By Marco Finelli.
The first of Air France’s 28 new Airbus A350-900 was delivered to the French carrier on September 27.
The aircraft will gradually replace the older A340-300s and then progressively the other long-range aircraft of the previous generation.
This aircraft, as Benjamin Smith CEO Air France KLM pointed out, “will serve to operate all connections to the world of Air France from South America to Asia and from Africa to North America”.
Continued Smith, “All of our network airports can be served from Santiago de Chile to Singapore”.
Another novelty is the return of Air France to the tradition of naming its aircraft. This jet was given the name of “Toulouse”, in honor of the French city of flight.
The first commercial service will be on the Paris CDG – Abidjan route via Bamako on October 7.
Service to Toronto will follow from October 27, 2019.
The aircraft with registration F-HTYA, was delivered at the end of a ceremony as used for new arrivals.
It is the first newcomer to the Air France fleet since the first Airbus A380-800 was delivered.
Hosting the ceremony its was Christopher Buckley – Airbus Commercial VP, Francois Obe – A350XWB Product Marketing Director. For Air France Benjamin Smith – Air France CEO – KLM and Anne Rigail, Air France CEO attended.
The press conference was opened by Benjamin Smith who declared that “Air France is the only airline in the world that had all the aircraft produced by Airbus since 1974, from the A300, A310, A320, A330, A340 , A380 and now the A350, up to the next A220-300 ordered a few weeks ago with 60 planes and options “.
On the new Airbus A350s, Smith adds “is the forerunner for future aircraft that will make up the Air France fleet, more economical, flexible, modern and adapted to future market challenges “. Smith pointed on the technology used “consumes 25% less energy than the previous generation, which allows better performances also linked to the power plant Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 engines”. An engine with maximum thrust of 84200 pounds and 71400 continuous.
On the order of 28 aircraft, “This aircraft is now in the optimal configuration, but it is possible that in the coming years a batch of aircrafts may get more or less seats in Business Class depending on what the market will require . Not more than two configurations is the best with economies of scale in fleet management. We would also like to serve Sydney, but it has not yet been decided, even though the possibilities of economy of operation and size of the aircraft performances”.
A hint from Smith that the hippocampus has been on the engines from some time. It is the historical trademark for Air France, it has also been added to the rounded ends of the wings.
Anne Rigail has focused on the eco-sustainability of the A350’s performance “we will use more biofuels, the impact of noise footprint, CO2, consumption is lower from other aircraft in the fleet, 2.5L instead of the 3.3L of the fleet average”. The use of biofuel is growing, but the costs and their availability is the problem. They cost 2 or 3 times than the traditional ones, we have no plants in France or the Netherlands, they will be in the future ”. About the plane he also said the interiors were chosen with the best products in terms of seats for passengers “Safran Optima for Business Class up to Recaro for the most technologically advanced product type at present. Same seats from the same supplier for the premium economy and economy. The amount of content on the IFE Safran RAVE system is over 1400 hours available to our customers with an excellent visual definition compared to the past “.
Christian Scherer for Airbus “We are happy that Air France continues to be our customer. They have been loyal customers since 1974 with the Caravelle. Our product is quieter, more comfortable in the cabin’s liveability and in the pressurization that allows passengers to enjoy the flight with more pleasure ”.
With the arrival of the A350-900s it is the exact leap of a generation over long-range jet engines compared to the current Airbus A330s in the fleet and to the A340-300s that this aircraft will start to replace.
A more modern aerodynamics, a lower noise impact thanks to a cleaner line, in addition to the Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 engines. Less CO2 due to the aerodynamic mix and new engines, therefore less fuel consumption and therefore lower operating costs. Do not forget less rustling even for passengers, a more comfortable journey thanks to better climate control for a lower cabin share compared to other Airbus aircraft.
This A350-900s and next ones that will arrive can handle up to 324 seats in three classes. The leading is the Affaires, so the Business Class as it is called by Air France with 34 staggered 1-2-1 seats as abreast. It occupies the entire compartment between doors 1 and 2. The feeling at first sight is that the layout chosen by Air France is very intense and a bit crowded. The seats are very stuck and the seats are wide enough. In gray fabric with an elegant leather strap cover. It has a large touch screen for IFE. All the seats are angled towards the corridor. The product is the Safran Seats Optima.
After door 2 there is the small compartment of Premium economy then physically divided by the economic. It has 24 seats in three rows of 8 seats with the 2-4-2 abreast. The seats that have a good recline are very pleasant, as well as having both support for the legs and feet. A personal adjustable LED light spot is on left of the head rest. There is a lateral remote control, two buttons for the movement of the seat. Very large touch screen with excellent definition. Negative is still the sight of IFE supply boxes of discrete dimensions, placed on the sides of the armchair supports on the cabin floor.
In economy class 3-3-3 abreast that allows to have on board 266 places with a distance between the rows of 31 inches. Generously sized personal monitors are available for each traveller.
The entertainment system is the Zodiac RAVE – Reliable Affordable for Very Easy. It has over 1400 hours of different types of content. It is very fast and intuitive in the conception when searching for the desired proposals.
In flight the plane proves to be silent from the propulsion aspect and the lack of general aerodynamic noise. The noise made from flaps and slats at extension and extraction remains noisy. The pressurization is pleasant, both in cruise and above all after completing the descent there are no annoying effects on the ears.
There is a discrete internal liveability, the overhead bins are generous and have a good integration in the very rounded design concept to obtain the effect of to be airy, the plane shape is right oval and the ceiling is very high from the seat level. The windows are at least 35% more bigger than in the past generation Airbus long haul jets. They still have a movable window blind system and not polarized as its available on Boeing Dreamliner.
On October 7, this plane will start flying on the Paris CDG – Abidjan route via Bamako. These flights will be usefull to the training issue of crews for the in-flight familiarization on the new aircraft, in addition to those conducted in Chateauroux and Toulouse started already the day after the delivery. Then it will be the turn of other destinations with the arrival of the next aircrafts. By October 27 it is the time to fly to Toronto, then towards Seoul and Cairo, both from December 9.
The launch on February 10, 2020 of the previously announced route to Mumbai has been canceled. In its place the A350s will be planned for Bangkok, but the first service start up date is not yet defined. Three planes will arrive this year and three in the next year. In 2021, another 11 aircraft will arrive, the remaining 13 between 2022 and 2025. The 28 planes envisaged by the order will also include the aircraft destined for KLM (7 ships), which were recently exchanged with the remaining 6 Boeing 787s. destined for Air France in version -9, which the Dutch will receive in version -10. Benjamin Smith said “we will not retire the 9 Boeing 787-9s and a tenth plane will arrive soon by March 2020”.
In the past Air France had plan to give some planes to Joon, but with the arrival of Benjamin Smith and the decision to give up to the new brand created in 2018 will not see them in Joon colors.
In the afternoon just before 4 pm the flight AF350V departed from Airbus Delivery Center with almost 280 passengers.The brand new jet liner headed to Paris CDG with a flight of just over an hour. On board the Air France management, the journalists and off-program compared to the other delivery flights made by other airlines, in economy class were on board a part of the staff of the French airline. Smith’s decision was apt in order to have even more a spirit of be part of the airline and belonging on the part of the workers who were able to appreciate and live the newcomer from another point of view which for many is absolutely unusual. On the top cruise at FL350 the aircraft proved to be excellent, maneuverability and stability was significantly positive. On arrival in Paris CDG a few minutes before 5pm the festivities continued with two water cannon and another party for passengers and people arrived at Paris to say welcome to the first A350s.
All photos by Marco Finelli.