(Flown on January 7, 2017)
Having flown on most of the aircraft types that Air France currently operates, I was very glad to have the chance to try out its latest type – the Boeing 787-9. Actually, not only to try it out, but to be on its very first revenue flight, a sightseeing flight around France!
This is the second part of a two-part report, and it looks at the in-flight experience.
Slow Start: De-Icing on a Cold Morning
Boarding of the flight was completed at 8:13AM, and a welcome announcement followed five minutes later. Another five minutes later, a pre-recorded greeting from the International Space Station by Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut and an Air France pilot was played on the IFE screens. He even had a blow-up Air France A380 floating around in the video!
After the video was finished, the cabin crew passed through the aisles handing out a booklet which contained information about the aircraft and the flight, as well as the menu for the flight.
At 8:29AM, one minute before our scheduled departure time, we pushed back and the safety video was screened. Air France has decided to add a bit of “French elegance” to its safety video, and its really nicely done. I mean, who would not fasten their seatbelt if the seatbelt “elegantly highlights one’s waistline while ensuring safety.”
Ten minutes after pushing back, the captain announced that we would need to de-ice. We reached the de-icing spot, and the team got into action. About twenty minutes later, around 9AM, the de-icing was finished and we were ready to start the journey.
We continued our taxi to the active runway, and at 9:09AM we took off steeply as the first Air France 787-9 revenue flight. The special occasion was of course followed by a round of applause by the passengers.
A Celebratory Brunch Service
Just four minutes after take-off, while we were still climbing steeply, the seatbelt signs were switched off. That triggered about half of the passengers to get out of their seats and start exploring the plane. The aisles and galleys got clogged by the passengers who at this point turned from sleepy people to excited aviation enthusiasts.
After twenty five minutes of exploration, the crew kindly asked passengers to return to their seats for the meal service. A brunch was served – cold pieces of chicken, a sandwich, a piece of bread, grapefruit, and yoghurt. A small bottle of Brut Royal was given to everyone. Given the special occasion, glass plates were used.
Approaching the Coast: Corsica and Mediterranean
Unexpectedly, at 10:10AM, with the meal tray still on the table, we started descending rapidly. Steeply enough that the trays started sliding down.
Commentary was provided throughout the flight, but unfortunately only in French. In any case, all it took was one look at the airshow – we were already above Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast of Corsica.
As meal trays were being collected, people started gathering around windows and started admiring the beautiful scenery below. We flown a bit along the coast of Corsica and then commenced a 180 degree left turn to head back to Paris.
While entering the mainland again, we could see Nice including its airport on the left side. Then we flew above the Alps, briefly entering Italian and Swiss airspace. By this time, we were climbing to cruising altitude again.
The Flight Continues: Heading Back to Paris
As we were heading back, shortly after 11AM, a video about the 787 was played on all screens. The whole time, the mood onboard was extremely joyful and celebratory.
While wondering around the cabin, I noticed one of the passengers looking at his phone at a photo of the cockpit. I wasn’t sure it was from this flight, but there was nothing to lose. I headed to the front of the aircraft, and when the cockpit door opened and me as well as some other passengers were let in, I couldn’t believe what was happening.
Up until that point, the flight was amazing, but the in-flight cockpit visit made it even better!
At 11:22AM, an announcement was made that we were starting our approach back into CDG, and at 11:30AM the seatbelt signs were switched on.
With the short cockpit visit over and the seatbelt sign on, I chatted with my neighbors a bit. The passenger sitting on my left was an employee of an American airline who came to Paris with two of his friends just for the inaugural flight.
The passenger sitting on my right was an employee of Air France who had taken the staff & media flight the day before. Not only that, but he was also about to take the remaining three “Discover the Dreamliner” flights, as well as the first scheduled flight to Cairo the following week, and the first scheduled flight by the 787 to Montreal in May. Talk about passion!
Unfortunately, the flight went by fast and was almost over at this point. At 11:42AM the landing gear was lowered, and three minutes later – about two and a half hours after we took off – we landed back at Charles de Gaulle airport with another round of applause.
A twelve-minute long taxi followed, and at 11:57AM we parked back at M44. Once again, clapping followed.
Last Moments Onboard: Exploring the Cabin
After we arrived at the gate, I waited for majority of people to get off board so that I could take some cabin shots.
While taking the photos, one of the very friendly flight attendants approached me and asked if I was running a blog or something. I gave her my KNAviation.net card, and she said that if I needed anything I should let her know and that I should take any photos I need.
As such, I asked her if a quick visit to the crew rest would be possible, and indeed it was no problem at all to see the crew’s “bedroom” with 6 beds. The very kind crew that took me there even offered to take a photo of me.
After seeing the crew rest located above the main cabin, I got back into the main cabin. Air France’s 787-9 is equipped with 30 full-flat business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 225 economy seats.
When I finished taking photos, I bid a farewell to the crew, and headed out of the aircraft into the jetway. At the end of it, flight certificates were being handed out.
With the certificate in my hand, I headed towards exit having just finished an amazing inaugural flight
In the meantime, in the departure area one floor below, passengers were starting to gather for the next flight, AF789.
Amazing Job, Air France!
While initially I was hesitating whether to go or not as by the time I was even considering booking only middle seats were left, I am incredibly happy that I ended up going. As usual with these kind of “event” flights, the assigned seat mattered very little – only during take-off and landing.
To celebrate the arrival of their new aircraft, Air France has managed to put on a great event. Starting with the photo session in pilot costumes with Sacha, followed by the great flight with an outstanding crew, and ending with an in-flight cockpit visit, Air France has managed to put romance back into an airliner!