The joys of Air France

It all started by popping a bottle of Tattinger to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary on Friday 15 April.  (Tattinger, in honour of Syra who so very nearly was called Tatti.) 

Our flight to St Petersburg was due to depart from Heathrow at 0630 the following morning, with an hour before our connecting flight took off at Charles de Gaulle airport.  We started to get a bit concerned when boarding time came and went without any indication that we'd be boarding any time soon.  When we queried about our connecting flight we were assured this wouldn't be a problem as we were landing at the same terminal.  However the delay - they had to wait for the catering to be loaded on to the plane - had knock on effects and we lost our take off slot.  Content in the knowledge that the catering was on board and we'd soon be tucking in to a good old bit of French cuisine, this was Air France after all, thoughts of delays and connecting flights were set aside.  You can't imagine how devastated and frustrated we were when we were offered a dismal cup of instant coffee and a little sorry, stale excuse which they called a croissant as the onboard catering.  On what plannet does it seem logical to delay a plane for 50 minutes so they can dish out stale mini croissants???

But wait, it gets better.  The ever so helpful steward informed us that due to the delay we would have precisely 3 minutes between landing and our connecting flight taking off.  This was wishful thinking though as the delay in taking off meant we'd lost our landing slot and were relegated to field 2F on the outskirts of the runway at Charles de Gaulle.   We landed, we taxied and then we stopped.  Everyone jumped up, wrapped themselves in coats and scarves and proceeded to haul everything down from the overhead lockers.  And then we waited and waited and waited.  The aircraft got hotter and hotter and the fidgeting and sighing got louder and louder.  Finally the pilot announced that the ground crew had only just been informed that we'd landed and would be with us shortly to help disembark.  We watched our connecting flight to St P take off from our prime position on the run way.

In stark contrast to our Air France experience so far, the transfer desk people were very helpful.  They transferred our flight to the next flight to St P with a partner airline, offered us meal vouchers - 3 courses thank you very much - and even gave us a phone card so we could rearrange our airport transfer in St P.  Now that's what I call service.  The only thing was, we had to head back to Terminal 2E and get our boarding passes printed.  With renewed spirits we headed off.   Upon arrival at Terminal 2E we realised that we were now flying Rossiya Air, all we needed was for the lady on the desk to print our boarding passes for us.  Easier said than done.  The lady at the transfer desk couldn't print the passes, she had to phone her friend to print them off and then someone had to bring them to us...  5 mins quickly became 10 mins and then finally someone turned up with... 3 boarding passes!...  By now the Rossiya Air flight had started boarding and we didn't want to miss another flight.  We still had to navigate customs, find a pay phone and grab some food so we formed a plan of action and everyone had a role:
Kris - pay phone - change airport transfer in St P
Matt - guard bags, especially the duty free champagne
Jim - wait for boarding pass
Debs - buy food to take on board with us
I found the pay phone, navigated my way through the French instructions however the Russian country code defeated me and I couldn't get through.  Having failed at my task I joined forces with Debbie as I was salivating at the mere thought of food - 2 cups of coffee and a stale croissant after having been up since 0400 meant I was starving and would eat just about anything.  Alas, our wonderful 3 course meal vouchers meant that we had to go to a restaurant and order, we couldn't take away any food.  Frustrated, tired and disgruntled we headed back to Matt least we miss our flight.  Alarmingly there seemed to be a lot of commotion going on around Matt...  Just when I thought the day couldn't get any worse, the one thing to push me over the edge happened.  The champagne we'd bought in London - the lovely, sparkly liquid that is Moet - was being carted off to its unintended resting place.  It was with great restraint that I held back the tears.   

As Rossiya Air took off for St Petersburg, we were all thinking, "my god, if this is what it's like getting from London to Paris, what the hell is it going to be like when we land in St Petersburg?"

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