By Winston Shek
Air France Increases Leisure Focus For Upcoming Winter
On Thursday, Air France unveiled its preliminary plans for the upcoming winter 2021-2022 service, with three new “sunny” destinations across the globe targeting leisure travel. Additionally, the Paris-based carrier plans to increase frequencies to other leisure destinations in the Middle East, French Polynesia and North America.
Firstly, Air France intends to launch a flight from Paris to Zanzibar, Tanzania via a stop in Nairobi, Kenya starting on October 18. Zanzibar is an archipelago with two main islands, including Unguja Island, which has the region’s capital, Zanzibar City. The area is a tourist hotspot off of the coast of Tanzania, known for its beaches and history. Using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the route will fly two times a week: on Mondays and Fridays.
According to data from RoutesOnline, flights from Paris to Zanzibar saw a total of 54,000 O&D two-way passengers in 2019. The flight was last served by defunct low-cost carrier XL Airways France in 2015.
These services serve as an addition to Air France partner airline’s KLM triangle route – Amsterdam to Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Amsterdam – which launched in 2020. Among other large European carriers, Lufthansa Group’s newest airline, Eurowings Discover, and Condor both plan to operate services during the winter holiday season to Zanzibar.
Additionally, Air France intends to resume a flight from Paris to Muscat, Oman on October 31. The route was last operated in 1994 using the airline’s Airbus A310, according to theaeronetwork. The flight will utilize a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner three times a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The French airline will compete with Oman Air on its nonstop flight to Paris, tentatively scheduled for daily services in the winter. In addition, Air France’s partner airline, KLM, operates flights to Muscat via Abu Dhabi during the winter season.
Finally, Air France intends to resume a flight from Paris to Colombo, Sri Lanka with a triangle route from Paris to Male, Maldives to Colombo, Sri Lanka to Paris. Similarly, the route was last operated in 1994 using the airline’s Airbus A310, according to theaeronetwork. Three times a week, the flight will see service from the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the route was operated by SriLankan Airlines using Airbus A330 aircraft. Air France will offer the only Western European nonstop connection to Sri Lanka, with its main competition being Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways.
On all three of the new routes, Air France will utilize its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner featuring 276 seats, including 30 business class seats, 21 premium economy seats and 225 economy seats.
Furthermore, Air France plans to bolster its offering to leisure destinations by adding frequencies to destinations like Papeete, Dubai and Miami. For example, frequencies on its route from Paris to Los Angeles to Papeete will see an increase to five times a week on its Boeing 777-200. Meanwhile, Air France’s flights to Miami see a frequency increase to twelve times a week, with a daily Boeing 777-300 and an Airbus A350-900 operating five times a week. Finally, Dubai receives a frequency increase to 14 flights a week for Air France, using its Boeing 777-200.
Air France says it will release its full schedule for the winter 2021-2022 season soon. However, the carrier notes that its schedule is subject to change based on restrictions imposed in each country.
Air France is pivoting to focus on leisure travel, a move made by many airlines across the globe amid reduced levels of business travel for the upcoming year. Additionally, the airline’s route announcement shows increasing optimism in lifting restrictions and increased travel for the winter amid increased vaccination rates. For example, Scoot Airlines is preparing for a boom in leisure travel due to the impending lifting of restrictions in Singapore. Additionally, airlines in the United States, like Allegiant Air, have recently announced large-scale route expansions targeted at leisure travelers.