Photo of the day – Charles de Gaulle departure board

Today’s Photo of the Day, snapped by Gadling’s good friend Paul Brady, depicts an enormous Charles de Gaulle departure board. Perhaps nothing excites a frequent traveler like a departure board at a major international hub of an airport, with its long tallies of destinations both relatively close-by and intercontinental. This one, with its dramatic goldenrod, is especially exciting.

Mr. Brady snapped this photograph on Monday. Careful observers will note that flights to Cairo and Oslo were cancelled that day.

Have any images around that call to mind transit on a global scale? Upload them to the Gadling group on Flickr and we might just select one as a future Photo of the Day.

New Baghdad route for French airline

Where are you going for Christmas? Forget New England charm or warm islands where you can skip the traditional holiday and sun yourself without regret. Now, you can take the sort of vacation that will be the envy of all your friends: Baghdad. Your options were once limited, but now there’s one more airline taking passengers into Baghdad International Airport – from a convenient spot.

Aigle Azur, a French airline, is going to start flights from Paris to Baghdad twice a week, starting later this month. The inaugural flight’s wheels will leave the ground on October 30, 2010, on an Airbus-319. Flights are set to leave from Charles de Gaulle airport, and if you’re the type who likes to plan ahead, tickets will be available soon.

Aigle Azur fills a gap in the market, as Air France no longer serves Iraq.



Air France Airbus hits severe turbulence 10 miles from doomed aircraft location

Here is a scary piece of aviation mystery – On November 29th, Air France flight 445 from Paris to Rio had to make an emergency descent after hitting severe turbulence. Now, bad turbulence is something any air passenger will have to deal with at least once in their life. It isn’t fun, but it usually goes away after 10-20 minutes.

In the case of this Air France flight, things get a tad more spooky – the bad turbulence was almost in the exact same spot as where Air France flight 447 crashed back in June. And since investigators don’t know the exact cause of that crash, they are paying very close attention to the events experienced by flight 445 as they may help provide clues about the doomed plane.

When the severe turbulence started, the pilots sent out a mayday, and descended by about 5,000 feet. After 30 minutes of turbulence, they plane entered smoother skies, and continued on to Rio with its 215 passengers.

Survey ranks Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Los Angeles worst airports in the world

A Priority Pass survey of frequent business travelers has revealed what many of us knew all along – London Heathrow is the worst airport in the world. Heathrow is followed by Charles de Gaulle and Los Angeles.

These three airports tend to pop up on “worst airport” surveys most of the time, and anyone who frequents any of them will understand why. Heathrow is improving slowly, and the new Terminal Five is making travel through the UK airport a slightly better experience, but the other terminals are still quite a disgrace.

Charles de Gaulle is another dump of an airport. Even though it has invested heavily in some new terminals, there are still plenty of parts of this facility that need to be flattened and built from the ground up.

Los Angeles airport just signed off on a multi-year, multi-billion Dollar renovation plan, which should be completed by 2013. Of course, that still means 4 more years of being in the top three of worst airports in the world.

Singapore Changi, Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok and Amsterdam Schiphol are voted best in the world, and anyone who has spent any time at these airports will understand why. These are the kind of airports where it is actually a treat to be stranded for a couple of hours, unlike places like Heathrow where your only urge is to get the hell out of the place as quickly as possible.

What do you think? Do these airports deserve to be crowned “worst in the world”, or do you know of an airport that is even worse? Leave you comments below.


Air France knows how to treat customers right: Tips for other airlines

There’s plenty to kvetch about when it comes to flying. Every time I book a flight, I continue to look at the arrival and departure times as merely suggestions–a rough idea. I plan to be late. I plan for problems. In generally, I am pleasantly surprised and achieve a warm glowing feeling when flights land on time. In all the times I’ve flown, I’ve never lost baggage. Baggage has never been my gripe.

In general, my horror tales of flights that have gone awry are few. The ones I do have remind me about how I like to be treated. This summer’s trip on Air France from Venice to Detroit via Paris reminded me of what an airline should do to keep passengers pleased and coming back when problems occur. If what I experienced is any indication of how Air France usually treats customers, I’d say the airline’s customer service is one area where the airline works well–even when the airplanes have issues.

If other airlines consistently followed these tips I noted, flying would be more pleasant for everyone, including the staff.

Tip 1: Go above and beyond whenever possible: Although, the customer service person for Air France was not able to switch my 16-year-old daughter’s flight from KLM to Air France so that she could be on the same flight with my 7-year-old-son and me, the agent offered to check my daughter in on the KLM flight as she helped me navigate Air France’s check-in system.

The agent’s extra effort helped make all of us feel less anxious about my daughter’s first foray into flying by herself, particularly since her connecting flight was through Amsterdam. Because of the agent’s extra effort, my daughter, son and I were able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, a smooth transition through security, and time to find my daughter’s gate before my son and I took off. Good for you, Air France.

Tip 2: Tell passengers right away if there is a problem with the plane and what will happen next: As our flight was to board, a mechanical problem with the plane was discovered. Air France announced over the Charles de Gaulle International Airport’s speaker system that boarding was being halted due to an aircraft issue and that we would find out more details as possible. In the meantime, we would be taken care of. We were also told that seat assignments would stay the same and that we would probably be changing gates. We were to stay at the gate where we were because that is where information would be given to us.

This set the tone that even though we would be delayed, the problem would be rectified as quickly as possible. It also gave us a job to do. Stay tuned for more information and stay where we are.

Tip 3: When there’s a problem, make amends with food. Once it was determined we’d be at the airport longer than expected, Air France gave all passengers a choice of one of three or four types of sandwiches and a choice of a can of soda or a bottle of water. The food was brought to us.

Tip 4: Give out phone cards if needed. One of the Air France agents gave me a phone card so I could call my husband so he could call my daughter when she landed in Detroit to tell her not wait for us. We were to meet up in Detroit to fly to Columbus on the same Delta flight. Originally, my son and I would have arrived in Detroit before her and had planned to wait for her at her gate. I was concerned that my daughter wouldn’t know what to do next and miss the Delta flight herself.

Because my concern was taken seriously, I was able to relax for the rest of the trip.

Tip 5: If the passenger is having problems using the phone card, help. Gladly. When using a phone in France, the recorded messages are in French. The phone call I tried to make to my husband wouldn’t go through. Because I couldn’t understand the message, I had no idea why not. An agent stepped from behind the desk, went to the pay phone with me, tried to use the card, found out what the message said and helped me rectify the problem which required finding out another access number. It’s complicated. The point is, the agent offered help and didn’t let me become more frustrated. Eventually, I was able to make the call I needed.

Tip 6: When the in-flight entertainment stops working properly mid-flight, apologize and do your best: The in-flight entertainment stopped working when I was in the middle of watching “I Love You Man.” There was an announcement that the crew was aware that the in-flight entertainment system had stopped working and that they were trying to fix it. In the meantime, we should please be patient. Part of the extensive system was fixed in a few minutes. The entire system was fixed in about 20.

Tip 7: Offer food that’s more than just palatable. The meals were terrific. There’s not much else to say about this tip. We all know good food when we see it and taste it. Rich Moffit who snapped the food picture echoed my sentiment with his photo labeled: “This is why you fly Air France.”

Tip 8: At the end of the flight, thank passengers for the flight and again apologize for the problems along the way: When we landed, the pilot again apologized for the delay and thanked us for our understanding. The smiling flight attendants did the same.

I smiled back and said, “Thank you for your efforts to get us here safely and for making the flight pleasant.”

**My daughter’s solo flight went swimmingly well. She did receive the phone call from her dad and knew just what to do. Thanks, Air France.