Flights to France
October 18, 2004 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm flying to France from the states at the end of next month, and I'm wondering what experiences are on different carriers.

I've done plenty of travelling in the past, but this is the first time that cost isn't the primary issue (all grown up, I guess).

I know that intercontinental service and equipment tends to be much better in general, but do you have favorites? KLM v. British Air? Northwest (which I know is a partner with KLM) v. Air France?

Virgin's price just came down drastically, so I'm wondering if paying a few hundred more is worth, what I've heard is, a great flight.
posted by o2b to Travel & Transportation around France (14 answers total)
Virgin's decent. Lots of giveaway crap, good meals and, (most importantly if you're over six feet) you'll probably be in a 747 with lots of leg room. Virgin's flight attendants are also generally very good to look at (no matter what your preference is).

Lufthansa is very good if you don't mind an Airbus 300 series and it's generally cheaper than Virgin. Gerry will keep you plied with Warsteiner and, true to his nature, will probably be right on time. My flight attendant last time was a jolly, large, tyrolian-looking fellow with a delightfully stereotypical mustache. In my head, I called him "Onkel Fritz."

(Jet models are based on service out of Logan.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:24 AM on October 18, 2004

We had a very good experience with Air France on our Paris/London trip last year, but it was our first intercontinental air trip AND our first experience w/Air France, so I don't have much to compare it with directly.
posted by briank at 8:43 AM on October 18, 2004

I used Air France to fly from Canada to Paris last year and was surprised to find the food inedible and the Airbus planes kind of cramped. Had expected better.
posted by zadcat at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2004

For trans-atlantic flights: Virgin. Can't beat it.
For trans-pacific flights: Air New Zealand or Singapore Air. (Not that you asked.)

Do not fly the American carriers trans-atlantic if you can avoid it - they tend to be mediocre at best.

Airlines I'm not thrilled about for longer flights: Air France, Iberia (horrible!).
posted by widdershins at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2004

I like Virgin too!
posted by carter at 9:58 AM on October 18, 2004

The problem with listening to anyone's opinion of airlines is the small sample size. Very few people have used all the airlines and flown hundreds of times on your particular route. This type of survey is probably most helpful, and the results seem to follow my own experiences.

Having said that it's not authoritative, here's my personal experience: I've flown from California to Switzerland once or twice a year for the last seven years, using several airlines. Cost is still the main concern for me (economy class only), but if it's close I'll choose based on past experience. In my opinion, the European airlines do a better job than their American counterparts. Particularly with the food and drink, but also the service, cleanliness and extras.

1st choice: British is excellent. I enjoy the little care package they give you - a toothbrush, eyeshade, and socks, plus other little comfort items. The food is above average, and the service is usually great (I had a surly flight attendant a few years back, everyone else has been wonderful).

2nd choice: Swiss is also excellent, and if your flight uses their new A340s, the interior space is very comfortable (2-4-2 seat arrangement, no crawling over more than one person). The food is restaurant-quality. Almost all their flights go through Zurich, which is not a pleasant airport.

3rd choice: Lufthansa does a very nice job... nothing special, but I've used them over and over. Their hubs in Frankfurt and Munich are very nice. Caution: check to make sure your flight is actually serviced by Lufthansa! I've ended up on a United flight, and the service was nowhere near as good.

I've never flown Air France, but it seems like they'd be the obvious choice. My brother-in-law is a frequent flyer with them, and he says they're good. However, he flies business-class most of the time, so his experience isn't really relevant if you're buying an economy class ticket.
posted by letitrain at 10:08 AM on October 18, 2004

Your choice of airport will make a difference. Unless you're going to the north end of Paris, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle is a pain, both to find a taxi and to get into the city. Choose Orly if you can.
posted by fuzz at 10:14 AM on October 18, 2004

If you are over, say, five feet six, *do not* fly Air France. The service was good (nicer than any American airline save Jet Blue), but the leg room is nonexistent.
posted by dame at 1:02 PM on October 18, 2004

Virgin is nice to London, and cheap, and I still use the goodies they gave me, like the eye shade. But I prefer to do my transatlantic trips non-stop. Connections mean wasted time, more stress, and greater chance of lost luggage. So if you want to go non-stop, you can only use carriers based in France or the US. So the choices are US carriers or Air France. Air France is probably better, though the US carriers try harder on the transatlantic flights.
posted by smackfu at 1:15 PM on October 18, 2004

If cost is not an issue then you should go for BA Club World (=business class), but expect to pay $7K+. Or better yet first class...

If cost is an issue, then just get who ever flies from your city direct to Paris. The reletive differences in comfort are hardly worth extra layover in London or Amsterdam or whereever.

If you have choice btw American vs. European carrier other things (routing, price) being equal choose the European for slightly better food and free booze.
posted by zeikka at 3:07 PM on October 18, 2004

Hey, I'm going to France the end of November also. I call MeFi meetup Paris! Who's with me?
posted by taumeson at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2004

I find CDG to be an absolute pain in the ass for transfer flights, particularly on Air France. It's a big airport, and my next flight always seems to be at the opposite end. Using it to fly to Paris is fine, though.

My best transatlantic experiences have been on, in order of preference:
1. Singapore (JFK-AMS);
2. Virgin Atlantic;
3. BA
and the rest have all been the standard cattle car: Lufthansa, Alitalia, Air France, Delta, USAir, American, United, PeopleExpress, Continental, et cetera, although I had once had a pleasant ATL-SNN Delta flight.

Particular hatred is reserved for the now-thank-God-defunct Tower Air.
posted by Vidiot at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2004

I look to take direct flights whenever possible to Paris, forgoing much choice as it happens in trans-Atlantic travel. I've only done NYC-Paris once and it was on American: it was quite nice. Caveat: I fly business class across the Atlantic. I've been less enthralled with Air France out of Washington but it has not been horrible and American out of Boston was always nice and relaxed. If I ever fly with a connection to Paris (done it twice on purpose I think) I am always staying over: London, Dublin. I still want to try BA and the daytime flight to London. There's no connection to be made to Paris that late in the evening but who cares? It's London!
posted by Dick Paris at 9:48 PM on October 19, 2004

I once did a daytime flight JFK-LHR, on American. It was great -- no jet lag whatsoever...just get there, have dinner, and either go straight to bed or try to catch some theatre. Getting up the next morning for the Eurostar or a flight to Paris would be easy.
posted by Vidiot at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2004

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