Flying from Boston to Venice on Air France

3313200New adventures and new experiences.  In a nutshell, that’s what I live for and how I get through the monotonous, boring days of my regular life until I can travel again.  When I was on MSC Divina in December, I couldn’t resist booking a cruise on their newest ship, MSC Preziosa. Summer quickly passed and before I knew it, the time had arrived and we were off for our 7-night Mediterranean cruise.  Or so we thought. 

Always looking for a good deal, I love Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon Local, etc. and had booked rides for us with a limousine company a few weeks before our trip. We were set to get picked up at 8:15 pm and after about 5 minutes of no car to take us to the airport, I called the company.  They didn’t answer and the message said to send an email as it is monitored 24/7.  To date, no one has responded yet and we ended up driving to the airport and parking ($305).  But we aren’t the only ones who’ve been burned by Black Car Sedans.

Trying not to stress out completely but obviously worrying we might miss our flight, we raced from Central Parking to the international terminal, heavy bags in tow, and a brace on my right hand for the possible broken bone in my right hand.  What? I didn’t mention that? Long story, but I was screwing around playing “punchy” and clearly my punch is so forceful that it looks like I broke a bone.  However, not feeling the need or desire to be in a cast or have surgery, I’m just ignoring it for now.  After flying to the check in desk, we were able to get through security fairly fast and decided to park ourselves at Durgin Park  for a few minutes before boarding began.  No non-meat options were available for food so I had a drink (Southbound Flight) and yes, it was really good.  If you don’t know about Durgin Park, the original location is in Faneuil Hall in Boston and was well known for surly waitresses that would berate and insult you.  Oh the good old days!  Now they’re polite and friendly — boring!

After I finished my drink, we walked over to the Air France gate and discovered people had already begun queuing to board the flight.  As we were flying in Premium Economy, we had access to the Sky Priority line on the right hand side and we were able to board the plane first and avoid the cluster that was forming to the left.  Of course, I could only board the plane after the “VIP” who was escorted by police and airport personnel could board the plane.  Thanks fancy pants — now I want an escort the next time I fly. 

I had chosen Premium Economy solely because of price and because it wasn’t an extremely long flight.  According to the Air France website, with Premium Economy  you’ll receive “fast, priority access throughout the airport with Sky Priority,” up to two checked bags weighing up to 23kg/50 lbs. each at no extra charge, lounge access (for a fee), convenient boarding, and priority when exiting the aircraft and collecting your baggage.  Onboard the aircraft, you’re in the foremost section of the aircraft between Business and Economy in a fixed shell seat providing 40% more space than in Economy with 20% more leg room and 20% wider seats. You’ll also find a 10.4 inch interactive video screen, noise reducing headset, personal reading lamp, electronic PC outlet, pure virgin wool blanket and feather pillow, bottled water. 

When we boarded the flight, I didn’t see First Class then, but did see the one row of First Class cushy seating when we got off.  Instead, I saw the comfy seats in Business Class and instinctively began coveting even before spotting our Premium Economy seats.  When I found our seats, I thought they looked good, but seven hours later my opinion had completely changed.  There’s very little cushioning in those fixed shell seats and they hardly recline.  While the website shows that the leg rest goes up, it barely goes up and certainly doesn’t provide you with a more comfortable position for a long flight.  I won’t recline my seat at all except on a long flight to try to get a little sleep and let me tell you, there was no sleep to be had on this flight. I did love the spacious overhead bins, which we didn’t had to fight over at all except for those people trying to cheat the system by putting their Economy bag up front. On a side note, the outlet between the seats for charging was not operational and had a red light on for the entire flight.  

The biggest note of concern on our Air France flight was that there was no safety lecture at the beginning of the flight or after take off.  We got on the flight, buckled ourselves in, and before I could utter “Mon Dieux!”  – we were off.  I also never saw the flight attendants but for the obligatory handing off of the cheap amenities kit, which contained headphone covers, which I called headphone condoms; a toothbrush and toothpaste, nasty colored socks, eye mask, and ear plugs, and our meals.  There were no niceties, smiles, nothing.  If it were at all possible, I’d equate it to a self-serve flight.  

