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Air France’s New Business Class Can Convert to Coach When Corporate Travel Slows

Jun 25, 2014 2:50 pm

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Seems smart. Just make sure to screw those bolts on tight before takeoff.

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Air France’s new business-class seating.

Air France’s new coach-class seating.

Air France will fit its long-haul fleet with removable business-class berths that can be swapped for economy seats in the summer when corporate travel slows.

Of the 40 flat-bed business seats being installed in Air France’s Boeing Co. 777 wide-body planes, 24 can be stripped out to accommodate 60 coach-class passengers, a net gain of 36 people per flight, the Paris-based carrier said.

Air France is betting that an adjustable layout will help sustain earnings during a summer lull in top-end travel as it embraces lie-flat berths that will cut the number of business seats in each 777 by eight. The carrier is overhauling premium cabins after losing ground to British Airways, which pioneered flat beds, and glitzier offerings from Gulf and Asian carriers.

“We need to be flexible to maximize revenue,” said Air France-KLM Group Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac, who flew from Paris to New York last night on the inaugural flight featuring the new shell-style seats.

Business cabins in 44 777s comprising about 40 percent of the long-haul fleet will be fitted with the berths by the summer of 2016, with each seat costing 53,000 euros ($72,000), or almost double that including in-flight-entertainment systems.

The business seats, which can be removed overnight by maintenance crews, will be arranged in a four-abreast 1-2-1 layout so that no passenger has to pass another to get get out, compared with the current seven-abreast 2-3-2 offering.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at aerothman@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net. 

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