New Air France Boeing 777-300ER with newer Business ClassThis is a follow up to an earlier December 11th 2010 post featuring Air France accepting its 200th Boeing aircraft, a 777-300ER, also marked entry in service of its new Business Class seat. The new seat would allow fully flat sleeping position along with a 15-inch In-Flight Entertainment system. The new 777-300ER was configured with 42 such seats out of the 383 total.

The airline announced today that it had received very positive response by business flyers regarding its new Business class seat product introduced to the fleet last December. Our December 11th 2010 entry indicated that Air France latest delivery of a Boeing 777-300ER equipped with the new fully flat business seat was in continuity of the airline new re-branding effort initiated in 2009. With the addition to the fleet of two more brand new Boeing 777-300ER equipped with the new Business Class seat on January 20th 2011 and February 7th 2011, the airline has been able to offer continued service on the Brazzaville and Pointe Noire (Congo) oil destinations and on non-stop flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam all from its Paris-Charles De Gaulle hub.

Survey conducted by Air France during the 3-month introductory period following the new Business Class entry into service revealed high customer praise for the new product. While 97% of the respondents put the comfort level at good to excellent, 95% of them were recommending the product. The 2 m (6’6”1/2) long, 61 cm (24”) wide seat allows passenger to lie fully flat while sleeping on an horizontal plane. This had been a departure from previous fully flat products which reclined at an angle to the cabin floor. The unnatural sleeping attitude that resulted prevented the airline from aggressively competing in the Business travel segment. The airline is planning to equip another 26 aircraft with the new Business Class by next summer with 63 total being operational by the following summer in 2012. The fleet increase will permit the new service being incrementally expanded to New York (Newark and JFK), Rio de Janeiro, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Osaka, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Santiago de Chile.

The airline also announced its new global expansion initiative aiming at increasing its market share on the Europe to Florida travel segment as well as adding to destination to its African network.

The move in Florida is being conducted alongside Group member airline KLM and in partnership with Delta Airline. Delta Airline is to offer non-stop daily flight between Miami and London Heathrow beginning March 26. KLM has already started offering 4 times weekly Miami-Amsterdam flight since March 21 while Air France will take over 3 weekly flights between Paris and Orlando beginning June 7th 2011. This introduces 14 new weekly non-stop flights between major European markets and Florida. This initiative, by allowing the airlines involved to keep operating from its traditional base, can bring significant competitiveness in market share as additional cost to the network will be minimal.

Concurrently the global airline announced further expansions on its network of African destinations. The new services to Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Monrovia (Liberia) will operate as part of existing Paris-Conakry service currently operated by a 208 seats Airbus 330-200. The aircraft would conduct Paris-Freetown via Conakry on Tuesdays and Sundays, and Paris-Monrovia via Conakry on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning in April 2011.

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