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Air France Denver-Paris inaugural

Air France Denver-Paris inaugural
La Premiere Lounge and Lufthansa First Class
July 2021

 

Off to Athens

At around 8:20pm. our evening PA escorted us downstairs to our BMW for the ride to our plane.

Paris CDG to Athens ATH
Air France AF 1032
A319
8:45pm-12:55am +1 (sked)
9:30pm-1:15am +1 (actual)
July 3, 2021
Seats 1D and 1F

 

We are arrived at our plane at 8:25pm or just 20 minutes before departure... or so we thought.

Since our PA had mentioned that the flight was completely full, I was surprised to see not that many pax on board, at T-20.

That was because few had boarded, and it took nearly an hour for the rest to board in a painfully slow boarding process.  

Finally, we are under way.

Like we needed another meal.  LOL.

On approach, my Greece QR code finally arrived.  DFW-CK got a big V, while I got an ominously different big T.  Little did I know the fun that was in store for those of us with a big T.

Oh joy, a bus gate.   Fortunately, the first bus was for Business Class only.

So we left with just 14 on board.

And arrived at the terminal a few minutes later.  We followed the arrows and rope lines to show our QR code and a quick exit, or not.

Except for me and a few others that got the big T, which I discovered means Test as in random Covid Test on Arrival.  Despite being vaccinating and have three negative tests in the past 2 days, I was "randomly" pulled aside for a swab up the nose test.  Ten minutes later, we were out, hoping that they don't run the tests quickly and I get a false positive.  Sheesh.  

And just before 2am, welcome to Athens.  LOL.

And our home for the next 2 1/2 hours since our ATH-FRA departs at 7am.  We mused that we should have inquired about hourly rates.  LOL.

The Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel is excellent choice for a convenient overnight airport stay, less than 100 metres across the street from the terminal.

Nice room even it is was only for another two hours or so.

And back home... our day witth Lufthansa First Class

Not wanting an extended stay in Athens, we both set multiple alarms and then called each other at 4:15am.  Then met in the lobby at 4:45am and headed across to check-in.

Oh my, TMI at this or any hour of the day.

Off to Lufthansa counter to check-in.  The main reason for choosing Athens as our turnaround point was that it is one of the best EU gateways for attractive LH and LX First Class fares to the US.  Roundtrip fares are in the US$4,500 range (or 300,000 Amex MR points) for ATH-FRA-ORD-DEN/DFW-SFO-ZRH-ATH.  And with the current LH/LX double EQM promotion, the roundtrip will get me Miles & More SEN (Star Alliance Gold) status for more then two years and the ability to book LX First award seats.

After check-in, off to security where there was no wait.

After a long walk thru Duty Free and by other shops, our First stop was the Lufthansa Business Lounge.

Small but attractive.

With a nice selection of food and beverage.

Star Alliance partner Aegean has a more spacious lounge next door.  After checking it out, we moved over.

One more goodie bag from yesterday.

Our gate B29 which was pretty much below the lounge, so we headed down the nearby escalator around 6:20am, some 40 minutes before departure,

Athens ATH-Frankfurt FRA
Lufthansa LH 1285
A321 Neo
7:00am-9:00am
July 4, 2021
Seats 1D and 1F

Like AF, LH has separate bus for Business Class pax which pulled away at 6:30am.

Great idea in theory, except the crew wasn't ready for us to board.  That and our driver parked our bus by the back door.

While we waited and waited.  And waited so long that the 2nd bus with Economy pax arrived and parked behind us... by the front door.  But of course.

Once the all clear was given, predictable chaos as both bus doors opened at the same time.

Since we were in bulkhead seats and other Business Class pax had boarded, nearby overhead space was impossible, especially with a crew bag on the A/C side.

And another crew bag on our D/F side, with crew stupid enough to have their baggage tag showing.

Gorgeous morning along the coast.

Once in the air, our "we're taking your overhead bin space" cabin crew provided excellent service.  

Once unwrapped, a substantial and delicious breakfast. 

Nice view of Frankfurt on approach, with an Emirates A380 landing on another runway.

We pulled into our A gate (A29) at just after 9am, and headed for the Lufthansa First Class Lounge at Gate A13.

