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Air France unveils new luxury first class suite

The Local/AFP · 7 May 2014, 13:29

Published: 07 May 2014 13:29 GMT+02:00

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Air France unveiled its new first-class section in Shanghai on Wednesday, 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 (6 ft 7 ins and 30 inches) - one of the most spacious in the world.

Each guest has a personal 24-inch (61 cm) HD touch screen, which Air France says is one of the largest ever seen on board.
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 ($70 million), the company said as it showed off the new offering in an expenses-paid trip for journalists to China's commercial hub.

"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 its press release on Wednesday.
"In an instant, the seat turns into a fully-flat bed over two metres long.  The armrests are fully retractable and offer a vast space 77 cm wide," it added.
The suite also comes with a private wardrobe and an ottoman for inviting a guest during the trip.
Story continues below…
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 percent, 0.3 percent of total long-haul passengers and 1.8 percent of long-haul revenue, said Bruno Matheu, head of Air France's passenger business.

But with return ticket prices averaging €9,000 ($12,500) across the company's network the luxury seats are highly profitable and he said they "generate more revenue than if we filled that space with economy or business-class seats".

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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