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Pilot deal frees Air France to begin premium-cabin rejig

Air France-KLM chief executive Ben Smith has highlighted that a new labour deal with pilots has given the French flag carrier the "commercial flexibility" it needs to reconfigure its long-haul fleet to meet premium market demand.

The ratification of a pay deal by pilot union SNPL on 19 February will allow Air France to "revisit" the configuration of its long-haul cabins, Smith said during a media briefing in Paris on 20 February.

Prior to this, cabin layouts were governed by "very restrictive" contractual obligations with employees, meaning that the carrier was not able to properly "optimise" them, notes Smith.

The airline intends to change its cabins in order to meet a target of providing its Le Premiere lie-flat bed product on at least one frequency a day on major trunk routes to North America and Asia.

Smith says this is part of push to provide "higher consistency, simplicity and clarity" within the long-haul offering, to satisfying passengers with "premium expectations".

Air France is spending €140 million ($159 million) to refurbish the cabins of its 15 Airbus A330-200s. The first A330 has now been retrofitted, Smith notes.

"Refurbishment of the leisure configuration" of the cabins on 12 Boeing 777-300ERs is also planned this year.

All long-haul aircraft will be equipped with wi-fi by 2020.

Smith says there is "no plan" to change KLM's long-haul premium offering.

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