Passengers’ expectations were limited by the pioneering spirit of the times. They mainly wanted to arrive safely at their destinations. The services offered were modest… just one bartender, cold snacks, and the ability to send telegrams from the plane with the on-board radio. Stewards and hostesses took charge of service, greeting and taking care of passengers.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF LUXURY SERVICES
1946 was the golden age of the world-renowned Air France luxury services: "l'Epicurien" to London (1950), and the "Parisien Special" to New York (1953). The latter flight offered private rooms with beds, and gourmet meals with champagne, aboard Super Constellations. The longer the flight, the more the quality of the food and comfort became essential.
In June 1951, the Paris-Dakar route took 13 hours, with eight weekly flights. A "family service" was provided, with 55 seats reserved for children accompanied by their parents. Hostesses specialising in childcare were also aboard these flights to help families. There were products and services adapted to babies and young children (hammocks, baby meals, toys, albums, and other distractions). These "family assistants" helped mothers, assisted the crew, and saw to the well-being of children.
CONSTANTLY CHANGING TRAVEL CABINS
In 1953, Air France redefined all of its services around new passenger needs. It offered global routes and high-quality services, which, already at the time, were the main ways to differentiate the airline and build customer loyalty in the highly competitive aviation sector.
The blue-ribbon luxury service, also known as "Golden Parisian" over the North Atlantic was inaugurated in January 1954. It provided total comfort with 16 reclining seats, foam rubber headrests and footrests, as well as 8 private compartments separated by lemonwood containing a large double bed, which during the day could be turned into a luxurious small sitting room. The services offered were of the highest quality. First Class ("Service Parisien") and Tourist Class, in may 1952, were also available.
The airline adapted its cabins, installed ovens, and launched a meal trolley service, the Comodiprest, in 1966. Service gradually became more streamlined. In 1955 Air France hired Japanese hostesses on its Far East routes, in addition to its French hostesses, to provide cabin service wearing kimonos, and promote dialogue with Japanese customers. Later, Brazilian hostesses joined the crew on flights to Brazil.
With the Boeing 747 in 1970, there was more space, and planes could transport nearly 3 times as many passengers as the Boeing 707, with greater comfort. First Class had a bar and lounge on the top floor, decorations created by famous artists, and high-quality service.
To recover a tourist clientele that was starting to move towards charter companies, Air France launched the "Holiday" class, a highly pared-down service with fares barely above those of charter companies. It inaugurated its first "Air France Vacances" flight on a Paris - Fort de France - Pointe à Pitre route in 1979, followed by a route to New York. These flights were operated by Boeing 747s.
Air France decided to place a First Class section on six Airbus A300-B4 planes in its long-haul fleet. These offered 26 new seats that were larger and more comfortable, with a seat back that reclined further. The service was the same quality as that offered in First Class on B747s. These long-haul Airbuses primarily served Senegal, most stops in the Middle East, Djibouti, Tanzania, and the Comoros.
BETTER ADAPTED SERVICES
In 1983, the airline offered the "Air France Le Club" class on its mixed and combined Boeing 747s on its routes to North America, Mexico, South America, and Asia. It also offered free drinks, films, and music in Economy Class on long-haul flights.
More and more in-flight services were offered in phase with a growing consumer entertainment society. Air France became the first airline to install telephones, with the JetPhone service in 1997, using a phone built into the seat backs in the "l'Espace", "Plein ciel" "Tempo" and "Loisirs" cabins (minimum call price: 12.50 francs, or approximately £1.30/minute). And in 2007, it was the first airline to take delivery of an A318 equipped with the OnAir system, letting passengers use their cell phones in flight without interfering with navigational instruments.
Air France also cares about young travellers. "Planète Bleue," a program launched in 1993, offers dedicated services to families and children travelling alone. The comprehensive programme is split up into three age groups (babies, children, teenagers) where specific attention is paid to the comfort of young passengers (special assistance, entertainment, games, adapted meals, etc.). The "Planète Bleue" brand has continued to be enriched by new products and services. Special activities are organised during school vacations for unforgettable travel memories.
Air France has also worked to facilitate travel for disabled people and those with reduced mobility. In 2001 it created a dedicated assistance department: SAPHIR - Service for Assistance to Handicapped Persons for Information and Reservations.
CONTINUING THE MOVE UPMARKET
Today, Air France has taken a major step in increasing the range of its products and services, and offers its customers a unique travel experience on board its flights