Air France Rolls Out Cabin Upgrades; Will Continue Across Partner Airlines

At a press conference on the far west side of Manhattan, representatives from Air France and its partners gathered to share details on the airline’s new seats, which are being rolled out for long-haul flights and are already installed on one 777 plane. 

“This event is a major step in a plan that had lasted four years to put us back in the commercial race,” Alexandre de Juniac, chairman and CEO of Air France/KLM said at the conference. Juniac cited two pillars for the company’s progress: Financial development and improving the overall quality of service. “The new 777s with the new cabins are a major step in the process,” he said. “We are back in the race. We will fight hard to improve the quality of what we provide on the ground and onboard.” 

Alexandre de Juniac

The New Seats

Each class of service has new perks and features, Bruno Matheu, Chief Officer, Long Haul told the group. The Economy cabin’s new seats are thinner and lighter than previous models (reducing up to 1,000 pounds on each plane), and each comes with a nine-inch personal flat-screen TV as well as an electrical socket for charging personal devices. 

The Premium Economy seats have hard shells as well as 40 percent more space than the economy seats. They have 12-inch screens and footrests. 

The Business Class seats, which were unveiled in February, are set up in a 1-2-1 configuration so that they all have aisle access,  as well as privacy screens. The seats fold out to become fully flat beds that are 77 inches long and 27 inches wide with real duvets. For entertainment, passengers get 16-inch screens and noise-canceling headphones. 

Then there’s the new La Première suite, which is set to roll out on 19 Air France Boeing 777-300 planes from September. Our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor looked at the suites last month: The seats stretch out into a flatbed that is more than six feet long with a mattress installed by the flight attendants. 

Perhaps best of all—and most classically French—all classes onboard all international flights will get a glass of champagne. 

The Rollout

In total,  44 Boeing 777 planes will get almost 10,000 Economy seats, more than 1,100 Premium Economy seats and 2,102 new Business class seats. By the end of the year, the new cabins will be used on flights to Singapore, Jakarta, Tokyo-Haneda, Houston and Shanghai. Douala, Dubai and Sao Paulo will follow early 2015.

The Group has reportedly invested 700 million euros in new cabins, including 500 million for Air France and 200 million for KLM, Juniac said at the conference, and expects to invest more than one billion by 2017 to upgrade both airlines’ Airbus A330 and Air France’s A380 planes. 

The new Air France cabins are being deployed on 44 Boeing 777 up to 2016. This summer, KLM is offering its new World Business Class on 22 Boeing 747. In September 2015, all of its Boeing 777-200 and 300 will offer this cabin.

The group will add 100 Boeing 787 to its fleet at the end of 2015 and the first Airbus A350 in 2018. The aircraft will be equipped with completely new cabins.

Group partner Delta President Ed Bastian said that the partnership with Air France is the most important collaboration Delta has. “Not only are we successful financially, but we're successful from a customer perspective,” he said, noting recent high rankings for the airline in Business Travel News. Delta has installed flat-bed seats in its business-class cabins across its international fleets, Bastian added--but Delta is not looking to become Air France, nor vice-versa. "One of the most important things in a joint venture is that the brands retain their unique identity," he said. "We're not trying to turn Delta into a French company or Air France into an American one. We must keep a local customer base and have a consistent offering."