AF Ups Transatlantic Game With Inaugural A350 Flight To YYZ

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

It uses 25% less fuel, it emits 25% less CO2, it produces 40% less noise, it has state-of-the-art cabins... and it's available to Canadian travellers. 

 L-R: Vincent Etchebehere, VP and GM of Air France KML Canada; Anne Rigail, CEO Air France;
Benoit Parayre, EVP Communications Air France; Catherine Villar, Director Customer Experience Air France;
and Bas Gerressen, SVP Air France KLM North America.

Air France's first Airbus A350, dubbed "Toulouse," crossed the pond and touched down at Pearson Airport yesterday, kicking off daily YYZ-CDG service for the winter season.

"The A350 is proof that we want to offer our Ontario customers the best of our inflight product and service," said Air France CEO Anne Rigail, fresh off the previous night's inaugural flight.

L-R: Etchebehere, Villar, Rigail and Gerressen.

The A350, touted as one of world's most efficient long-haul aircraft, will be at the core of the Air France fleet, said Rigail. The airline has a total of 28 on order and will grow its network as the deliveries come in. Air France will have six A350 by summer 2020, 10 by summer 2021 and all 28 by 2025. 

"Overall, we are investing €1 billion per year in the renewal of our fleet for quite some years. It allows us to operate cleaner and more efficient aircraft. Within five years, we will have renewed more than half of our fleet with new-gen aircraft," said Rigail. 

What agents can highlight about Air France's A350:

Elevated cabin experience – Champagne for everyone!

The A350s have 34 Business class seats, 24 Premium Economy and 266 Economy, all configured in a more spacious cabin.

The A350 Business class.

Business class guests enjoy a 2-metre long fully lie-flat bed as well as 18.5-inch HD inflight entertainment screens. Each seat has direct aisle access and passengers can choose between a shared or private flying experience with a removable partition wall. 

As ambassadors of French cuisine, AF Business class menus are created by renowned chefs that change every three months. From JUL to OCT, for example, Michelin-starred French chef Guy Martin has curated the meals, offering four choices for the main course. The airline is currently exploring meal pre-ordering – which guarantees guests their choice of meal -- on several routes and expects to roll it out to more routes from JAN 2020.

In Premium Economy, the "Recliner" seats are 48cm wide with a 124-degree recline and 96cm seat pitch. There's also a 13.3-inch HD touchscreen for inflight entertainment. Economy cabin seats have a 118-degree recline and an 11.6-inch HD touchscreen. 

Premium Economy cabin.

The A350 also features 30% larger windows, mood lighting that changes according to state of travel, onboard Wifi plans and an air pressure system that regularly renews cabin air. With reduced noise emissions, there's also a much quieter cabin. 

And if that's not enough to impress clients, well, maybe the champagne will. 

"We remain and we want to remain the only airline that offers champagne in all our classes cabins," said Rigail.

More frequencies, more seats

Over the past three years, AF has increased its seat offer by 20% on the Toronto-Paris route. 

The A350 will now operate daily between YYZ-CDG this winter until the end of MAR. Between JUN-AUG 2020, frequency between YYZ-CDG will double, resulting in two daily flights between the two cities for the first time in the airline's history (aboard the Boeing 777-220).

Also next summer, frequency is increasing from three to four flights/week throughout JUN to AUG 2020 between YUL-CDG.

Towards a sustainable flight path

Sustainability is embedded in the Air France strategy, said Rigail, the first female CEO in Air France's history. She says it's an objective that starts with the fleet and extends to reducing plastics both in the air and on the ground, waste reduction, carbon offsetting programs and engaging customers to become eco-responsible travellers. Already, between 2011 and 2018, the airline has reduced its carbon footprint by 20%.

Anne Rigail spoke about the game-changing aspects of the new Airbus A350.

The A350's credentials position it as a leader of the eco-friendly(er) aviation movement.

Another "green" initiative specific to the Canadian market is the reforestation Pur Project in Manitowaning – throughout NOV, for each booking made on for flights departing from Canada, the airline will fund the planting of one tree in Ontario.

Canadian and international media were in attendance.

"Our goal is to have a positive environmental impact here in Canada," said Vincent Etchebehere, GM of Air France KLM Canada. "[The Pur Project] will enable our customers to contribute to the carbon neutrality of their flights, while supporting a project of reforestation and contributing to ecosystem and biological restoration."

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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