New luxurious arrivals by Air France

Air France has unveiled its new first-class section in Shanghai, fuelling an international luxury-seating race to win over Asia’s rising number of high fliers. The airline’s haute couture suite will feature a seat that reclines into a bed stretching 2.01 metres long and 77 centimetres across one of the most spacious in the world. A total of 76 of the seats will be fitted into the airline’s 19 Boeing 777-300 jets at a cost of 50 million euros.

From Air France comes the latest in luxury travel with their new La Première cabins, first class private luxury suites. Beginning in September, the cabins will be used for long-haul flights. With four on each plane, the suites offer complete comfort and relaxation for their Guests, with a personal 24-inch HD touch screen, ergonomic seats for back support, a two-meter flatbed with bedding from Sofitel, menus from Michelin-starred chefs (served with specially designed fine porcelain and cutlery), cosmetics from Givenchy, automatic window blinds, and plenty of outlets. In true French fashion, the space has the feel of a boudoir, decked with a private wardrobe, leather headrests and armrests, wood and metal accents, and thick tweed upholstery. And with an ottoman and retractable curtains, privacy or company, it’s the passenger’s choice.

“In 2012, we made a promise to identify which products (we needed to improve) to push Air France up into the ranks of the major airlines,” said the company’s CEO, Frederic Gagey. “Those 50 million euros were needed to propel Air France to the top of those companies. It’s our clients who will judge the product. We are extremely proud of the result and extremely confident. The improvement in the range affects all of our classes and not only first,” he said.

“Like spending a night in a palace, sleeping in one of our La Première suites is a completely  exclusive experience,” said Air France in a release.

Air travel in Asia is set to take off as growing middle classes take to the skies, prompting increasing competition for well-heeled passengers, and industry expert Didier Brechemier, of the Roland Berger Strategy consultancy, said that “first class is a tool in terms of image”.  The launch came days after the Emirati airline Etihad revealed a first-class sofa that converts into a bed extending 2.04 metres long and 66 centimetres wide, which will go into Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 planes.

Singapore Airlines currently boasts the most spacious first-class seat, which it revealed in July last year at 2.08 metres by 90 centimetres. First class occupies just a sliver of the air-travel market, with Air France’s 52.000 such customers a year representing an occupancy rate of 38%, 0.3% of total long-haul passengers and 1.8% of long-haul revenue, said Bruno Matheu, head of Air France’s passenger business. But with return ticket prices averaging Euro 9.000,00 ($12,500) across the company’s network the luxury seats are highly profitable and they “generate more revenue than if we filled that space with economy or business-class seats“.

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