It was a big day for Air France. On June 23rd the company, which has invested $ 500 million for a major refurbishment of its classes, carried out its first connection between Paris and New York with a B-777 equipped with new Economy, Premium Economy and Business class cabins, the first of 44 aircraft that will be refitted by the summer of 2016.
For this new beginning, we were there, complete with a guard of honour during boarding. At 11,000 metres (36,000 ft), it was time to go for a tour of the cabine, and check out all the changes.
In economy class, the seats offer nearly 3 cm. ( 1 1/4 in. ) of extra knee space, the headrest is adjustable, and passengers have a new 9-inch ( 23 cm. )H.D. touch screen with over 1,000 hours of music, movies and other programmes on demand; enough to make anyone happy.
Air France will replace a total of some 10,000 economy seats on its long-haul aircraft. Something they felt was essential in this upgrading programme.
Fatou Gueye, Economy & Premium Economy Product Manager - Air France : "We have 12.7 million passengers per year, so it was important to offer the best comfort and accessories to our customers in Economy. We really wanted to work on the comfort and space, and also provide elements such as an electrical outlet and U.S.B. port, which we had before in Business and Premium Economy."
The intermediate class, called Premium Economy, launched in 2009, has already attracted nearly three million passengers. It now offers a 40% larger and more comfortable seat than that in Economy, a new 12-inch ( 30 cm. ) H.D. screen and a multi-position footrest.
At the front of the aircraft, the Business class has, 44 ''cocoons'' with, transformable seat-beds about two metres (6 1/2 ft.) long, a large screen, direct access to the aisle - no need to disturb your neighbour - and that is just the beginning.
Bruno Matheu, General director - Long-haul Activity - Air France : "There is much more, in terms of storage, there's place to use, for example, your tablet, there is plenty of space for all sorts of things, as you see I've put things everywhere; and then there is this layout, designed by Marc Collins, which is a curvaceous, well-rounded design, allowing you to isolate yourself in your own little bubble if you wish."
Régis Marcon who develops menus for the Air France Business class was able to try them out for himself. Present on this inaugural flight, the three-star chef noted the temperature of food served on board, but also the new cabin.
Régis Marcon, 3-star chef - Air France Business Class : "I think it was also necessary because, out of the international clientele, the French customer is the most demanding, especially on comfort and the ability to rest. As for me, the details that stand out are more on the acoustic side, with the new headphones, it is important, and regarding sleeping, being able to do that lying down is a plus."
By the end of the year, eight aircraft will be equipped with these three new classes. The Premier cabin will enter service at the end of September. And after the B-777, it will be the turn of the fifteen A-330's and the nine A-380's of the French national airline to undergo the facelift, during the course of 2017.