TRIP REPORT: Air France, Split - Paris


Written by Vlad

Date: 28.04.2024.
Aircraft: Airbus A318 (F-GUGN)
Flight: AF 1015 (SPU-CDG)
Seat: 04A (Economy)

After a short three-day trip visiting family & friends, it was time for me to return from Split (SPU) to my hometown of Paris (CDG), where I relocated last autumn. Luckily, my return coincided with the first direct flight of the season on Air France (AF), so I didn't have to connect through Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM, as I had done on the outbound. One thing that made this relatively short flight very special for me is that the scheduled equipment was none other than Airbus A318. This exceedingly rare aircraft, which is only operated by Air France and TAROM nowadays, was the last "mainstream" airplane type I hadn't flown in the almost 500 flights I've taken so far, so I was keeping my fingers crossed not to have a last-minute equipment swap. As it turned out, I barely avoided one, but more on that later.

As it was Sunday, my ride to the airport was a breeze and my Bolt made it from downtown Split to the airport (recently renamed to Saint Jerome) in about half an hour. Better yet, as a visitor I got a 40% off promo for the first five rides, so I ended up paying only €24, which is a steal compared to taking an official taxi at €50 (or more, if you look like a particularly naive tourist). As I had checked in online the day before, I didn't have to visit the check-in desk, and instead headed straight to security with my mobile boarding pass. Speaking of check-in, one of the most annoying features of SPU (and DBV for that matter) is that airlines are not allowed to use their own online check-in systems, but instead have to go through Niko check-in, which not only has an interface from the 90s, but is also notoriously unreliable, doesn't allow you to choose a seat for connecting flights, and doesn't manage to code frequent flyer status and other metadata into the boarding pass correctly. As both SPU and DBV are government-run, I suspect that there is a well-connected third party behind this company that has a lucrative deal with the two airports for providing check-in services, with the passengers and the airlines left with a suboptimal experience as a result.

In any case, I made my way towards security. There is a separate line for business and status passengers on the left, but as there was literally no one at security when I arrived there, I didn't bother and just went through the regular gates instead. Once there, I had to do a needless 50m slalom, as no one actively regulates the queue according to passenger flow.

At the checkpoint, I was requested to take out liquids from my backpack, but not my laptop & electronics, which was appreciated. After a breezy security check, I made my way to the contract lounge operated by the airport. At the bottom of the stairs, there was a sign indicating which airlines are paying for lounge access for their business & status passengers. I noticed that KLM was back on the list, but SAS was still absent (both airlines try to avoid paying for contract lounges wherever possible). Note that there is no lift to the lounge level, only the two flights of stairs, so I'm not sure what provisions (if any) there are for passengers with limited mobility.

The lounge itself is basic, but spacious and comfortable. Out of season, only half of the lounge is open, but even so I've never noticed it crowded (there is no access with Priority Pass, LoungeKey and similar services).

There is a wide variety of hard liquor and non-alcoholic drinks, but only one type of wine, a cheap Graševina white from Northern Croatia. I find it a shame that Dalmatian wine isn't better represented in key consumer touchpoints such as airports, as the region produces some truly fantastic wines. I also found it curious that the Coca-Cola cans served at the lounge came from Poland, not Croatia.

The food selection is best described as light snacks. There were muffins, donuts, a few types of packaged snacks, and finally bread buns with a selection of spreads, although the latter didn't look very fresh, so I stuck with peanuts and a chocolate/vanilla pudding, which was delicious.

There are also workstations available, some of them with a monitor, keyboard & mouse for internet browsing. Power plugs are also ample throughout the lounge.

At some point, I felt the call of nature, so I went to the toilet, which stunned me in several ways. On the one hand, this is probably the cleanest and nicest-smelling lounge toilet I've visited in my life, and it was kept impeccably clean throughout my visit. On the other hand, I'd love to know whose idea it was to put a reflective surface around the urinals. I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of showing my private parts to anyone who enters the urinal section.

As I was getting ready to leave the lounge, I got a notification from Air France that my flight was delayed by an hour, to 19:15. However, as the lounge overlooks gate 2, where the CDG-bound flight was to depart from, I noticed that the screens were showing a new departure time of 20:00, which constituted a 1h45m delay. Ouch.

Upon further research, I found out that the outbound flight experienced a technical glitch of some kind at CDG, which caused the pilots to return from the taxiway to the gate while the problem was fixed, causing a departure delay of two hours. Luckily, there was ultimately no aircraft swap, and I was relieved to see the A318 take off from CDG towards SPU. At 19.15, I finally headed down from the lounge to the gate. I was surprised at the number of people on the flight, considering it was the first flight of the season; I suppose these passengers had connected through AMS or ZAG on their way to SPU, and then headed back through CDG on their way back. From what I could tell, most of the passengers were neither French nor Croatian, and there were several large groups of Americans. Boarding finally began at 19.35. Families, business class and status passengers get to board through a separate line (in that order), although the benefit was moot in this instance as gate staff began boarding both lines at the same time, so by the time all the families went through, a third of economy class passengers had already boarded the plane.

