Flight Report: Air France 787-9 Inaugural Sightseeing Flight from Paris Pt. 1

AF787: Bienvenue, Air France Boeing 787-9!

(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!

The report is split into two parts for easier digestion. I hope you will enjoy the first part below!

If you want to skip straight to part 2 (not recommended), click here.

Air France and the Boeing 787-9’s Entry into Service

Back in 2011, Air France KLM announced their first joint wide-body aircraft order which included 43 Airbus A350-900s and 30 Boeing 787-9s. The 787-9 first joined the KLM fleet. It was delivered in 2015, and to date was joined by another seven airframes.

On the other hand, Air France’s first 787-9, F-HRBA, was delivered just a month ago, at the beginning of December 2016. The aircraft, besides being Air France’s first also happens to be the 500th Dreamliner.

The first route for the Air France 787 is going to be Paris CDG to Cairo starting from January 9, 2017. Its first long-haul route will be the transatlantic flight from Paris CDG to Montreal starting from May 1, 2017.

Also, similar to what Air France has done with its A380’s entry into service, the airline plans to demonstrate the aircraft on the short-haul Paris CDG to London Heathrow route for a limited period of time from February 6, 2017, to October 28, 2017.

Initial Air France 787 Routes

Initial Air France 787-9 destinations: Cairo, London, Montreal. (Map generated using Great Circle Mapper)

“Discover the Dreamliner” Flights

Prior to the aircraft’s entry into service on scheduled flights, however, the airline planned four thematic “Discover the Dreamliner” sightseeing flights to celebrate the special occasion on January 7 and January 8, 2017.

Each of the four flights had a route that showed the passengers different regions of France. On the first day, “Corsica and Mediterranean” (AF787) and “South West and Gascony” (AF789) flights were operated. On the second day, “Brittany” (AF787) and “Tour de France” (AF789) flights followed.

AF787 January 7

January 7, 2017: AF787
Corsica and Mediterranean
(Image by Air France)
AF789 January 7

January 7, 2017: AF789
South West and Gascony
(Image by Air France)
AF787 January 8

January 8, 2017: AF787
Brittany
(Image by Air France)
AF789 January 8

January 8, 2017: AF789
Tour de France
(Image by Air France)

All of the flights were scheduled to be two and a half hours long, and tickets were sold online through Weezevent – a French event ticket sales system. Perhaps, Air France had learned a lesson after the 747 farewell flight ticket sales did not go too smoothly through their call center.

Tickets for all three classes – Business, Premium Economy, and Economy – were sold for 787EUR, 349EUR, and 249EUR respectively.

I was fairly late to the party, but I was lucky enough to secure the very last seat on the very first flight – seat 24E – an economy class middle seat, but a seat nonetheless.

Air France Website

Air France prepared a special website dedicated to the 787.
Air France Website

I decided to book at the right time – when one last seat was left unbooked.

Let’s get onboard!

Check-In: A Very Early Start

Being excited and wanting to be one of the first to check-in and head to the gate where festivities were promised by a pre-flight email, I arrived at the airport at 5:20AM, 3 hours and 10 minutes before the flight. I headed straight to terminal 2E’s check-in zone 10 as instructed in the email to find deserted check-in desks. The only sign of the special flight at this point were the LCD screens above the desks which, unlike the ones in the rest of the terminal, were showing “Bienvenue 787” graphics.

Within minutes, however, people started gathering, and by 6AM – the official check-in start time – a considerable number of passengers was waiting to check-in. At this point, the staff was finalizing preparations – setting up the queue and putting out 787 banners.

AF787 Check-In Area

The check-in area starting to fill up.

When check-in opened ten minutes past six, I was the first in line. As such, within seconds I was holding a boarding pass with “inaugural flight” markings as well as a brochure about the 787.

AF787 Check-In Area

Check-in for AF787 in progress.
AF787 Boarding Pass

Boarding pass. (Photo taken later onboard.)

Déjeuner by Air France & “AF787 Heroes”

With the boarding pass in my hand, I headed through passport check and security, and onto an automated train that connects the main terminal to gates L and M. I got off at the “gates M” and headed to gate M44 where the aircraft was already parked in the darkness.

Gates M at CDG

The “M” gates area was deserted at the early morning hours.
Air France Boeing 787-9 F-HRBA

The first Air France Boeing 787-9, F-HRBA, being prepared for the flight.

After taking some photos of the 787 through the terminal windows, I had a quick bite from the offering Air France had prepared for this occasion. There were two tables with waiters, each with a selection of pastries and fruit cuts, and orange and pineapple juices.

Breakfast

The breakfast area with the 787 in the background.

Next up was lining up in queue for the main pre-flight event – a photo shoot titled “AF787 Heroes” done by French photographer Sacha Goldberger. After filling out a photo waiver form and receiving a paper with ID, people were given a reflective vest, and let onto the apron in groups.

AF787 Heroes Photoshoot with Sacha Goldberger

Filling in waiver form while waiting.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot with Sacha Goldberger

Putting on a safety vest before entering the apron.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot with Sacha Goldberger

An Air France A380 at the gate next to ours.

On the apron, a tent was set-up where the passengers could dress up into pilot suits for the photo shoot. Props like model airplanes and retro pilot caps and glasses were available as well.

AF787 Photoshoot

Tent for changing into costumes.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot with Sacha Goldberger

Props.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot with Sacha Goldberger

Props.

Once dressed, we lined up to get our photo taken by Sacha. Some people posed with their model aircraft, some took group photos, and some including me jumped. I received a link to download the photo just a day after the flight – well done, Air France!

AF787 Heroes Photoshoot

Sacha’s setup for taking the photos.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot

A passenger in a vintage pilot’s cap taking photo of the 787.
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot

My “AF787 Heroes” shot in front of the 787. (Photo by Sacha Goldberger / Air France)
AF787 Heroes Photoshoot

A quick photo of the aircraft before heading back to the terminal.

Sleepy Boarding in the Darkness

When I got back to the terminal after having my photo taken, a long queue for boarding was already formed at the gate. Within two minutes, boarding started, and ten minutes later, I was handing my boarding pass and passport to the gate agent.

“Bonjour monsieur.”

“Hello.”

“Arigato,” she added a third language to the “conversation” after seeing my Japanese passport.

AF787 Boarding

When I got back to terminal, a queue was already formed.
AF787 Boarding

Boarding for flight AF787 to Paris CDG in progress.

With my documents back, I headed through the gate where two rows of Air France employees holding “Bienvenue 787” signs were standing and welcoming passengers.

AF787 Boarding

Air France employees welcoming their first 787-9 passengers.
AF787 Boarding

One of the employees holding the “Bienvenue 787” sign.

Getting down the jetway took a bit of time, as people took their time to enjoy the aircraft before settling into their seats.

Once onboard, I made my way through the business and premium economy cabins into my seat 24E in the first economy class cabin. On each seat, a pillow, a headset, and a nice looking gift bag (containing a cap, key holder, micro-fiber cloth, and stickers) was waiting for passengers.

AF787 Boarding

Boarding in progress.
AF787 Boarding

Giftbag, red pillow (hiding behind the bag) and headset.

At this point, it was shortly after 8AM, and with the darkness outside and the early morning wake-up, people were looking sleepy and not exactly happy to be onboard the special flight.

That, of course, changed right after take-off as you will see in the next part!

Bienvenue, Air France Boeing 787-9! (Part 2)

To continue reading part 2, click here.

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