Althou...

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Trip Report: Our European Journey Begins: Agent Roulette, JFK T4, and JFK-AMS-VIE on Delta and KLM Business

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Our European Journey Begins: Agent Roulette, JFK T4, and JFK-AMS-VIE on Delta and KLM

Delta Flt. 70, New York-JFK to Amsterdam, B767, BusinessElite
Dep. 8:12pm, Arr. 10:15am
KLM Flt. 1845, Amsterdam to Vienna, B737, Europe Business
Dep. 11:40am, Arr. 1:30pm

As mentioned in my preview post, we were scheduled to fly from Newark to Paris on Delta in business class, and then connecting onto an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna as part of a Skymiles redemption. But a few days before we departed, when I was booking another trip, I saw a “France Travel Advisory” on Delta.com. Upon further investigation, it appeared that the French Air Traffic Controllers were going on strike, for a three day period including our trip, and accordingly, approximately half of the flights in and out of Charles DeGaulle Airport would likely be canceled. Fun.

Delta was offering an opportunity to make changes to travel involving France, with the ability to re-route or reschedule, though. I didn’t want us to get stuck in France, so I pulled up other options on Skyteam carriers that would get us to Vienna. Many left too early for us to do due to work commitments, but there was a late Delta flight out of JFK to Amsterdam, connecting on to Vienna on KLM. Although there were plenty of business class seats available, I didn’t even bother to look at award availability, as I assumed there was none. But I figured I’d call Delta and see what happened.

The agent I got was by far the rudest Delta agent I’ve ever spoken to, out of a fairly large sample size. When I told her what the issue was – including wanting to look at flight alternatives, I was met with silence – the kind of silence that is so long and silent you think you must have been disconnected. So after about 30 seconds, I said, “Hello?” The response, a snippy: “I’m reading, there are a lot of flights here.”

She then told me that she wasn’t seeing anything about any strike activity and my flight was canceled. I told her that I was looking at Delta.com which had all the information, and showed fairly standard language for travel exception policies. She then read it aloud to me and told me it only applied where your flight was canceled (really? Delta would have a special policy to allow a flight change where your flight is canceled?), and otherwise all it was was waiving the change fee, and I’d have to pay any fare difference. (Had she noted in all her “reading” that it was an award ticket?). I said, “Well, I understand the flight hasn’t been canceled yet, but the entire point of the exception policy seems to be proactively re-booking.” Her response: “Well, that’s not an answer. I don’t understand what you want.” My response was a calm but blunt: “It seems you’re not really interested in helping me today. So I’m going to go now. Thanks” And I hung up.

I re-read the travel advisory, and concluded (after asking folks on Flyertalk to confirm my reading), that my initial reading was correct and Delta was allowing fee-free, fare-difference free changes (though it didn’t explicitly apply to award tickets). So a few hours later, I called and received a more typical, super-friendly and helpful agent. I told her the issue, said there was an alternative from JFK through Amsterdam, and she placed me on a brief hold, coming back to apologize that it was taking so long but confirming the flights and that she and another agent were processing it. All told, it took about 25 minutes, but she was courteous, friendly, and helpful, so I have no complaints. And we were re-booked without having to be worried about the Paris situation.

Our new flights were, on the whole, fairly comparable to our original flights. Our initial flights were out of Newark, but we ended up with more convenient JFK flights, leaving an hour and a half later, and arriving in Vienna an hour later. There’s no meaningful distinction between Delta’s EWR-CDG and JFK-AMS flights in terms of product on-board, and AMS is a bit easier to connect through in my experience. The one disappointment was it meant giving up a flight on Austrian Airlines, which I’ve heard has a good business soft product even on short hauls, in exchange for a KLM short-haul flight – one of three scheduled on the trip. But a small price to pay to avoid agita.

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The Anatomy of a Summer Vacation: Austria and Finland, Skymiles Burning, and a Lot of Radissons

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As I mentioned yesterday, I am getting ready for my big summer vacation to Europe in a week and a half.   I figured I’d give a bit of a preview, explaining how I came up with the routing/itinerary, and asking for any tips readers may have.

There are two main legs of the journey, Austria and Finland, which may seem like an odd couple.  The genesis is a bit romantic, though.  In January, I decided it was time to plan my summer Skymiles redemption – something I’ve done each of the previous two summers with a fair amount of luck, getting business class seats at the low redemption rates, on or around dates I wanted, maximizing stopovers and open jaw rules.  This time, though, my boyfriend was coming along with me.  In discussing where we might want to go in Europe, his major consideration was that it be a place neither of us had been, so we could truly explore it together.   Finding actual destinations that meet those criteria was pretty hard, though, as I’ve traveled a fair bit myself, and he lived in France for several years, so had done many a long weekend trips throughout Western Europe.  We realized two countries stood out as untouched:  Austria and Finland.

Booking about 5 months in advance, I was able to get us 2 business class seats on a pretty decent itinerary.  On the outbound, we’ll be flying on Delta in business class from Newark to Paris, connecting to an Austrian Airlines-operated, Air France codeshare flight to Vienna.  A tip on this – I find Newark to often be a forgotten Skyteam originating point for Skymiles redemptions, thus leading to better availability than JFK.  In fact, of my three summer redemptions, all have departed from Newark.   If you’re not NYC-based, of course, this is less useful due to fewer domestic connections into Newark, but its worth a shot. Currently, Delta has flights to Amsterdam and Paris,  Alas, Alitalia has stopped its EWR-FCO service.  But it will be interesting to see what happens with London given Virgin Atlantic’s LHR flights and the new relationship between Delta and Virgin.

Some folks have told me that I should not have b...

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Trip Report: Paris to JFK on Air France: Losing my A380 Virginity

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The Airbus 380

The Airbus 380

My trip out of Paris on an Airbus 380 was an interesting one.  I woke up at the Intercontinental early, planning to get in a morning of sightseeing before heading to the airport on the RoissyBus at around 11am.  Upon waking, though, I discovered emails from both Air France and Delta informing me that my flight had been “rescheduled” 90 minutes later.  I assume it had left New York late the night before, but I was pleased to have such advance notice, and also didn’t mind an extra 90 minutes in Paris.  When I first booked this trip, I was scheduled to have only a 22-hour layover, which now turned into 26 hours.

I headed to the RoissyBus around noon for the 45 minute trip to the Airport.  To give you an idea of just how large DeGaulle is, the estimated arrival time at Terminal 3 was a full 20 minutes after the arrival time at Terminal 1.  DeGaulle is really a series of airports, not connected architecturally or physically.  Terminal 2 is itself about 7 different terminals 2A through 2G.   I’ve actually only flown out of 2E, which is home to most SkyTeam longhaul flights.

I had checked in from my netbook at the hotel, but needed to print a boarding pass.  When I got to the Kiosk, though, I received an error message.  So I headed to the nearest SkyPriority lane, where I decided I might as well check my luggage if I had to wait.  Then it was through immigration, then to a monorail to the L gates, and then through security.  None of the waits were long, but it was exhausting.  After clearing security, I headed upstairs to the large Air France Salon lounge.

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