Transport Airlines

Air France Enters the First-Class Suite Aviation Arms Race

May 07, 2014 8:00 am

Skift Take

This is a nice first class. Not too flashy, not too grand — at least compared to the latest wave of Gulf excess.

— Marisa Garcia

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry


 

 

 

 

As part of the ongoing new design frenzy in aviation, reaching unprecedented levels of activity and new reveals, with airlines doing their best to best the competition, Air France has just debuted their new La Première designer suite to its First Class cabin onboard nineteen of their 777-300s.

Air France chose to reveal the suite at a special event in Shanghai, which demonstrates Air France’s commitment to join the crowd of European (and US) airlines going to great lengths to woo affluent Asian passengers.

Though hardly an apartment in the sky, the private suite is spacious, with emphasis on separation from neighbors and optimum privacy. Air France will “progressively equip” these 777-300s with this new design starting September 2014.

The lay flat seat in these suites are adaptable to body contours for comfort on long-haul flights. Each passenger will have a personal 24-inch HD touch screen on their IFE, and Air France Claims that the bed is “worthy of the greatest hotels.” In their words, La Première will be “like spending a night in a palace..a completely exclusive experience.” The bed will be over two meters long and 77 cm wide, once the armrests are fully retracted. The beds are dressed out with a “fluffy pillow and a Sofitel My Bed(c) duvet.”

In the case of La Première, there are no sliding doors separating these first class suites from their neighbors and passers-by, but in a move reminiscent of the “golden age” of aviation, Air France provides a thick folding curtain which can be drawn for privacy.

Frédéric Gagey, Chairman and CEO of Air France, says: “Our new La Première suite, from among all our new products and services, is the one that best represents our commitment to service excellence and a French travel experience. It illustrates our intention to recover and our global ambition.”

It definitely reveals a global ambition. Air France has introduced a number of improvements to its cabins already this year, but this one is a unique departure from the traditional French color schemes of red white and blue. La Première opt instead for a neutral gray and light blue-grey palate, complimentary to any flag.

For those who just can’t wait to see it but also can’t book the flight, Air France has coordinated special exhibits in Shanghai, New York and Paris during May, June and September 2014, which are free and open to the public, “so that everyone can experience Air France’s new world with interactive animations.” Details of the exhibitions can be found on expo.airfrance.com, or by following the hashtag #AirFranceExpo.

Industry watchers had better get used to reading articles about new aircraft interiors programs, because there are many underway. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

This is a historic precedent, fueled by heavy competition and new aircraft deliveries, coupled with a bit of collective ebullience. Note, that ebullience is french for “bubbly.” Like champagne. And other bubbles.

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.

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