Off to Spain I go to See the Running of the Bulls
Review: Air France Business Class, IAD to CDG to BCN
Review: Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
Review: The Gran Hotel La Perla, Pamplona
The San Fermin Festival
The Running of the Bulls
Review: Renfe Alvia Train, Pamplona to Madrid
Review: Gran Melia Fenix, Madrid
Earlier in the Spring, Air France held a mileage sale from Washington Dulles to most European cities, in business class. I hopped on the offer, and for 67,000 Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, plus taxes/fees, I had myself a premium ticket to and from Europe. Upon booking the ticket, I decided that wanted to visit Spain since it was one of the countries I had yet to visit, so I booked a round-trip ticket from Washington Dulles to Barcelona, and then an inbound ticket from Madrid to Washington Dulles, both via Charles de Gaulle in Paris. For this award, I transferred in the miles from my American Express Membership Rewards account, and paid close to $600 in fuel surcharges (a downside for awards of this type).
I love Washington’s Dulles airport; it’s simple to navigate, otherwise clean, and modern. Thought security can be long at times, it’s an airport I otherwise love flying out of. For me, however, the one downside is that parking is expensive, and you’ll easily spend money on any savings you ordinarily were banking on during your trip, just to leave you car in one of the onsite economy lots.
Check-in was nothing to write home about, though the Air France/KLM/Korean counter was well understaffed. I think there were 3 agents working the economy line, while only one was in place for SkyPriority.
Let me take a second here to sidetrack a bit. I’ve always been amused by the French style of dress. The gentleman in front of me was dressed in typical French garb, complete with the skin tight pants and all.
After check-in, I proceeded through security, which, for the day of my flight was eerily quiet. There was hardly anyone in queue, and I was through the checkpoint in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, Air France does not participate in Pre-Check, so I was forced to take off my shoes and belt for this go around. 🙁
My departure gate was A20, and directly across from there was the Air France/KLM Lounge.
The lounge is the only SkyTeam lounge within the terminal, and is shared with Korean Air flights and Aeroflot.
Inside, there’s an array of individual seats, as well as tables/chairs.
Be cautious, that during peak flight periods, the lounge can get especially busy as it isn’t too big. Fortunately, the Aeroflot and Korean flights depart earlier in the day, while the AF/KLM European flights leave in the evening.
There’s a long buffet with sandwiches, cheese, vegetables, nuts, chips, fruit and various desserts.
There’s also a bar. Unfortunately, the attendant behind the bar wanted nothing more than to go home, so she was not only not attentive, but also busy playing on her phone.
Boarding was originally scheduled at about half past 8, for a 9:25p departure. With severe weather on the east coast, the aircraft, which was incoming from Paris, had to divert to Boston. With this came a close to 3 hour delay. We didn’t depart Washington DC until after midnight. Here’s my comments on customer service during this period: There were no communications about the delay, nor any updates when asked. The customer service agent in the lounge played dumb, not wanting to give our incorrect info (which I can understand), but also not giving out any information, close to 2 hours after the plane had even landed in Boston. I expected more from Air France, but had to wait out the delay with hardly any new information.
Finally, boarding commenced and we were allowed to board the aircraft, a 777 with the old-style angle-flat business class seats.
At each seat was a hangar, pillow and pair of slippers.
The cabin is laid out in a 2x3x2 configuration. Fortunately for me, I booked one of the sides, in an aisle seat. I certainly did not want to be stuck in the middle 3 seats, in the middle seat.
Each seat had a personal tv monitor on the seat back in front of them. Unfortunately, this monitor is very small, and the selection of films and television shows were un-appealing.
Prior to take-off, orange juice and champagne were served as pre-departure beverages,
After take-off, the meal service began.
The dinner service was done expeditiously, considering the late departure and the need for sleep. I find sleeping in the angled-flat beds fairly difficult, and un-inviting. I find it more comfortable to sleep in a reclined seating position, than the angled-flat position, as you tend to “fall down” during the middle of the night. I didn’t sleep well on this flight, partly due to the delay and the seat comfort (or lack thereof).
Upon waking, breakfast was served. Time-wise, it was now lunch-time the next day due to the delay.
It was an unmemorable breakfast, and there were no hot options to choose from. After breakfast, we landed in Charles de Gaulle.
In Dulles, I was assured by the Air France staff that I would be placed on a 3pm-ish departure to Barcelona, and was “protected” on this flight. I was instructed to visit the transfer counter in CDG to receive my new boarding pass. Once we exited the flight and I made my way to the transfer counter, the nightmare begin. First, there was an incredibly large queue of people, with scarce staffing. Two lines formed, one for economy passengers and one for SkyPriority. The SkyPriority line ended up moving slower than the regular line, and the ticket agents behind the counter seemed more concerned with handing out cups of water to passengers than actually staffing the counter to assist people.
Business class on the Barcelona flight was the usual 2×2 economy seating, with the middle seat blocked out. Business class on intra-europe Air France flights only include a meal, priority boarding and the middle seat blocked out for extra comfort.
After take-off a late lunch was served, which was unappealing, and one that I didn’t eat much of. I think it was some type of quiche?
How did I book this flight: I booked this flight using 60,000 Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles during a business class mileage sale promotion for flights to Europe from Washington Dulles.
What was included in my booking: Round-trip business class airfare to Barcelona, then out of Madrid, via Paris.
Pros of the flight: Attentive on-board service.
Cons of the flight: Delay of flight, confusion in information/re-booking, meal in intra-Europe Business Class, and the angle-flat seat during the trans-atlantic leg.
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