Our Air France A319, parked at Gate L21 at CDG
We had purchased a Premium Economy fare to fly from San Francisco to Istanbul (IST) via Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) with a 60-minute layover. While I was looking forward to checking out Air France’s medium-haul Premium Economy service from CDG-IST, the carrier quietly eliminated the class on everything but long-haul flights and placed passengers into regular Economy. Not nice.
Fast-forward to our landing at CDG — our inbound flight on the A380 was delayed taking off from SFO and spent its time circling the airport grounds, finally docking 45 minutes before our next flight. Would we make it in time, or would we have to spend four hours waiting for the next flight and losing an entire evening in Istanbul?
An American Eagle CRJ-200 during boarding at LAX – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Occasionally, I’ll be as lucky as some of my AirlineReporter colleagues to be flying high in a premium cabin while being waited on hand and foot (see, e.g., David Delagarza’s vacation flight in first-class on ANA, or Jacob’s Pfledger’s mile-high shower on Emirates). But as most of us can attest to, sometimes (or most of the time) we have to schlep it to get to where we want to go.
My wife and I traveled to Europe for a two-week whirlwind honeymoon tour that included 10 cities in eight countries, as well as eight individual flights within Europe. We found a smashing deal from Delta to experience premium economy on Air France’s Airbus A380 to Paris. There was just one slight issue: our Air France flight took off from San Francisco, but we live in Southern California — over 350 miles away. The solution: flying in the much-maligned CRJ-200. What sort of life decisions did I get wrong to lead me to suffering this mighty indignity?
People who love to fly don’t fly economy.
For the past several months, my husband has pitched the idea of AirlineReporter readers likely being interested in a trip report written by a “normal person” like me. In this case, “normal” is defined as someone who doesn’t choose flights based on the aircraft model, or speak in cabin class codes (e.g. Y, J, M, F). I am not an AvGeek and I am sort of proud of it (although I still love you all).
My husband and I fly together several times a year and, when we do, I am able to piggyback off of his status and occasionally get a free upgrade to business/first for domestic flights. However, the “opportunity” for me to fly long-haul economy eventually arose when I needed to fly from Seattle to Hyderabad, India for work.
British Airways 747 seen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport flying to London – Photo: Benjamin Whalen | AirlineReporter
To establish some context, I consider myself to be an experienced economy flier. Before meeting my husband and learning of the world of mileage runners and aviation geekdom, I had several flights between the US and Europe to visit distant relatives, as well as a semester studying abroad where I tried to fly to another city every other weekend. In all of these cases, I only ever flew economy, and have fond memories of being nestled under a blanket and binge-watching in-flight entertainment on a few good-length flights. Even though I didn’t pay much attention to the seat dimensions, I enjoyed flying and viewed it as a chance for peace, quiet, and self-reflection.
However, my flight to and from India was going to be much more rigorous than my previous travels. I had two back-to-back ten-hour flights in British Airways’ economy class, traveling from SEA>LHR>HYD. To top it off, I needed to do the reciprocal leg within five days of my arrival.
Qatar First Class product on the A380. For our flight, there were no First Class passengers.
The more that I fly the Airbus A380, the more I like the aircraft — as a passenger, but I am not so sure as an AvGeek. It is so smooth during take-off and landing, one might not even realize that they happened. Turbulence is mostly absorbed by the jumbo jet, making the flight smooth. The windows and walls are so thick, the aircraft stays quiet and passengers are removed from the flying experience.
As an AvGeek, these are some of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of the A380. I want to feel the take-off, I enjoy a little turbulence, and I want to stay connected to the entire flight experience. But this doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy an A380 flight, especially when it is on a Qatar Airways aircraft with an impressive on-board product.
Recently, I was invited to participate in the inaugural Qatar A380 flight from Bangkok to Doha, and who am I to refuse? Overall, it was an amazing flight, but I wished it was a bit longer — it was only about six hours.
One of the biggest disappointments I had regarding the flight was not being able to get an exterior shot of the A380. And believe it or not, that was partially due to both Bangkok and Doha airports being designed where photos are hard to get, and also because of the King of Thailand.