Expat Magazine

Air France Airbus 380: No One Asked Me

By Sedulia @Sedulia

The Airbus needs two skyways to deplane

I travel a lot, but only recently have I begun paying a lot of attention to which airplane the airline is using. But some are much, much more comfortable or well-laid-out than others. 

I like to fly Air France (well-- when they're not on strike, like right now) partly because they're a good airline and I'm a frequent flyer, and partly because at CDG airport they have the nicest terminals (2E and 2F). Recently I was surprised to see that my seat map showed a second floor. For a second I thought that this meant a 747, the only kind of plane I had been on that featured a second floor of passenger seats. But it was a new Airbus 380. 


On your in-seat screen: the view of the plane from the tail camera 

I chose a seat by the window and not over the wing, because I love to look out the window as I travel. I also try to choose a seat on the side of the plane away from the sun. At the airport, the plane was delayed for more than an hour and then seemed to take forever and a day to board. I went to the other side of the gate to sit down and read until the crowd went away, so I was one of the last people to board. I managed to leave my duty-free gift for my sister behind. A nice flight attendant went back for it (did you know you're not allowed to get off the plane once you board?) and it was gone.

Once the plane began to move, there was a pleasant surprise for everyone not seated by the windows, including a good-looking teenage brother and sister next to me, who appeared to be wealthy Camerounais. The camera in the tail of the plane showed us our own plane moving down the runway, then taking off! That was pretty cool.

The plane had a great selection of movies, TV shows, music and games and the day flight passed quickly. It wasn't until we landed in the U.S.A. that things went a bit awry. We sat out on the runway for a long time, and then the pilot came on and announced that there was no gate big enough for the plane and that we'd have to wait until one became available. On my last two flights with an A-380 this happened too. 

After fifteen or twenty minutes, the plane taxied to the gate.  Since I was seated in the back of the plane, I texted my sister that we'd finally arrived, and went on reading my book. It takes most planes twenty minutes to unload. But this time it took much, much longer. Everyone was standing in the aisle-- not me, there's no point until the plane doors have been opened, but they still weren't even open after twenty minutes. I put my book away (I was about to say I rangé'd it) and waited more and more impatiently. Finally the flight attendants came through and everyone turned around and started going out the back of the plane. The plane was emptying out by all 525 people going through the upstairs! This meant everyone on the plane, including old ladies, limping men, obese people, and mothers traveling alone with multiple babies and a stroller, had to negotiate themselves up a narrow staircase to the small second floor of the plane to get off the plane. I guess the airport couldn't deal with the two separate skyways that are required for this plane to empty out efficiently.


525 passengers, but no more baggage handlers than for a normal plane = chaos and long waits

"Off the plane!" I texted. But it wasn't over by a long shot. Now came the usual herding through immigration, and then the baggage wait. And wait and wait. Some of the passengers stormed up to the Air France and airport baggage representatives. They were told that it wasn't the baggage handlers' fault that the plane was bigger than the baggage handling capacity. The first bags started to arrive after almost an hour wait.

An hour later, the last piece of my luggage still hadn't arrived and the flight from Paris blinked off the monitor. Looking around as I waited in line to make a claim about lost baggage, I saw one of my suitcases sitting alone in the middle of the floor. It looks exactly like a lot of other ones-- thank goodness I had used silver marker on the front to identify it, or someone would probably have walked off with it.

The A380 is a very nice plane, but the airports aren't ready for it. And in the future, I am going to try not to fly it. It might be a good deal for the airline to squeeze more than 500 passengers onto a plane, but has anyone asked us passengers whether we want to travel in such a crowd? 


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