The entertainment system was adequate, but please, don’t tell me that Divergent, Transcendence, Captain America 2, and SpiderMan 2 are new releases.  They had maybe a dozen movies in that section and television shows that included Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Family Guy, and Friends (is it 1997 again and no one told me?)

No one, especially me, will ever say that they look forward to an airline meal and this flight only supported my pessimistic opinion of airline food. Click To Tweet

No one, especially me, will ever say that they look forward to an airline meal and this flight only supported my pessimistic opinion of airline food.  If you wanted something to drink, you’d better order it during meal service because you weren’t going to get anything until breakfast service.  I had pre-ordered a vegetarian meal which was a salad, white rice and veggies in some kind of red sauce, a roll, and fresh fruit.  The only thing that made it tolerable was the champagne to wash it all down. For breakfast they served orange juice, plain yogurt (plain — as in taste? taste? Are you in there?), and a blueberry muffin.  I had a cup of tea and hoped I could find something in the airport when we landed. 

Walking from 2E to 2F or vice versa in Charles de Gaulle airport after a long flight is France’s version of a morning wake up call.  If only I had been able to connect my Nike+ GPS to record the distance because I swear it felt like I had been hoofing it through the airport for hours with my big old backpack, which had me sweating profusely.  Pretty picture I’m painting for you, huh?  At least on our flight from Venice to Paris the flight attendant advised us how to get from 2F to 2E but our Boston crew was probably deep in thought, sleep, or conversation as no one offered a word upon our arrival into Paris.

After getting off the flight and going through our required Security checks (Security liked my airplane tattoo!) and Customs, we finally found our gate, but I was definitely surprised that there was little in the way of food offerings.  Yes, I could shop at Swarovski, Cartier, or La Maison du Chocolat, I could even get a massage at “Massage Be Relax,” but food options were limited two options on the lower level (a store with food you could grab and go (TJ’s Cafe) and a sit down casual restaurant with a line out the door) and one coffee kiosk near the gate area.  

I took food pics in the store and then sat to utilize the free wifi and within minutes it was time to board our flight.  A lady with a baby wanted to sit in the seat next to me and asked in French if the seat was occupied.  I, of course, answered in what else, but Spanish (Si!), which in turn made her ask me again in English.  It was at that moment that I wished I hadn’t stopped drinking coffee because caffeine could’ve helped me with my inefficient language skills.  I was definitely no polyglot that morning!

Life would be easy if you could simply walk up to the gate and then board your flight. But the gate agent wasn’t having that.  My boarding pass didn’t seem to want to scan and when she looked me up by name, it turned out my seat had been moved.  New boarding passes to print, angry people in line behind me – yeah, this was a great way to start the flight.  Oh did I mention that you had to walk down a flight of stairs to board a bus packed with people to take you to the flight?  

Somehow I squeezed out a few pics of the glass encased terminal anyway.  

We then boarded the flight only to find the thinnest possible seats that an airline could put on a plane.  I could feel every vibration of the plane as well as the knees of the passenger sitting behind me.

As we began to taxi out, I spotted a parked Concorde jet at the airport.  How I wish they never retired those planes.  Maybe someday someone will bring them back.  The plane took off and announcements were made in French, English, and Italian.  Although only a short flight, a meal was served that unfortunately, was not a doable option for me.  No explanation was made as to what it was, but it looked like some kind of fish sitting on a bed of noodles.  Hmmmm…. that’s right.  I’ll pass.

The 1 1/2 hour flight felt relatively quick and soon enough we were descending through the clouds and approaching Venice.  

Air France
It’s Venice!

Although I wasn’t sure what I was looking at then, I now now it was the lovely city of Venice with the distinguishing bell tower, St. Mark’s Campanile, sticking out the most. The disappointment of an otherwise less than satisfactory set of flights was immediately replaced with excitement.  I was about to get off the plane and plant my feet on the ground in Venice, Italy! 

Overall, my experience with Air France wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had, but I do have some minimum requirements that I expect when flying like a comfortable seat, even if I’m not in Business class, helpful and professional flight attendants, and an overall experience that makes me want to return. Here’s to hoping that Air France can improve some of these areas as well as provide safety information before a flight.

Next up, getting from Marco Polo Airport in Venice to my hotel using the ATVO “Venezia Express” bus