Lufthansa First Class Lounge at A13

We arrived from Athens on time at Gate A29 leaving us an hour and 45 minutes connection, enough time to visit the newly reopened First Class Lounge.  As Lufthansa painfully and slowly reopens for First Class passengers and its own frequent flyers (HONs and SENs), they have not reopened the The First Class Terminal.  Nor have they brought back lounge to gate private car service that makes FRA bearable.   From our gate, it was a  brisk 10 minute walk thru one of the ugliest terminals in Europe.  

Nice to see it open but...  this place was rather depressing... sterile and spartan. 

Depressingly empty.

On the other hand, unlike a few weeks ago, at least Lufthansa is now serving something, albeit from an a la carte menu.

Excellent service from our waiit staffer and delicious breakfast offerings.

Lufthansa First Class to Chicago

The FCL dragon suggested leaving 45 minutes before departure.  We wisely left at T-65.  Not so much because of passport control or the long walk to Z62, but the Lounge dragon forgot to mention the chaotic and stupid “Medical Check”, where we had to show our PCR test for the 4th e**ing time today.  Making it worse was that First Class passengers were lumped in with Business and Star Alliance Gold in a single slow moving lane manned by an idiot. The only lane that moved was the one for close in departures, which we finally convinced an agent to let us use.

Not that it got any better at the gate, where it was a free-for-all with gate agents boarding the usual nonsensical cadre of those that need more time (dozens and dozens of seminally able body Y pax), pax with children, blah, blah.   Gate agent finally let us board when I complained about First Class having to wait and not getting any priority at all.  

Frankfurt FRA to Chicago ORD
Lufthansa LH 430
747-8
10:45a-1:00p (sked)
11:00a-12:15p (actual)
July 4, 2021
First Class Seat 2A
Departed 7/8
 

And finally, back in one of the nicest cabins in the sky.

Our First Class flight attendant was surprisingly American (or at least Americanized).... cheerful, indeed bubbly but not very polished.  Definitely the B team.  

Meh.

Ms. Bubbly then asked about a pre departure beverage selection.   I asked for champagne and received an unknown champagne poured in the galley and delivered to my seat.   When I inquired, she couldn't even identify what it was.  She went to the galley to check but "my colleague had put the bottle away".  Seriously?  Typically, the pre-departure spread is placed here in between 2A and 2K. Today? Nothing.  And no standard pre-departure macadamia nuts.

A far cry from the Covid-era spread on our LAX-FRA flight last September.  Lazy or challenged or both?

 
Today's menu.
 

And the wine list.  Other than the champagnes, this was pretty pathetic.

Very nice on paper, but sadly not even close to what was actually loaded and served.

My unknown champagne.

As is normal prior to departure, the Purser made the rounds of the First Class cabin to greet everyone.  He made the mistake of asking me how I was doing today.  So I told him... happy to be on board and away from the chaos that is FRA.  I recited the litany of Lufthansa’s ground flaws and that Lufthansa should be embarrassed by what it calls First Class on the ground at FRA.  I then compared Lufthansa to spectacular Air France which never cut First Class service, in the air or on the ground.  Also let him know that I knew a number of formerly loyal Lufthansa First passengers that have moved to Air France and are not coming back.   Not sure whether he was more shocked at these failures or that a First Class pax would be so bold as to rip his employer a new one to his face.

Once in the air, pleasant but unpolished service continued.  And at times, comical.  I asked for another glass of champagne, specifically Laurent-Perrier Rosé.   Ms. Bubbly came back a few minutes later to tell me that they don't have any rosé today.  When I pointed to the Laurent Perrier Alexandra Rosé, the lights came on.  Oh, rosé champagne.  Off she went back to the galley only to return to apologize that catering didn't load that today.  She did bring back an unopened  bottle of Lanson to show me.  I asked for the Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, although I have no idea what I was drinking as she poured it in galley and brought the glass to me.  I'm suspecting that it was not LPGC as it was not what I recall and not very good.

I didn't even finish it and went straight to G&Ts.  The Schoss Gin was quite good.  Major demerits for no lemon or lime slices.  Ms. Bubbly blamed Covid for not allowing LH to serve lemon or lime, although miracuously lemons and limes showed up later.  

Showtime, Lufthansa First style.

Lufthansa's garlic bread and pretzels are always good.

I passed on caviar and went for the starter trio, none of which were very good.  The beef pastrami was the best of a bad lot. 

The Cream of Asparagus Soup was way too salty and I gave up after a couple of spoons.

