Air France has accepted its maiden Airbus A350-900 at a ceremony at the manufacturer’s Toulouse/Blagnac plant. The first of 28 examples to joint the French flag carrier, it has been equipped with a 324-seat cabin accommodating 24 premium economy and 266 economy passengers. Business class comprises 34 lie-flat beds.
Receiving the airliner, Anne Rigail, the carrier’s CEO said: “The arrival of a new aircraft is always a unique and highly emotional occasion in the life of an airline. Along with all Air France staff, we are extremely proud to welcome the Airbus A350, one of the world’s most efficient long-haul aircraft in terms of environmental, economic and operational performance. As from October 7, our customers will be able to discover optimal comfort and service on board these new cabins.
“The arrival of this first A350 marks a new phase in Air France’s fleet modernisation strategy. Within 5 years, more than half of the company’s fleet will be made up of new-generation aircraft.”
The jets will enter service on transatlantic, African and Asian routes beginning with Abidjan and Bamako, the capitals of Ivory Coast and Mali respectively, from October 7, 2019 to December 8, 2019. Connections to Toronto will follow on October 27, with Cairo and Seoul being added on December 9. A rotation to Bangkok is expected to be added for the 2020 summer season.
Almost two-thirds of the carrier’s 223-strong fleet is Airbus-built, including 114 single aisle and 29 widebody aircraft. Earlier this year it exchanged orders for six Boeing 787-9s with sister airline KLM, receiving seven A350-900s in return.
Air France is the only airline to operate Airbus’ entire range of commercial airliners. Since May 1974, it has utilised 25 Airbus A300s, 11 A310s, 18 A318s, 49 A319s, 109 A320s, 30 A321s, 16 A330s, 30 A340s and 10 A380s. It has a further 27 A350-900s on order and, in July, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 60 A220-300s.