Air France 7184 Brussels-Midi-Zuid to Paris Charles de Gaulle SNCF French Rail TGV Review
When I booked the leg of my trip that would take me from Brussels to Paris so I could fly home on board Air France’s Airbus A380 to New York’s JFK airport, my Air France “flight” never left the ground. Rather, it is an Air France code share with SNCF French Rail, which operates the TGV.
The TGV, Train à Grand Vitesse in French or high-speed train, capable of going as fast as 320 km/h (199 mph), first went into service in 1981. It holds the record for the world’s fastest long distance run, set in 2001 between Calais-Frethun to Marseille at a speed of 306 km/h or 190 mph. It has spawned numerous offspring, including the Eurostar, which is quite similar, and Amtrak’s Acela Express, which uses TGV motor technology although the train itself is different.
Upon arrival at Brussels-Sout (Bruxelles-Midi in French, Brussel-Zuid in Dutch), which has the airport code ZYR, I simply checked for flight 7184 at Air France roughly 30 minutes prior to my train’s 10:21 a.m. departure (Air France requests passengers arrive at least 15 minutes prior to departure). The agent was a bit gruff but checked in for my entire itinerary including the transatlantic flight. He gave me boarding passes for the final leg as well and invited me to wait in the lounge, which is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Coffee and tea as well as Wi-Fi were available and made the experience quite pleasant.
Boarding was simple, there were no security checks and an Air France representative was on the platform, attending to checked luggage (which I had to bring with me to the platform) and cautioning passengers to watch out for pickpockets.
Although the Air France Web site promises a first-class car that is “specially reserved” for Air France passengers, the first-class car was simply the TGV’s first-class car and other first-class passengers were on board. Once underway, an attendant offered a choice of beverage and snack. I chose water and madeleines. Surprisingly, a second drink or snack were not available.
The train on this route is a SNCF TGV Réseau model, built by Alstom in the 1990s. The first-class car has a 2-1 configuration. The interior was designed by Christian Lacroix with a harmonious grey color scheme. Tray tables fold down from the seatbacks . Power is available at each seat. I was assigned a seat in the last row on the right but, since the two seats across the aisle from me were vacant, I moved there for more room. Legroom was more than adequate for the short trip and comparable to domestic first class cabins on a Boeing 737 or 757 aircraft.
We arrived on time at 11:36 a.m. at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport’s the train station (an integral part of the airport). The entire train trip had only taken one hour and 15 minutes. I then had one hour and 54 minutes to transfer to my flight, which was more than enough time using the CDGVAL train that links the airport’s terminals and car parks.
The train trip took one hour and 15 minutes. The sequence I took, AF7184 and AF007, was a pleasant 11 hour and 14 minute trip and an excellent opportunity to travel by rail in a very civilized manner before flying the world’s largest aircraft to New York.