With our luggage swapped for boarding passes, we were ready for departure. I consider us seasoned travelers, my daughter included, but there’s still something exciting for us about being in the international terminal of a major airport. It’s probably a combination of the departures board reading like a list of places I want to visit and the tail logos of carriers I rarely see on planes larger than I normally fly, but there was that subtle excitement as we waited to board Air France flight 333 to Paris.
Check In: Air France at Boston Logan Airport
Our flight was scheduled for a 7:50PM departure. Boston Terminal E is where most international flights depart from, and we knew there would be no Pre-Check, so we got there about 2 hours prior to departure. Air France’s check-in counter didn’t have a line to speak of, and the agents were incredibly polite and courteous. I will note that every single bag was weighed, either carry-on or checked. Carry-ons were tagged as well, and I was told to point that out to any gate agents or other ground staff if I were stopped, as this would help us board faster. Apparently they will weigh your carry on prior to boarding at some point, as the allowances vary by class of service.
I won’t spend much time on security, other than to say that the TSA agents at Terminal E seem irritable compared to the folks at other terminals. While it is my understanding of procedure that families are supposed to all go through the metal detector, an agent decided that I would be going through the body scanner because my family was a few steps ahead of me. I opted out and it was made clear to me that they would make me wait as a result. Not wanting to make my wife lug all of our junk off of the scanner belt herself, I went through the body scanner. Not a positive experience. If you’re a family, make sure you stick together and not go through the metal detector until you’re all standing there lined up for it.
We had about an hour before boarding and we chose not to visit any lounges after reading other reviews about the available options in Boston. Terminal E is a bit lacking in space on the main concourse, but there is a central area just behind security with some dining options. We were fairly excited about dinner service on the plane, having heard good things about Air France’s catering, so we opted for a light snack and then just walked the terminal.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but our primary boarding strategy is to avoid the scrum and get on last. The rationale is that we’re already going to be on the plane for 6 hours, so let’s not tack on another 20-30 minutes sitting around waiting.
One thing I’ve been told about Air France is that if there is room on board, they will put your stroller in a closet or overhead rather than gate-checking it. Unlike domestic airports, you will not receive your gate-checked luggage back during a layover at CDG – it will be checked through to the destination like regular counter-checked bags. Therefore, I suggest asking the gate agent prior to your flight if stowing on board is a possibility. Unfortunately for us, we were looking at a full flight, and even in business class there wasn’t space for a City Mini. We had pretty much figured that even if there was room, our stroller was too large, so we’d planned to not have it – but if you want to better your odds, an umbrella stroller would be a better fit.
Having tagged and dropped our stroller to be seen again at FLR, we took our customary place at the back of the line. Boarding was called, and in a stunning first for me as a member of the traveling public, the boarding line was held while an Air France gate agent walked back to us and insisted that we come with him to the front of the line. I never received confirmation as to whether this was an airline policy, but I was told by the agent and other (presumably regular) Air France passengers near us in line that they customarily did this. We greatly appreciated the gesture, and as a result, were the first 3 passengers to board, walk to the far aisle and turn left to the front business mini-cabin. At that moment, I wished my child was older than 18 months so I could explain to her that this would not be a regular occurrence when we go places!
Flight and Service
I have to apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. For one, at the time of this trip, I had no idea I’d ever be blogging – about anything. Second, it was an evening flight with a fairly full cabin, so we didn’t want to be in the way or be perceived as obnoxious while snapping photos. But third and most importantly, we were pretty focused on getting situated with ourselves and our daughter so that we’d fly comfortably – and so would the people seated near us.
The flight itself confirmed that Air France is a seriously child-friendly airline. I couldn’t have been happier with the crew – it appeared we had the purser working the La Premiere (First Class) cabin, with only one passenger, plus ours, in addition to two flight attendants working the business mini cabin. Every one of them stopped to say hello to my daughter and talk to her about our trip, so I hope they were equally surprised when an 18 month old spoke back to them mostly in complete sentences! She was excited, as she always is, to fly, and the crew went out of their way to build that excitement further. I’d go out of my way to fly Air France on our next European trip.
Because my daughter was 18 months old at the time, they gave us a tandem seat belt and had us buckle her in to one of our laps during takeoff, landing and turbulence. She had her own seat and they were fine with her sleeping in it, but when the pilot indicated turbulence, they politely but firmly asked us to move her to one of our laps and use the tandem belt. In practice, this was a minor inconvenience since she was awake for takeoff and the flight itself wasn’t particularly turbulent. We almost immediately laid my daughter’s seat flat, but she wasn’t quite ready to sleep. The lights were up for dinner service, so we ate as a family.
East Coast overnight flights to Europe operate a little bit differently on Air France. Despite a relatively early 7:50pm departure, dinner would be a shortened service – you’ll generally see a tray with a cold canape, salad, dessert and cheese, with a hot entree following. You may not have a choice in that entree. This won’t always be reflected in the menu, so it’s best to plan to eat a short meal and go to sleep on these flights, because that is more or less what the airline has assumed you would do. I will add that we confirmed a children’s meal over the phone, but none was catered, and there were no activity kits on board for kids either. For us, not a big deal, since we were completely okay with the idea of eating something and going to sleep – and if not, we pack our own distractions! For my daughter as well, she was quite happy with the regular adult meal – or at least most parts of it – and fell asleep shortly after.
The rest of the flight, including the landing, were uneventful. We mostly tried to sleep, although I might more accurately state that my daughter slept and we alternated watching her. We had to move her into our laps a couple of times due to turbulence, but we otherwise had a short but good night in the angle flat seat. I don’t think it would have been possible on a newer business class product with so much physical separation, but with our daughter in the seat between us, a few hours of sleep happened for all of us.Next: Transiting CDG and Arriving in Florence