On the other hand, my Veal Schnitzel was quite good.  Not as good as the First Class Terminal version (when it was open) but enjoyable.  And look, a lemon!

By this time, meal service had dragged on for nearly two hours.  With little sleep last night, I'd hit the wall, and passed on cheese or dessert and opted for bed... and slept great for more than 4 hours.

About 90 minutes out, my Pulled Turkey Burger was excellent, wiith onion balsamic jam and coleslaw.  The Beetroot chips were a little weird though.  And what do you know, a beautiful lime wedge.

Nice views of Chicago on approach.

Wrigley Field.

We pulled into M16 some 45 minutes ahead of schedule, with plenty of time to get over to Terminal 1 and our connecting United flights.

Since only 2L was used, we had a chance to see that Business Class cabin on our way out. Yeah, 2-2-2 J seating is really competitive. 

Air France Denver-Paris inaugural, CDG La Première Lounge and Lufthansa First Class back home all in 48 hours

With our move back to Denver came the exciting news that Air France was starting the first ever Denver-Paris nonstop.  Although Mrs. SFO777 was not the least bit impressed when she found out that it was Business Class only with no La Première.  But for me, even with no La Première cabin, I was determined to be on the inaugural flight especially since recent La Premiere passengers are able to purchase the full CDG La Première Ground package.  

My DFW-based friend DFW-CK agreed to join me on this 48 hours whirlwind trip.  He arrived from DFW around 2pm and we met at the new Air France counter at 2:30p for check-in and doc check.  Our amiable French-for-the-day DEN agent was happy to pose for a pic.  We had booked early and only paid 53,000 Flying Blue miles for the full Denver-Paris-Athens itinerary.

From check-in, we cleared security and hopped on the train to the C concourse and the Amex Centurion Lounge.    

Very nice afternoon food options...

The pasta dish was delicious. 

Air France Denver-Paris inaugural 789

We left the Centurion Lounge at around T-70, took the train back to the A concourse, arriving at Gate A37 to find inaugural festivities underway, with airline execs and local politicians.  Blah, blah, blah.

Macarons for all at the gate.

Our beautiful 789.

Gate lice out in droves this afternoon, blocking the entire walkway. 

Denver-Paris
Air France AF 631
789
5:20pm-10:40am (sked)
5:50pm-11:35am (actual)
Business Class
Departed 30/30

 

OK, so new airline, new staff, new plane and I'm inclined to cut them some slack, but boarding was pretty chaotic.  More like a dozen chickens running around wiith their heads cut off.  And then there was the annoying pre-boards of handicaps, famillies with children and the endless stream of those (supposedly) needing extra time.

On board, a pleasant looking 30 seat 1-2-1 Business Class cabiin.

I know that it's not First Class but this seat and conifguration was not that great.  OK when first sit but in action, the flaws leap out and smack you in the face.  Angled TV screen that swings out.  Then in recline, the seat moves towards the TV screen, way too close for a lot of folks.  The tray is laughably tiny.  One simply cannot use a laptop and watch TV in recline mode.  Not even close to the well designed United Polaris seat.

Inaugural flight socks.

Good thing I like blue as there's a whole lot of blue in the amenity kits.

Today's menu, impressive for Business Class.

Even the ground staff paused to watch our 789.

Our gate neighbor Lufthansa pushing at the same time.

Once in the air, service was by cart.  But what's with the miniscule tray? 

But with a comically large table cloth by comparison.   My FB Gold status was recognized by both the Purser, who stopped by welcome me back, and our FA who asked me for my main dinner choice before others.

There was no pre-dinner drink or cocktail service.  The crew just went right to dinner. All service was by cart.  While personable, our FA was annoyingly stingy with the pours.   This was my entire first "glass of champagne".  Seriously, I'm not driving tonight.  

And no proactive refills as I had to flag him down twice.  I later gave up and just walked up to the galley for more.  That's when he finally got the message and poured me a real glass.   

 Our loaded dinner tray, indeed so loaded that I had to move some items to my seat counter to make it work comfortably.  

The pan fried tuna starter was really good, with wasabi mayo and mango salsa.

My main... no idea why he couldn't take off the foil.

Without the foil, the chicken supreme was excellent.  With chorizo emulsion, espellete chili pepper, potato purée with garliic and confit bell pepper.

Once the dressing had soaked in, the salad was tasty.

The cheese tray was simple but good.  And a glass of porto.

