Today I flew out of Paris on what I thought was an Air France flight AF1218 to Frankfurt. Only later did I notice on my ticket the small print saying the flight was operated by Hop! This all sounds great except once again I knew nothing about Hop! Mind you I booked this ticket by myself and have only myself to point the finger at.
Getting myself to CDG was easy enough. When you stay near St Michel, you are blessed with the fact that the RER to CDG airport passes right through the station. In fact, it’s the same to Paris Orly as well so you really have both bases covered. To top it off, you can bypass the endless stone flights of stairs that were designed to test out the rollers on any trolley bag. Not to mention the manliness of its owner. With a suitcase that is almost as tall as I am, I have often found new ways struggling with the lime coloured beast to contribute to the entertainment of my fellow train users.
However at St Michel, there is actually an elevator. It is cavernous by Parisian standards and will take you directly to the platform where you board the train. The only thing it does not have is a ticket vending machine so it pays to purchase your ticket (10 euros) earlier. You can purchase it even on the day before. Then it’s just a matter of knowing which terminal your flight is from.
I dutifully checked mine and registered that it said terminal 2G. Thinking that the letter G likely referred to some section at the terminal, I was non plussed about it. By this time, I had become completely confident about my navigational abilities. Getting off the train, I followed the army of trolley bags as we swarmed our way to either the TGV train or the check-in gates. Still feeling confident I pulled my lime green buddy along going from letter to letter to finally ending up in 2F. (By now I have worked out that terminal 2 is shaped like an athletics track with each letter branching off into satellite terminals.) So, after walking what seemed like the whole of terminal 2, 2G was nowhere to be seen!
Instead, the signs for 2G kept going and eventually led me outside the building altogether and to a very plain looking bus stop! There were other people here so I figured this must be right. A shuttle bus eventually pulls up with a driver that looks like someone who has been driving in a circle for far too long. Immediately, I hesitated to ask him where we were going. Besides, he would probably have answered me in French anyway. After everyone is on, he pulls away from the bus stop and we began to drive away from the terminal, onto a short section of road before turning right into a what looked like a plane hangar. I swear the driver could have done this in his sleep. After dislodging all of us, he robotically shuts the door to make the five minute trip back to pick up the next batch of confused passengers who will likely ask him where they were going.
There, right in front of this light brown hangar, there’s a sign and it says 2G! So there I was in this big warehouse with a row of check-in counters, a Pauls patisserie and if you are tight with the wallet, a vending machine as well.
What was then confusing was that all counters said Internet check-in. Then at the front there are the usual check-in kiosks where you can get your boarding pass and your luggage tag. Since I can get flabbergasted easily when presented with confusing options, I picked the kiosk which was staring right at me. As usual, I chose the slowest option. Whilst the queue dissipated at the Internet check-in counters, I struggled with my kiosk that reminded me of a scientific calculator that asked you just too many questions. At the end, it spat out my boarding pass together with a five feet long luggage tag sticker which needed advanced origami paper folding skills to work out. At precisely that moment, I gave up and took everything to the check-in counter. I realized then I could have just headed straight there in the first place. That was what everyone else did. Ahh, the joys of overthinking everything.
So, Hop! Is Air France’s answer to low cost. Everything about it is low cost. Even the departure gates are serviced by a large communal waiting area with just a few shops selling food, souveniers and duty free goods. But when I sit back and process what I went through, it is actually not that bad. The service staff are friendly, the queues are short and it was all a breeze in the end (if I had just ignored the kiosks). Sure, there is no Laduree Macaron outlet here and you have to be satisfied with more Spartan surroundings but if all you wanted is a drive-thru, then this ticks all the boxes. From not knowing what I had signed up for at the start of the day with Hop! in the end, I got to Frankfurt with no fuss at all. In short, I would fly with them again. (If nothing, just to have another go at the kiosk!)