Friday,  October 23, 2020  9:02 pm

Air France invests in modernization, sustainability with arrival of new Airbus A350

Air France invests in modernization, sustainability with arrival of new Airbus A350
From left: Vincent Etchebehere, GM, Air France-KLM Canada; Catherine Villar, customer experience manager, Air France; Anne Rigail, chief executive office, Air France; Bas Gerressen, senior VP for N.A., Air France-KLM
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Air France’s first-ever Airbus A350-900 arrived at Toronto Pearson airport last night (Oct. 27), marking a new chapter for the French carrier as the aircraft begins serving Toronto daily throughout the winter season.

The new Airbus, named “Toulouse” after the capital of France’s southern Occitanie region, represents a significant investment on behalf of Air France as the company modernizes its fleet and aims to reduce its environmental footprint.

The Airbus A350 will eventually represent “the core of our fleet,” Air France's CEO, Anne Rigail, told reporters Monday morning (Oct. 28) at a press conference held at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel.

COFFEE TALK. Air France CEO Anne Rigail (centre) joined her colleagues at Toronto's Bisha Hotel to update media on Air France's latest initiatives.

Rigail, who was appointed CEO of Air France on December 12th, 2018, was visiting Toronto for the first time after joining her team on the Airbus A350’s inaugural Paris-Toronto flight the night before.

Updating both consumer and trade media, Rigail confirmed that Air France has ordered 28 of the new Airbus, which reportedly consumes 25 per cent less fuel (the equivalent to 2.5 litres per passenger per 100 km), 25 per cent less CO2 and 40 per cent less noise emissions.

“We are investing in a high-performance fleet that is perfectly suited to address our sustainable agenda,” Rigail explained.

That agenda includes plans to offset 100 per cent of Air France’s CO2 emissions on all domestic flights starting January 1st, 2020 (representing an average of more than 450 flights per day and more than 57,000 customers).

FLYING HIGH. Air France has ordered 28 new Airbus A350s as part of a fleet-wide modernization. Photo: Air France

Air France has also set a new objective for 2030 – to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50 per cent per passenger, per kilometre, compared to 2005.

“We take social and environmental responsibility very seriously at Air France,” Rigail said. “If we want to offer our generation the travel to meet different cultures and different people, we also have to pave the way towards a greener air transport industry so that our children and future generation are also allowed to do it.”

Rigail said the investment of ordering new airplanes, combined with operating a “cleaner, more efficient aircraft,” costs more than 1 billion Euros a year.

Vincent Etchebehere, general manager of Air France-KLM Canada, called sustainability a “key priority” for the company, noting the airline’s commitment to reduce and eliminate single-use plastic items from flights, Air France's lounges and company offices.

“We take social and environmental responsibility very seriously at Air France,” said Air France's CEO Anne Rigail in Toronto.

Starting this November, for each booking made on for trips departing from Canada, Air France will fund the planting of one tree in Ontario through a reforestation project operated by Pur Project in Manitowaning.

This project, in time, will “open the path to sensitize our customers and give an example of the benefits of reforestation in terms of biodiversity protection and ecosystems restoration,” noted Etchebehere.

By 2020, through Air France’s “Trip by Tree” program, customers will also be proposed “a wide choice of projects to support all around the world” while contributing to the neutrality of their flights, it was noted.

All eyes on the new A350

“Within five years, we will have renewed more than half of our fleet with new generation aircraft,” Rigail said.

The new Airbus A350 – billed as “one of the quietest, latest-generation twin-aisle aircraft” – will fly daily between Toronto and Paris throughout winter (until March), with AF 351 leaving Toronto at 19:45 and arriving at Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 8:15 the next day.

The 66.80-metre-long airplane features 324 seats: 34 business; 24 premium economy; and 266 economy.

THE BREAKDOWN. Air France's new Airbus A350 features 324 seats: 34 business; 24 premium economy; and 266 economy. Photo: Air France.

Passengers will notice a range of comfortable amenities: in Business, for example, the seat turns into a two-metre-long, lie-flat bed. The HD touchscreens, here, are 18.6 inches.

In Premium Economy, the new “recliner” seat is 48 cm wide and recline to 124 degrees, with a seat pitch of 96 cm complimented by a 13.3-inch HD touchscreen.

In Economy, a “reinforced ergonomic seat cushion” was designed, bolstered by a 118 degree seat recline, 79 cm seat pitch and a 11.6-inch HD touchscreen.

The Airbus A350 offers in-flight Wi-Fi options and, like all of Air France flights, a range of entertainment options (more the 1,400 hours of movies, music, podcasts and more), champagne across all cabins and French gastronomy.

“The air is renewed every two, three minutes,” said Rigail of the new A350. “You’re less tired by the end of the flight.”

The new Airbus also, notably, boasts a more spacious cabin (5.61 metres wide) and windows that are 30 per cent larger.

“The A350 is proof we’re going to offer our Ontario customers the best in in-flight products and services,” Rigail told reporters.

From left: Vincent Etchebehere, GM, Air France-KLM Canada; Anne Rigail, CEO, Air France; Benoît Parayre, EVP communication, Air France; Catherine Villar, customer experience manager, Air France; Bas Gerressen, senior VP for N.A., Air France-KLM. Photo courtesy of Air France.

Investing in Canada

Air France’s Toronto-Paris route is extremely important to the company – the airline has increased its seat offer by more than 20 per sent over the past three years.

This past summer alone, Air France added three extra weekly frequencies to its daily year-round flight schedule.

For 2020, Air France plans on adding four additional flights, which means the airline will operate two daily flights from Toronto to Paris between June and August, Etchebehere said.

This is the first time Air France has done such a thing since first launching the Toronto-Paris route in 1976.

“Our investment is not only in terms of seat quality, but also cabin quality as all aircraft on this route are equipped with the latest Air France cabins to deliver the highest standards of comfort to our customers,” Etchebehere noted.

Air France’s long-term goal is to ensure consistency in our product,” Etchebehere said. 

“We’re continuing to capitalize on increasing our frequencies to offer more choices to our customers,” Etchebehere said.

And Air France's investment in Toronto is strong, as seen by the airline's ongoing sponsorship of the Toronto International Film Festival as the festival's official airline. 

READ MORE: Ooh là là! Air France has a trendy lounge you can visit at TIFF

Summertime next year will also see a significant increase in capacity from Montreal to Paris as Air France will boost frequency to four daily flights, Etchebehere confirmed.

That schedule, which will run from June to August 2020, will run three times a week, and will increase Montreal’s frequency to Paris from 21 to 24 weekly flights.

“When you move to four daily flights that’s extremely significant, if you can imagine,” Etchebehere said.

When combining all flights from Canada to Europe offered by both Air France and its sister company, KLM, Summer 2020 will bring 84 weekly flights between Canada, Paris and Amsterdam (43 on Air France, 41 on KLM), Etchebehere noted.

“We’re continuing to capitalize on increasing our frequencies to offer more choices to our customers,” Etchebehere said.

Get to know the new Airbus A350-900 a little more in the promotional video below! 

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