Air France's Premium Voyageur may eventually find place on A380s

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Air France on 25 October will debut its new premium economy product on a Boeing 777 serving the carrier's high-profile Paris-New York JFK route, and says it would like to see the cabin eventually offered on its Airbus A380s, although no retrofit decision has been taken.

Located between the business and economy cabins of the aircraft, the so-called Premium Voyageur cabin will be gradually phased in on Air France's international long-haul network on flights operated by 777s, Airbus A330s and A340s.

Premium Voyageur features 40% additional space than regular economy; a completely new seat specially designed for Air France and equipped with a fixed shell for space and privacy; a 10.4in wide individual video screen with 500 hours of viewing on demand; and amenities from Air France's 'Affaires' business class cabin.

"The product was ready to sell in the system since June and the reaction has been positive," Air France-KLM vice-president and generational manger, USA Christine Ourmieres told ATI yesterday during an interview in Washington DC.

Leisure travellers have been the first to book, while the corporate sector is expected to book "closer to the date of departure", says Ourmiere. She notes, however, that while the "corporate travel cycle is really different than last year", Air France is "already seeing some excellent trends and I think we will see next month the forward bookings for corporate travel".

Air France is also preparing to launch service with its first Airbus A380. The aircraft will be deployed on the Paris-New York JFK route, with its first scheduled flight slated for 23 November.

"We will change our schedule to accommodate the A380, change two frequencies [currently flown with lower-capacity widebodies] for one," says Ourmiere.

The A380 service will start without the Premium Voyageur product, confirms Ourmiere. A recent Wall Street Journal report said Air France wanted to modify at least some of the 12 A380s on order with Airbus with the Premium Voyageur offering, but that the European airframer wasn't prepared to risk further disruptions to the tight production schedule.

"The A380 [as is] will offer a great level of comfort so people will love it," says Ourmiere, adding: "It was good not to delay this aircraft."

Asked whether Air France will eventually retrofit its A380s with Premium Voyageur, Ourmiere says: "I don't have any confirmation yet but in the long-term it would be lovely to see all the products on the fleet."

Specific details about what Air France will offer on the A380 will be unveiled by the end of October. But Ourmiere says passengers should expect "luxury food, service and wine, and everything you could find in a five star hotel, including specially trained crew".

She also notes that the in-flight entertainment system will offer a "huge choice of movies". Air France continues to study various in-flight connectivity solutions and could make a decision next year, says the Air France-KLM executive.