While SPU's lack of jetways is less than ideal (especially in inclement weather), the upside is that us aviation geeks are able to get a good look at the aircraft we're flying. The A318 can hardly be described as majestic in any way, but I was still excited about getting to fly on a new (for me) airplane type.

The A318 has one of the worse economy cabins in the Air France short-haul fleet, with slimline seats with minimal padding, similar to those found on Croatia Airlines or Lufthansa Group. Legroom was likewise unimpressive (for reference, I'm 1.90m tall), and my knees were millimetres away from the seat in front at all times. That said, there are USB-A ports in every seat, and inflight wi-fi as well, with free messaging for everyone. Not bad for a 17-year-old aircraft.

Sadly, the delay on departure meant that I missed what could have been the best part of this trip - the sunset. We took off in the westerly direction, which normally bestows a fantastic view of the Dalmatian islands on takeoff, especially during sunrise and sunset. Alas, it was not meant to be, as by the time we took off it was already almost completely dark.

Service started soon after takeoff and consisted of a choice between chicken and vegetarian sandwich, plus beverages of choice. I opted for a chicken sandwich, red wine, and sparkling water. Although small, the sandwich was one of the best I've ever had onboard, eminently fresh, and delicious, while the wine was average, but decent enough for Economy. In my opinion, onboard service is where Air France really shines, as I don't remember the last time an airline served me wine and sparkling water in standalone packaging as part of regular catering on a short-haul European flight. The crew seemed enthusiastic and in a good mood throughout the flight.

After an uneventful flight, we touched down at CDG after 1h49mins of flight time, followed by 12 minutes of taxiing to the gate, which is standard for CDG. It took me less than 10 minutes from exiting the aircraft to reaching my Paris-bound train; while CDG gets a lot of flak for being a complicated airport for connections (and rightly so), it's pretty great for Schengen arrivals!

Overall, except for the two-hour delay on arrival which was due to force majeure, this was a perfectly pleasant trip. I have flown Air France extensively over the past six months in both short- and long-haul, and after a decade of almost complete loyalty to Lufthansa Group, I can freely say that Air France is head & shoulders above them in all aspects and one of the last airlines in Europe to offer anything resembling a legacy product in Economy. Add to that the irony of a far smaller likelihood of French staff going on strike vs. their German counterparts, and it's easy to see why I'm never looking back.

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  1. Anonymous09:14

    Super. Great report. Thanks 😊

  2. Anonymous09:17

    I flew on that date but to SPU and flight was packed. We took off and diverted back to CDG since one pax was sick (unconscious actually). Things like this unfortunately do happen…

    1. Vlad11:38

      Ah, so it was a full-blown diversion? Well done to the airline & airport staff for such a quick turnaround then. Thanks for the update.

  3. Anonymous10:47

    It's good to see some Airlines still serve complimentary snacks and refreshments. Air Serbia and Croatia Airlines need to make some changes. Covid is no longer a good enough excuse.

    1. Anonymous11:07

      Both airlines offer complimentary snacks.

    2. Anonymous19:55

      And refreshments

  4. Anonymous15:47

    What does it mean only Biz besides Condor?

  5. Anonymous18:30

    Flightly! Excellent app :) and amazing report, of course! Thanks

  6. Anonymous22:13

    Thanks for the great report.

    Three comments though:
    1. You state 4A (Economy), did you book and fly business class, because of the lounge access? Or did you purchase lounge access at SPU? If so, what was the price for you?
    2. You should have seen the lounge at SPU before the new terminal opened, it was tiny, antique and almost completely without F&B
    3. French going less on strike than Germans/Swiss/Austrians? Maybe if you look at the last 3 months, but apart from that, you must be kidding!

    1. Vlad23:11

      I am Flying Blue Gold 😊 hence the lounge access.

      Regarding strikes, Air France has been on strike exactly zero times in the past two years. How many times has Lufthansa been on strike? A dozen? That's what my comment referred to.

    2. Anonymous14:23

      I believe you regarding AF's own staff, but what about all other employment groups in F? Security personal, ATC strikes, ground handlers, mechanics, general strikes due to being unhappy with e.g. cuts un unemployment policies / benefits planned or made by the government and many more. I'd bet for the remainder of the year there'll be more strikes in F than in Germany, Austria, CH together, affecting aviation - not counting protests when price of a baguette is supposed to be raised by 10 cents or so :D

    3. Anonymous14:52

      Vlad's experiences are to be accepted. This is mainly about his very informative and great report and not whether you share his opinion regarding strikes

  7. Thank you for such an informative report of Split Airport as well as Air France A318.


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