Air France-KLM Expands in Africa, Launches Daily Flight to LA

We've been getting a lot of buzz from Air France/KLM recently. Here's some of the latest:

The Numbers
Passenger traffic was stable (-0.2 percent) for capacity down 1.4 percent. The load factor improved by one point to 80.8 percent. The number of passengers stood at 6.55 million (-0.8 percent). In France, May saw four additional public holidays compared to last year, which weighed on the leisure/business mix. As a result, unit revenue per available seat kilometer (RASK) ex-currency was stable compared with May 2011. On the Americas network, traffic and capacity declined by 1.8 percent and 2.6 percent respectively. The load factor stood at 86.7 percent (+0.7 points). The European network saw a rise in traffic of 2.6 percent for capacity up by 3.2 percent. The load factor declined slightly to 74.2 percent (-0.4 points).

The Latest Developments
The group is expanding in Africa: Last month, KLM launched three weekly flights to Lusaka (Zambia) operated by an Airbus A330, and Air France launched on 4th June a daily flight to Abuja (Nigeria), also operated by an Airbus A330. Air France and SN Air Mali have signed a commercial code-share agreement between Paris and Bamako that provides the African carrier a quota of seats on its daily flights between its hub at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Bamako.

Domestically, Air France launched a daily flight to Los Angeles, operated by an Airbus A380, the third US destination to be served by this aircraft after New York and Washington. Air France flies to Los Angeles from Paris-Charles de Gaulle with two daily flights by Airbus A380 and Boeing B777.

And both Air France and KLM, in partnership with Panasonic Avionics, are launching a joint in-flight connectivity program on board their long-haul flights, with trials starting early next year. The trial phase will be conducted over the year 2013 on two Boeing 777-300s, operated by each airline. During this period, travelers will be able to hook up to the internet via their Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, laptop or tablet PC at a fixed rate, as well as use their mobile phone for SMS or e-mail, whatever their travel class.

The impetus behind these developments is a familiar lament in Europe's airlines: Air France and KLM spokespeople (who requested anonymity) said that the "soaring" cost of fuel and the current form of the emissions trading scheme are "jeopardizing the competitive position of the European airline industry." They also noted that these challenges are not helping to "create a level playing field which is essential for a healthy industry."

Despite the economic challenges, the group is working to reduce its impact on the climate, reducing CO2 emissions and increasing efficiency. Our source noted that the group has been sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for seven years in a row.

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