Air France 1301
Madrid (MAD) – Paris (CDG)
Sunday, April 12
Seat: 2A (Business Class)
So, you guys, if there’s one lesson I can impart to you in this trip report series, it is this:
Never fly with a hangover.
Madrid is a late night city. I figured that a 12:45pm departure would still allow me to go out on a Saturday night and wake up in plenty of time to make my flight. Of course, one bottle of wine becomes two, and you add some beers to the mix, and suddenly it’s 5:00am when you’re tucking yourself in and you’ve got to get up and pack by 9:30.
Luckily, I woke up feeling tired, but otherwise fine, and made my way to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Madrid is a funny place — it’s such a late night city that at 10:30am on a Sunday the entire city is in deep slumber even though the sun is out and birds are chirping. My drive to the airport felt post-apocalyptic in that I could count the number of pedestrians I saw on one hand, but the upside is I made it to Barajas in under 15 minutes.
Terminal 2 at Barajas Airport was equally a ghost town, and my boarding pass entitled me to “Fast Track” security clearance, which was in a totally different part of the airport from general security. The “Fast Track” area was actually quite spacious, uncluttered, and serene, with wood floors and soft lighting (when was the last time anyone ever complimented a security check?) and I was the only one around, so I walked through instantly.
I headed to the “VIP Lounge,” which didn’t belong to any specific airline but was rather run by the airport authority. It was spare and not air-conditioned, but it was spacious and had plenty of seating, as well as terrific views of the runway. The food selection was limited to muffins and pre-wrapped foods, but I was impressed by the variety given how lowered my expectations were by the lounge.
I had an espresso and a muffin, and then noticed that a hangover was quickly coming on strong. That the lounge was uncomfortably warm, not just for me but for everyone, didn’t help. Sometimes when you’re lucky, you wake up with a hangover and can sleep it off, but there’s no horror quite like getting only a few hours sleep, starting your day and then having a hangover hit while you’re about to board a plane. When you know: it’s only going to get worse.
Around 12:15, I headed over to the gate, which was a bit of a walk from the VIP Lounge (and where I discovered a second, nicer VIP lounge directly next door to my boarding area). Boarding commenced and I picked up a newspaper from the jetway on the way to the plane, which is a nice perk that seems to have disappeared from North America decades ago.
The Air France flight attendants welcomed me onto the plane and I took my seat, 2A, which was a window in business class. There was no one else in my row, which was good, because I was so pale and so trembling that I probably would have been unsettling to anyone. Oh god – I gotta sit next to the guy who looks like he’s going to boot any moment now?
Prior to takeoff, the flight attendants passed along sealed packages of refreshing moistened towels, which I used to try and make my clammy face feel a bit better, to little avail.
Once we took off, I realized that a hangover + air travel is possibly the worst combination of any two things since
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline toast and Vegemite. If you’ve ever seen photos of Britney and Kevin in matching denim outfits If you’ve ever had Vegemite on toast, you’ll at least have shared that feeling of intense nausea.
The lovely and gracious flight attendants seemed concerned as I trembled, shook and held my head like a psychiatric ward patient, but were proactive about bringing me water and refilling it every few minutes.
Eventually, they brought around the lunch trays, and I took one to document for you guys, even though the thought of any food at all was the furthest thing from my mind.
I have to say, were I not ill, I would have been quite perked up by the lunch service. The drinks cart included a bottle of actual champagne (on a 2 hour intra-Europe flight!) and the lunch appeared to consist of bay scallops in a tomato sauce, ratatouille, a carrot cake and two precious little macarons.
The other passengers seemed to enjoy their lunch quite a bit! I tried to avert my eyes after a while, because if there’s anything you could have put in front of me that could have been more nausea-inducing than lightly seared bay scallops, I can’t think of it. Coupled with some turbulence, I was feeling awful. In fact, a few minutes later I politely returned the tray to the galley and excused myself to use the lavatory. I won’t go into graphic detail, but I’m quite sure the other passengers are pleased that I did. I’d never used an airsick bag before in public [note: not that I’ve used one in private!], and I wasn’t about to start now.
Throughout the experience, the flight attendants were extremely sympathetic, even when I explained to them in French that it was my fault because I’d imbibed too much the night before.
After I returned to my seat, we began our initial descent into Paris, and I looked forward to returning to solid ground where I hoped my air sickness would subside.
Air France Business Class Madrid to Paris Bottom Line
Since I was in horrible shape, I can’t really say I am in a very good position to review Air France’s intra-Europe business class service between Madrid and Paris. I didn’t try the food or champagne and stuck mostly to water and silent prayers that I could teleport myself to my bed in Los Angeles immediately.
However, I will say that the presentation of the food was quite impressive for a short-haul flight between Spain and France, and certainly blew away whatever ham scraps and bread Air Europa offered on a similar short-haul. The service was prompt and professional and the flight attendants seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being. There was a clear difference in professionalism and quality of catering between Air France and Air Europa, and while I enjoyed the service on Air Europa, everything about this Air France flight felt choreographed and polished.