No mattress pad or PJs, but the fully reclined seat was reasonably comfortable and I slept for a good 4 hours.  About 60 minutes out, a simple continental breakfast. The croissant and fruit were good, the yogurt was simply awful.  Does anyone really like this crap or is it something cheap to fill the tray?

Impressive Christofle flatware.  

Almost here.

While we landed only 20 minutes later, we had to wait another 30 minutes as our gate was occupied... some passenger issue.   Finally, we're pulling up to our gate.

And yes indeed, our BMW 7 series limo is waiting for us.   So excited to be here for our 10 hour (well make that only 9 hours now) La Première experience... and what an experience it was.

The most amazing La Première Lounge experience... ever!

Pulling into our gate.

Our La Première Personal Assistant Anya greeted us in the jet bridge at the 1L door and escorted down to our BMW.

For the very short drive to the La Première Lounge.

After a brief doc check, we were waived thru the Lounge's private security and escorted up the elevator to the best airport lounge on the planet.  Looking even better with its refresh last year.

 

The  newly remodeled bar area.  Gorgeous.

Time to check out the shower, spa and rest area.  Whoa, WTF?  One of the LP guest's woof-woof decided to explore on his own.  LOL.

Enough of the tour, now for the 9 hours of sheer decadence.  A glass of the Bruno Paillard Rosé pour commencer.

While we plotted today's gastro journey with Alain Ducasse.

Showtime, Round 1.   My croque-volaille was out of this world, with comté and truffe noir.  

O-M-G.

For my main, the John Dory was exquisite... Saint-pierre au naturel, Swiss chard and grenobloise garnish.

DFW-CK enjoyed the iconic Coquillettes.

For dessert, he loved his Glace vanille "noyée". Vanilla ice cream flood with coffee and praline.

My Baba au Rhum was delicious.

After we relaxed a bit and edited some trip pics, I headed off to explore and shower.

A little later,  more Bruno Paillard and a mid afternoon snack.

The cheese selections from Marie-Anne Cantin were amazing.

As was the delicious Laurent Laborie charcuterie plate.

By this time, it was approaching 4pm and mom, daughter and woof-woof were gone from the sleeping "rooms" so we power napped for 90 minutes or so.

Now with a 2nd wind, time to head for the bar and try the Grey Goose Ducasse Martini.

Pre-dinner apéritif with nuts.

And Showtime, Round 3.

I started with the incredible pâté en croûte, chicken and duck foie gras, with Sauternes.

DFW-CK went with the John Dory while I chose the Filet de bouef aux poivres with pomme purée.

This was outstanding.  Perfectly prepared and so delicious.

Both of our desserts were fabulous... the Cookpot de fraises with pistachio and diplomate cream.

And my Palet "La Première" au chocolate with bleu, blanc and rouge garnish.  Simply marvelous.

By this time, it was just after 8pm and 45 minutes from our CDG-ATH departure.  Sadly, our nearly 9 hours of La Première decadence was coming to an end.  We enjoyed every moment of it and quite frankly could have spent a few more hours here.

And back to Denver...

With Global Entry, we were thru and out of CBP customs and immigration in just a few minutes.   And unlike my last visit to Terminal 5, there was no line of pax and a bus was waiting.    A few minutes later we were at Terminal 1.

There was no one in the PreCheck line. But despite prominently displaying TSA PRE-CHECK, our LH-generated boarding passes were useless as the PreCheck scanner did not recognize LH PreCheck. Sheesh, 5 years later and LH still hasn't solved this problem. We were OK to pass once we pulled up our UA electronic boarding passes on the UA app.

Since DFW-CK slept thru the 2nd meal, we stopped at the best resto at ORD.

After lunch, we bid adieu until our Swiss return later in the year.   DFW-CK headed to his DFW gate and I went to C20.

Chicago ORD to Denver DEN
United UA 407
777-200
2:40pm-4:00pm
July 4, 2021
Seat 5A

 

I lucked out today with a convenient connecting wide-body to Denver.

OK, this will work nicely for a 2 hour flight. 

No PDB but once in the air, excellent service.  And a choice of real meals.

The chicken with orzo was excellent.

As was the chocolate chip cookie.

We arrive DEN 30 minutes ahead and I was home in Cherry Creek just after my scheduled arrival time.   What a crazy fun 48 hours.   Thanks so much for following along.