Passengers using Air France to Paris CDG from Heathrow and Manchester can toast the airline. This week it has declared that it will retain business class within Europe at a time when its rivals are considering dropping the class for short haul flights.
The carrier is one of the very few among Europe's national carriers in offering three classes on mainline services: L'Espace Affaires, Tempo Challenge (superior economy class) and Tempo (economy class).
Says Catherine Jude, the carrier's route director for Europe and North Africa, " Last summer we experimented by removing business class from three routes but we found we lost more money in the process. Business class passengers opted for Tempo Challenge [with its lower fares] so our revenue suffered."
Air France's business class features roomy two by two seating (with a fold down table) while Tempo Challenge, although offering an economy class layout, is aimed at cost conscious travellers with its provision of essential business features like expedited airport handling and dedicated seating. Both these products are offered on mainline flights to and from France. In the case of the UK, it would cover services departing Heathrow and Manchester.
Catherine Jude says that the flexible curtain in the cabin enables the carrier to tailor capacity to demand. She also argues that Air France needs premium products to look after top fare paying customers who are transferring between short and long-haul services at its main Paris CDG hub. The carrier claims that over 50% of its passengers at CDG are now in transit rather than destined for Paris itself.