Marseille-Moscow with Air France
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Marseille-Moscow with Air France

Air France is France's flag carrier. Until recently the company offered flights to Russia only from France's capital, Paris. However, in spring 2012 Air France introduced a new regular flight route to Moscow from Marseille, the second largest city in the country. Cheap tickets, apparently part of a campaign to promote this new route, were all the incentive I needed to take advantage of the French airline.

The flight described below took place on 5 April 2012. Flight AF-4316 departed Marseille at 2:25 PM, arriving in Moscow (Sheremetyevo Airport) at 8:30 PM. The plane was an Airbus A320.

1. Marseille Provence Airport

Marseille Provence Airport looks like it's been stretched out in a line. The main terminal buildings date back to the 1960s, but there are also a few newer buildings. In front of the airport there's a single large parking lot for everyone (passengers, airport staff, rental car companies, etc). Beyond the parking lot are a few hotels, and beyond those, the highway, leading to Marseille and the Cote d'Azur to the East, or to Spain in the West.

A view of the airport from the parking lot:
Marseille Provence Airport

The air control tower is to the right of the terminals:
Marseille Provence Airport

An Etap hotel on the far side of the parking lot (only about 500 yards from the terminal). I would recommend staying at hotels from this chain when visiting France, as they offer reasonable comfort at a reasonable price:
Etap hotel in the Marseille Provence Airport

International flights, including the flight to Moscow leave from the oldest terminal, designated "Hall 1".

The terminal from outside:
Marseille Provence Airport

… and from inside:
Hall 1 of the Marseille Provence Airport

Check-in area for the flight:
Marseille Provence Airport

All in all I counted four such "halls" in Marseille's. Below you can see a photo of "Hall 4", which serves domestic flights to other cities in France:
Hall 4 of the Marseille Provence Airport

For some reason there was no option to check in online or at a self check-in stand for the Marseille-Moscow flight, which I thought was a little strange for Air France. Check in was done the old-fashioned way at the check-in counter, and began 2 or 3 hours (I don't remember exactly) before the scheduled departure time.
Marseille Provence Airport

The airport is clearly quite a bit bigger than it needs to be for the passenger volume it gets. Marseille is not a major hub by any description, so the airport felt very relaxed and unhurried. No lines to speak of. The waiting area was equipped with nice padded seats.

The waiting area for departing flights:
Marseille Provence Airport

The airplanes park on an apron that stretches the length of the terminal.

The ATR-42 standing opposite our gate belongs to France's civil aviation authority.
Marseille Provence Airport

Here is our airliner pulling up to the gate in its new Air France livery:
Air France Airbus A320

Departure was exactly on schedule. The Air France plane in the apron area:
Marseille Provence Airport

A view of Provence Airport from the runway:
Marseille Provence Airport

The plane took off over the Mediterranean and turned around. Below is a bird's eye view of the airport:
Marseille Provence Airport

2. Air France Airbus A320

Our flight took place aboard an Airbus A320 with tail number F-HBNE. The airliner was delivered to Air France in April 2011. The cabin was in such pristine condition I would've sworn that it had come off the production line yesterday.

The cabin was divided by a partition into two classes: business and economy. Business class, as is now customary in Europe, had the same seats as economy class, with the only difference being the services provided and the fact that the center seats were left vacant.

Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Lavatory of an Air France Airbus A320

The cabin was equipped with modern slim seats, which I'd already encountered on flights with other European companies. Their distinctive features are that the backs are much thinner and don't recline. However, thanks to the slim profile, there is more leg room and they are pretty comfortable despite being so close together.

Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320

The back of the seat has a folding table and a separate folding cup holder:
Passenger cabin of an Air France Airbus A320 cabin of an Air France Airbus A320

All of the upholstery in the cabin was Dark Navy Blue - one of Air France's official company colors. I've noted in my other reviews that European airlines seem to pay more attention to maintaining the "company style" at every step of the way. This manifested itself in seemingly tiny details like a bright red zigzagging line on the dark blue fabric of the seat and the red trim of the baggage compartments all throughout the cabin, which I have pictured below:
Air France style France style

Other such little details include: red and blue napkins that came with meals, red badges on the blue uniforms of flight attendants. The same color scheme can also be seen on the company's website, in their emails, on the boarding passes, etc.

3. In-Flight Service

On the Marseille-Moscow flight, Air France offered the following services: snacks, drinks (water, juices, white and red wine), magazines. There was no entertainment systems (audio, video and the like) on this A320.

There was no choice of main course when it came to the in-flight meal, but everything was very good, and included fish, potatoes, cheese, bread (a mini baguette), and salad. I liked the cutlery - it was plastic, but not flimsy as plastic cutlery tends to be.
Board meal on a Marseille-Moscow flight

After the main meal came dessert: chocolate chip cookies with hot tea or coffee.
Board meal on a Marseille-Moscow flight

The literature consisted of Air France's official inflight magazine, as well as a women's magazine I'd never heard of called "Madame".
Air France inflight magazine

During the flight, water was distributed often and generously.

Flight attendants at work:
Air France cabin attendents

The flight from Marseille to Moscow is 3.5 hours. By the time we arrived in Sheremetyevo, it was already getting dark.
At the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

P.S. One more thing about Air France. The day after the flight I received a thank-you email, again featuring the red-and-navy company colors. I thought it was a very nice touch!
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Air France

Airbus A320

Marseille Provence Airport

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