New Air France cabins: Boeing 777-300ER “Caribbean-Indian Ocean

The beginning of 2020 is definitely a revolution in the Air France customer experience, especially in the Caribbean – Indian Ocean (COI) segment. In parallel with the inauguration of the new Business lounge in Orly Hall 3 on January 15, 2020, a completely redesigned version of the Boeing 777-300ER will take off for destinations on the COI network, starting with Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France, then Saint-Denis-de-la-Réunion in summer 2020.

It must be said that the aircraft that served the destinations of the COI network (composed mainly of destinations located in the overseas territories, and a few others such as Bangkok and Miami) were often criticized for their lack of comfort. In Business in particular, NEV4 seats in 2-3-2 configuration were often offered at a high price, given the small capacity of the cabin (14 seats).

Air France seems to have listened to its customers and made comfort on the COI network a priority in its major overhaul of the customer experience. TravelGuys was invited to discover the new cabins exclusively with the General Manager of Air France, Anne Rigail.

We engage in the jetway, alongside Anne Rigail, and we will be royally welcomed by the presentation crew in place, very proud of their new work tool.

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In Business, long-awaited developments

We start the visit with the Business cabin. This one is equipped with 14 seats only, so there is no increase in capacity compared to the old version. Nevertheless, the leap in terms of comfort, which we will detail, is enormous.

The seat model chosen is the Optima from Safran, which also equips the recent Airbus A350-900. The configuration is 1-2-1, and the seat features Full Flat, Full Access and Full Privacy, bringing Air France even closer to the 2020 Business Class comfort standard.

The cabin is spread over 4 rows. Row 4, on the other hand, is only present on the sides of the aircraft, as shown in the cabin plan below.

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Copyright Air France

The first visual impression of the cabin is very good, and the next shot shows the elegant mood lighting that was installed along with the new seat design.

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The cabin equipment does not change on this version in quantity compared to the rest of the Business offer at Air France, namely a pillow, a blanket, a pair of slippers and a pair of socks. However, an investment has been made in the ergonomics of the pillows to improve the sleep of customers on board.

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Here is a view of the center seat pair. Two possibilities exist: rank 1 (E and G) and 3 (E and G) are ideal for people who want to travel together: the seats are very close together compared to row 2 (D and H). And should two strangers travel in the middle seats of rows 1 and 3, an electric partition, which can be opened and closed at the touch of a button, easily separates the two seats. In row 2, a partition, sliding this time, separates the space (naturally more restricted) between the two seats.

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In the next shot, we see a purser pressing the button to raise or lower the electric partition in row 1.

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On the side of the seat shell there is a small control panel, giving access to a proximity reading light, a button activating a reading light located at the top of the seat, a “do not disturb” button (activating a diode located outside the seat) and the crew call button.

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On the console is also a storage module, including the headset and a mirror.

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The entertainment system also comes from Safran Aerosystems. To access it, customers have an 18.5-inch high-definition screen.

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Anne Rigail seems delighted with the fruit of this

Of course, the seat reclines 180 degrees.

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Let’s come to the table, which, in order to be deployed, must be pulled from the shell of the seat located in front, and more specifically under the IFE. No more torticollis and unfortunate elbow strikes to pull the table from the side of the seat!

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This system, coupled with a large range of motion, allows the customer to easily get out of the seat even with the table extended. However, this one offers an optimal surface.

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The details have not been forgotten and Air France seems to have been interested in playing on its brand image. It should be noted that unfortunately, no bar has been provided in the cabin layout for the passenger experience.

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In Premium Economy, it is still in a shell seat

Change of strategy in Premium Economy compared to the A350. This pivotal class in the world of air travel, making it possible to capture a price-sensitive market without wanting to fall to the level of economy class, is the subject of numerous debates regarding its cabin layout.

Air France has not escaped the “shell seat” or “recliner seat” question for the layout of its reconfigured B777-300ERs for the COI market: it has finally equipped the 28 seats of his new aircraft with a shell seatand more specifically for the “Airgo FX” from Safran Seats, of the same type as that present on the Boeing 787 and the new Airbus A330 of the airline.

The seat morphology has not fundamentally changed, with adjustable headrests and footrests. The seat also contains a universal power outlet and two USB ports (one under the armrest and one under the personal screen), so you can charge two phones at the same time.

The cabin is divided into 4 rows in a 2-4-2 configuration.

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The center block is “split” in two, leaving slightly more space between the two blocks of two seats.

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The seat reclines to 130 degrees.

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A very nice feature: in the bulkhead rows, the personal screens (13.3 inches wide) are integrated directly into the bulkhead and no longer into the seat armrest as before. That way you don’t have to break a rib trying to lift it after takeoff!

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Beware of row 8 which does not have a window!

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In Economy, a cabin still dense but revised

The Economy cabin is spread over 3 cabins and has 430 seats, with a 3-4-3 layout. A configuration always very dense for these destinations very oriented “leisure”, but with a maybe more harmonious visual.

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The personal screen is 11.6 inches wide.

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The seat reclines to 118 degrees and has a seat width of 43 cm (16.9 inches) which is equal to what Qatar Airways offers on their B777-300ER (17 inches)

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We find the same touch of design as in Premium Economy with the integration of the IFE in the wall for the bulkhead seats.

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Rows 54, 55 and 56 at the rear of the aircraft show side seating blocks of 2 rather than 3 seats, due to the narrowing of the aircraft’s fuselage. As a result, they are sold as “Duo Seats” by Air France when the flight is booked (the fare varies according to the duration of the flight, but is still free for Flying Blue Platinum, Club 2000 and Ultimate members)

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Bottom line

We can only welcome the fact that Air France has chosen to thoroughly review its copy for its Caribbean and Indian Ocean customers. The question now is whether the line of investments aimed at this clientele (elimination of the COI protocol in Business class and return of champagne in Economy class, new travel cabins, new lounge in Orly Hall 3) will continue in the long term.

Air France remains in direct competition with airlines such as Air Caraïbes and Corsair in the French overseas departments and territories. The latter, offering a Premium product with a very aggressive value for money, will have to be challenged by the new Air France offer. The battle for the French Overseas Departments and Territories has only just begun and will probably be played out on all fronts, on which Air France will necessarily have to break through in order to increase its market share.

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