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Air France Rolls Out Redesigned Cabins to Keep Pace With Competition

@SamShankman

Jun 26, 2014 7:30 am

Skift Take

New redesigned cabins will soon become commonplace on global carriers making brand, cost and connections the primary decision makers. Since its redesign is necessary to compete, Air France’s rollout can be considered obligation over innovation.

— Samantha Shankman

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Air France’s new economy class seats give flyers an extra inch of leg room. They are also 7 pounds lighter than the old seats, saving Air France valuable fuel costs.

Economy class in-flight entertainment screens are now larger (9 inches) and include more than 1,000 hours of programming.

The new business class seats offer flyers full privacy and full-flat beds as well as 16-inch screens, Bose headsets, and ample personal space.

Seats are configured so that passengers can maintain complete privacy or remove a barrier in order to chat with their seat partner. A total of 2,102 business class seats will be installed by summer 2016 at a cost of 200 million euros.

Premiere cabin seats feature 94-inch lie-flat beds, a 24-inch entertainment screen, a personal closet and a menu that includes champagne brunch and caviar.

Curtains can close on the cabin giving flyers complete privacy throughout the flight.

Air France will be showing off its new cabins in an New York City exhibit through the end of the week.

The interactive exhibit gives attendees the opportunity to test the new seats as well as engage in other activities, like the bubble game pictured above.

In-flight amenities are showcased for each section of the plane.

Another section of the interactive exhibit takes attendees on a panoramic visual journey of the airline’s largest destinations.

After four years in development, Air France today unveiled new cabins that bring better entertainment and more legroom to economy class flyers and complete privacy and comfort to business class passengers.

The improvements, although impressive in their attention to detail for passengers and efficiencies for the airline, were a necessary undertaking in today’s competitive aviation environment.

Click through the slideshow above for a look at Air France’s new cabins and New York City exhibition. 

Airlines across the globe have been unveiling new super suites and economy seats that help companies pack in low-paying customers in competitive fares and woo high-paying customers with space.

Etihad went over the top with its residence suites, SAS kept its new cabin designs smart and functional, British Airways’ new short-haul cabins look cleaner and more contemporary, and Asiana pairs a harder design with service surprises.

“There is no economic area more competitive than air transportation. There’s very high standards; therefore, you have to adapt very quickly and keep improving,” explains Bruno Matheu, Air France’s chief officer of long-haul passenger activity in a conversation with Skift.

“I used to say it was not a choice, it was an obligation. We were obliged to do it.”

By the summer of 2017, Air France will have invested more than one billion euros in improving its in-flight products. The first part of the roll-out will see forty-four 777 jets refitted.

Although Matheu is open about the carrier’s competition and readily discusses the new reality of in-flight design, he is also persistent that the real fight for customers expands beyond the seat fabric or dinner cutlery.

“Our project is not just to invest in the product. Our goal is to be at the top level in terms of product and to make the difference through the human relationships and the attitude of our people. It’s really two-fold,” says Matheu.

“We talk about the product because it’s easy to describe. The good product without the right people to properly serve that product to the customer is nothing.”

Air France executives expect to improve market share and gain back market share following the redesign roll-out, but their specific focus is on business travelers or luxury flyers able to splurge on premium seats.

As improved in-flight cabins become more commonplace on routes around the world, a new standard will likely emerge to set carriers apart. On the day of launch, Matheu is unable to predict what that might be.

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