POST 1 – October 19th 2018 – Travel lifestyle

First stop : Moscow, Russia!

Air France AMS-CDG-SVO  Economy class + Marriott Moscow Novy Arbat

The trip to Moscow…

My last night home could be more considered as a nap, rather than a night. As usual, I decided to pack at the last minute, and got surprised by the smaller than expected dimensions of my new luggage (crossover from Thule). Considering also that I recently purchased some new electronic toys such as a phone gimbal and a drone, that also took more space than I anticipated. Anyway, after closing most of the utilities at home, I hit the road towards Amsterdam Schiphol airport at 5 am and arrived 2 hours and half later at the airport. Fortunately, Avis did give me a very nice rental car this time, a Volvo S90 automatic, so the ride to airport was really a pleasure. This car is really a plane!

Checking-in my luggage took only a few minutes using the KLM SkyPriority dedicated desks, although the area was a bit crowded at this time of the day. The agent was nice enough to allow me to check in my 24.4 kg suitcase (in theory only 23 kgs were allowed on my ticket). KLM was not known to me to be very flexible in the past with the luggage weight…

Clearing security took about 5 minutes, using the priority lane and millimetric waves body scanners were in use. I then proceeded to the KLM lounge 25. I did not take any pictures there as I have simply been way too many times and there is not much to write about. I feel that the catering quality decreased over the past year or so. The lounge was packed and breakfast assortment of cold cuts, cereals and juices were available. It was really busy in the there, so busy that there was a line to use the restrooms…

I stayed there only 20 minutes and then headed towards the gate C7, which was accomodating my flight to CDG that morning. Note to KLM and Schiphol airport : Why on earth do you accomodate every single time the shuttle AMS-CDG on those gates C3/C5/C7 ? The aircrafts used are typically quite big (approx. 200 passengers), with a lot of skypriority eligible passengers, and there is simply NO space to accomodate 200 passengers at that gate ! Boarding was a bit chaotic but priority boarding was somehow enforced. Like on most of the AMS-CDG flights, a quite significant amount of SkyPriority card holders were present. Boarding began a few minutes late, with the first passengers waiting in the jet bridge as the aircraft was not yet ready.

Air France AF1241 – October 12th 2018
AMS Amsterdam Schiphol – 09:30
CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle – 10:45
Airbus A321 – F-GTAU – Seat 10F, Economy, window, emergency exit.

As usual on AF, the purser (or « chef de cabine ») was greeting passengers at the entrance. I was lucky enough to board with the first 10% so I still had some space inside overhead bins as I was seated on an emergency exit. My selected seat, 10F is located right next to the door #2 Right, and a crew seat is located right in front of it. So when the crew seat is not in use, there is unlimited legroom on that seat. I somehow started to discuss with Caroline, the flight attendant located on door #2, and started to talk, within other things, about my upcoming trips. The flight was packed to the brim, so were the overhead bins. Eventually, we crew managed to close the doors, but due to ATC (Air traffic control) restrictions at the departures of AMS, we had to wait an extra 5-10 minutes at the gate, followed by another 5 to 10 minutes of taxi time to the departing runway in operation.

While Caroline got seated for take off and landing at the 3rd door, Alexa, another FA working on that flight took seat in front of me and we started to discuss until take off.

The service on that short flight was swift and it looks like that the sizes of the croissants increased on AF since last time I took a morning flight !

We started the descent towards CDG about 30 after take off and landed about 10 minutes later than scheduled, and this followed a 5 min taxi time to our gate in the terminal 2F.

Right before landing, Caroline came back and offered me a « good luck stone » (aLabradorite from Madagascar) to give me some positive energy for my trip. I though this was very thoughtful and really appreciated the gesture !

I have to say that some crews on AF can be sometimes a bit distant and cold but this was clearly not the case with Alexa and Caroline, as they were very nice and friendly. So I am still happy to see that a 45 min hop can still be very enjoyable !

As a conclusion, the crew made the flight an enjoyable experience…

The connection in CDG, between terminals 2F and 2E was quite smooth, there was no need to clear security again and passport control to exit Schengen area took only a few minutes (I did not use the automated gates).

I headed to the lounge located at the ground floor of the K gates. The lounge is divided in two sections, the left side having windows and a mezzanine, the other section being more inside the building ; with limited views. I found the catering to be much better than on the KLM Crown lounge in AMS. A warm and cold buffet was available, with multiple smaller buffet areas dispatched across the lounge. Champagne was available, with a couple of red and white wines. I spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and proceeded to the gate 45 min before departure.

Boarding was done via automatic gates with SkyPriority customers eligible to board first. I was one of the first ones to board the aircraft and took place in my seat 10F.

Air France AF1744 – October 12th 2018
CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle – 12:55
SVO Moscow Sherementyevo– 17:40
Airbus A321 – F-GTAH – Seat 10F, Economy, window, emergency exit.

The boarding was completed on time but we had some technical issues with the push-back truck, so we left our parking position about 40 minutes late. This followed a 10 minutes taxi to the departure runway. So I had plenty of time to socialize with the stewardess seated in front of me J

The service started about an hour after take off, and considering the 3 hour journey to Moscow, a small lunch was served. It consisted in a small salad, a chicken casserole with mashed potatoes and a chocolate lava cake, in addition to the regular beverage service.

It was good considering this was economy and still within continental Europe. At some point above poland, we encountered some turbulence and the service had to be paused by orders of the cockpit crew, this was right after my coffee got served. It did not lasted long and fortunately, there were no spills to deplore…

A few duty free items were on sale during this flight. No WiFi was available, like on most (if not all) AF flights but USB ports were available at every seat (just like on the previous flight)

We landed in SVO with a 25 minute delay, and there was almost no line to clear immigration. The luggage arrived about 10 minutes after clearing immigration and I was outside the terminal by 18:35.

I paid about 170 Euros for this flight one-way, and thanks to my Gold status with Flying Blue, I had on free piece of checked-in luggage and one emergency exit seat selected, so I think this was reasonably priced.

Marriott Moscow Novy Arbat

Traffic was quite bad to get to the center of Moscow, where my hotel was located and it took a good 90 minute to get to my destination. But my driver, Sergei, knew some good shortcuts and had the local driving skills you need to go through the city…

The Marriott Novy Arbat is located in the first « ring » of the city, meaning that most of the attractions are walking distance (less than 30 min walking) from the hotel. The metro station Smolenskaya is also about 5 to 10 minutes away. (I was doing on average 20000 to 25000 steps daily still…)

Marriott changed their program recently and I dropped of one level in their status, meaning that in theory, I would not be eligible with lounge access (free breakfast, drinks and snacks). However, after a bit of negociation with the agent at the reception, I got this benefit granted for this stay and enjoyed a nice breakfast at the lounge every day 🙂

 The wifi speed was excellent, better than what I have at home even, and I used a Marriott travel package of 7 nights to « pay » for this stay (270000 Marriott points, which gave me those 7 nights + 120000 Alaska miles tobe used later…)

Marriott Moscow Novy Arbat

This first post is summarized on the first episode of the YouTube channel !

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