There are a bunch of quirks to booking travel, especially when you have restrictions. In our case, I booked my flight to Italy using miles, but wanted to be on the same flights as Nick, who had to book his travel though the corporate travel desk (and follow their rules). It was a bit tricky finding routing that would work, but we eventually found flights that would take us from LA to Paris to Rome and then finally to Sicily.
We booked a one-way rental car from San Diego to LA, and lucked out with traffic, so we made the drive in under two hours. Returning the rental car was a little obnoxious (don’t follow the car return signs at LAX – trust Google!) but we eventually made it onto the shuttle, and then to the oh-so-glamorous Terminal 2.
Actually, there is nothing glamorous about LAX Terminal 2.
The check-in area is very dated, everything is dark, and although I’m sure it’s *actually* clean, there seems to be a layer of grime that might have been there since the beginning of the Jet Age.
The Air France desk was on the other end of the terminal from where the bus dropped us (of course), and it was a disaster zone! The counter was divided by the TSA screening area, which was also in front of the doors, so there was a huge bottleneck as everyone tried to figure out if the needed to be on the left (Elites and Bag Drop) or the right (everything else).
So that was awesome.
The other awesome thing happened when the agent handed us our boarding passes for 3F and 12G. Even though we have separate reservations we’d made sure to have seats together, but somehow Nick had been moved to the back of the cabin, and I had a middle seat in front. Less than ideal. The agent wasn’t able to fix it, so we spent the next two hours working with Delta (our ticketing carrier) and the gate agents to get our seats closer together. Once we were onboard we were able to trade with someone, but it was definitely a production!
Security was a breeze (even with our coats and laptops and bags of toiletries), so we were through and on our way in about 5 minutes. The terminal didn’t have much in the way of shops or restaurants, so we decided to visit the Air France lounge.
I had read that Air France inherited this lounge space from NorthWest, but I was not prepared for a “lounge” that looked like nothing had been moved (or cleaned) since the 1960’s. Wow. I pretty much only need three things from an airline lounge (or the airport in general): functioning wi-fi, clean bathrooms, and Diet Coke, so I was pretty disappointed that Air France didn’t have any of these. It was quiet though, and there was a nice view of the mountains.
When our flight was called for boarding we headed to the gate, had a final passport check, and made our way to our seats. We were busy negotiating trades, so I didn’t take a picture of the cabin, but the seats were nice and comfy recliner-style seats with a hard shell (so that the person in front of you reclines into their shell, rather than into your knees).
One thing that always surprises me when we fly other carriers is how LONG the boarding process takes. The majority of our flying is on Southwest, with their frantic “if you see a good seat take it because we are leaving in 9 minutes” schtick, so it was interesting watching the boarding process take a full hour!
10 minutes before we were supposed to depart the pilot announced that the AC system wasn’t working properly in one of the cabins, so we were delayed waiting for maintenance. The flight attendants passed out champagne and orange juice, and we were on our way after about an hour.
As soon as we reached 10,000 feet the flight attendants came by with dinner menus. I’m not sure how many crew were on board in total, but we had six attendants for the Business cabin (which had about 60 passengers).
The one challenge that I have with Air France is that they expect you to know the drill – there isn’t much communication about what is happening next and what everyone needs to be doing. Only one of the attendants spoke more than a few words of English, so that might have had something to do with it.
At this point, two of the attendants began passing trays with spoonfuls of something, along with boxes of something else.
Looking at the menu, I assume this was the amuse bouche – at any rate it was delicious.
The next pass through the cabin was for drinks, plus a tray with the foie gras, appetizer, bread and salad courses.
Some premium class “purists” complain about this setup, but on east-bound flights I appreciate the time it saves. The more time for sleeping the better!
For dinner we had choices that boiled down to beef, chicken, fish, or pasta. I was planning on the fish (a sea bass) until the gentleman next to me received his, at which point I opted to join Nick in having the beef dish.
After dinner they brought petit fours and sorbet, along with cognacs and coffees for those who wanted them.
My priority on West-East flights is to get to sleep as early as possible to start resetting my clock, so I skipped watching a movie and went right into sleep-mode. I actually slept until 7 AM Paris time, which meant a solid four hours of sleep. Nick stayed up later and then slept until breakfast, so we both were able to get a decent amount of rest.
Breakfast was another example of how Air France expects their Business class travelers to know what is going on already. At about 9 AM the cabin crew went through and pointed all the reading lights at the ceiling (to make the cabin brighter), and shortly after that one of the attendants was waving at me with an armful of white linen (I had my headphones on). There aren’t any pictures of breakfast because the entire process was very hectic. I am not sure what I was offered, nor what I asked for, but what I ended up with was a warmed peaches with chopped nuts dish that was very tasty. Nick somehow ended up with eggs, so I think I got the better option.
We landed in Paris about an hour later than we had planned, which was fine for us but there were a lot of people running to make their next flights. Charles de Gaulle is a HUGE airport and I can’t imagine making a tight connection! Everything was well-signed, so we were through the terminal and to passport control in about 10 minutes. We spent a long time talking to the agent because we were not prepared or organized. He asked how long we were staying, and when we responded with “three months” he was concerned, and wanted to see our return ticket. Of course we didn’t have printouts of our itinerary, and the entire process was complicated by the fact that he spoke as much English as we speak French. We ended up showing him that we had multiple credit cards (they want to make sure that you can support yourself for the duration of your stay), and he stamped our passports.
We were in Paris!