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Air France by Régional
by Luigi Vallero
Flights: AF7837 & AF3294
Route: Nice (IATA: NCE/ICAO: LFMN)–Lyon St-Exupéry (LYS/LFLL)–Milan [Milano]-Malpensa (MXP/LIMC)
Aircraft: Fokker 100 & EMBRAER ERJ 145
Departure times: 1405 & 1615
Arrival times: 1500 & 1710
Passenger: Luigi Vallero
PHOTOS: LUIGI VALLERO
Arriving at the airport with ample time to spare, I had to wait until 1235 before check-in was opened. A very short walk from the check-in counters brought me to the comfortable gate area, in the older part of Terminal 2, with its ample windows allowing a palm-fringed view of the Fokker 100 (F-GIOG) assigned to my first flight, one of a number operated by Régional Airlines in full Air France by Régional livery.
Boarding for the 70 or so passengers was called at 1340. A selection of newspapers was available in front of the aircraft entrance, while refreshing towelettes were available from a basket placed in the front galley, and passengers were greeted by one of two friendly female flight attendants wearing the black and orange Régional uniform. The well kept—though a bit elderly—cabin of the Fokker 100 was decorated in the distinctive Air France colours of blue, red, and white.
Trimmed in similar fashion, the interior of the ERJ was decidedly cozy, although with comfortable dark blue leather seats. Contrasting with the previous crew, a far too formal and rather inattentive female attendant ‘ordered’ passengers to take their seats.
We were off blocks at 1407, two minutes behind schedule, and after eight minutes taxiing we were airborne from NCE’s Runway 22, starting a right-hand turn over the Baie des Anges almost immediately after takeoff, then continuing the right turn to pass overhead the airport, before taking a northerly track following the Route Napoléon.
Service on this very short stage was a simple snack, consisting of a madeleine biscuit with a cup of orange juice, followed by the offer of a glass of plain water, handed out within ten minutes of departure.
The flight continued over clouds, with light turbulence along most of our path. We landed at LYS at 1500, docking at one of the airbridges of Terminal 2 five minutes behind schedule.
LYS is a pleasant, modern, and efficient airport, and its rôle as an important regional hub for Air France was clearly shown by most of the 40 passengers on this flight connecting immediately to French provincial destinations such as Bordeaux, Brest, Lille, and Rennes.
After a very thorough security check, which almost made me miss the flight, I was able to reach Gate 21R, where a bus awaited for the trip across the ramp to reach the ERJ 145 (F-GVGS).
We taxied out on time and took off from LYS ten minutes later. As we overflew the cloud-covered French-Italian Alps, the FA walked the cabin with a basket containing a good selection of cakes, candies, or savouries, including tasty mini-sausages. Curiously, no drinks were offered, not even a glass of water. A service shortcoming or a lack of concern by the crewmember?
The flight proceeded smoothly though, and soon the captain announced in French, English, and flawless Italian that we were starting our approach to MXP. Exactly 35 minutes after takeoff we were on the ground, parking five minutes ahead of schedule at a remote parking stand in front of Terminal 1. Hand baggage too big for the cabin, which had been placed in the cargo hold, was available for passengers to be picked up at the stair.
Two pleasant flights operated by regional aircraft, which confirm a high-quality Air France by Régional product. Both flights were on time and professionally conducted both on the ground as well as in the air, albeit on the second the behaviour of the flight attendant and the lack of drinks marred the experience.
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