I usually try flying Star Alliance (*A), especially with Air India (AI) on board. But there are still quite a few sectors where *A lacks good connections – like Portland for example. I’ve been consciously avoiding Air France (AF) after reading about their mistreatment of Indians. We did try booking easterly via Japan, but with just a week’s notice, even that was sold out. I was left with no option but to fly Skyteam all through BOM-CDG-SLC-PDX-AMS-BOM with AF-DL.
The to & fro journeys happen to be my longest 2 ever: a whopping 32 hours end-to-end to Portland, and 25 hours on the return. It also has the highest meeting-to-journey (MTJ) ratio of 28.5 hours of travel per hour of business meetings 🙂 The previous record was 15 hours. CDG-SLC also happens to be my longest sector this year – 5072 miles.
BOM-CDG on Air France
Without airline lounge access, I used the Clipper lounge which seems inferior to the new CSIA First Class lounge. We had an on-time departure around 2am. On board the A330, the crew seemed very pleasant. They distributed headphones and a night kit with an eye mask & ear muffs. The light midnight snack was the largest served by any airline that operates flights post midnight. LH, LX, VS, DL all serve a puff roll with drinks. Apart from the hot snack, AF served fruits – really help keep you hydrated on long flights – and a granola bar to munch later in the night. They used an older In-flight entertainment (IFE) system with an average selection. Before landing, they served a full breakfast and landed on time.
Here is the full menu:
The 3 hour layover at CDG was a killer given that there isn’t a single lounge on the Skyteam terminal that accepts PriorityPass (PP). London (LHR) has the same situation if you’re flying Virgin (VS), BA or Jet (9W).
I first flew Delta (DL) 2 years back to AMS, when Continental (CO) was still merging in. DL completely changed my impression of their service levels from where I’d last seen them – you had to pay for everything. Their IFE is one the best I’ve seen: an unusually large screen and some great programming. They had the latest movies like Chef and episodes of Silicon Valley & Veep. Headsets were finally free, but I was happier plugging in my own in the standard 3.5mm jack.
Like other things, they made drinks free too – not the blends SQ serves, but decent stuff. The menu also seemed to have gone through a revamp. The first meal was sour chicken with a roll, salad & pastry. Mid-flight, they offered a light snack – crackers, hummus, green olives with a piece of chocolate. To me, it was the best snack ever – and much better than the vada pav or chickpeas wrap that United (UA) serves. The last meal was a typical roll with ice cream. The crew was super nice on all sectors.
The only real problem was the seat recline. The Economy seat hardly reclines which is more than a serious problem for international sectors on DL. Its so bad that it offsets all the hard work that the crew puts in to good service. And that’s 5 ft someone speaking; imagine what would happen to Hriday Gopal (picture).
Things got worse for me with the 3 hour layover at Salt Lake City (SLC), after having left my house 27 hours ago. PP has limited coverage in the US.
Skyteam’s Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) assures Premium Economy seats for Gold members which *A discontinued. This is a huge plus given their ridiculous seat pitch in Economy. Like other programs, lounge access, priority boarding and baggage handling is included.
I found the service on all flights very impressive. I still feel biased by their mistreatment of Indians but its going to take a while until I’m convinced. Allegiance to the Skyteam is not a bad idea – particularly if you’re flying a lot within the US or Europe. With Mumbai as my base, I only have access to 4 Skyteam members as against a dozen *A airlines . Plus you have AI offering you all possible domestic connections.