Changement d’Air France

Air France announced this week, a series of changes designed to reposition its products and services at the best possible level in the industry” . These changes are all designed to attract custom back to an airline which  has been hit by the  global economic downturn and volatile oil prices.

Under a three-year plan dubbed “Transform 2015,” Air France- KLM is seeking to reduce operating costs by two billion euros ($US2.59 billion) with the proceeds going to pay down debt. This includes cutting more than 5,000 jobs by 2015. Alongside this, is a new focus on attracting custom  outlined in a  document entitled  Air France committed to its customers.  The airline has announced it is “investing several hundred million euros over the next few years to repositioning the customer experience.

The customer focussed changes include:

  • On Board Internet connectivity through Orange from February, 2013
  •  customers being able to download and archive the daily newspaper on their tablet or smartphone before their flight for free
  • a completely redesigned Business Class menu
  • Premium Economy meal boxes on shorter flights to be replaced by a meal tray
  • being more easily able to mix Premium Economy and Economy segments on the same itinerary
  • a redesigned website last July
  • standardised “Sky Priority” access at airports for Premium passengers
  • Business or Premium Economy customers being able to choose “automatic check-in
  • Customers at certain French airports being able to print their own luggage labels and check in their own luggage
  • from November 2012 “self boarding” will be rolled out at Charles de Gualle where passengers use automatic  boarding gates instead of an agent
  • Economy passengers from 2013 being able to purchase “more leg room” seats (Elite Frequent Flyers will still have them for free)

The change that has attracted the most attention, however, is the airline’s decision to adopt English terms for three of its Cabin types from 28 October.

  • “Voyageur” will become “Economy”
  •  “Premium Voyageur” =  “Premium Economy”
  • “Affaires'” = Business

The airline, however, will keep  “La Premiere” for long-haul first class cabins.

Air France’s Cabin name change announcement in French Air France’s Cabin name change announcement in English

This adoption may seem logical but it is an interesting Business move for the French flag carrier as France is known to fiercely defend its language. For example, France has had the “Toubon Law” since 1994 which requires the use of French in all official government publications, government funded schools, advertising and French workplaces. Two years ago, Avenir de la langue française (Future of the French language) called on the government to put a stop to the Anglicisation of their culture warning: “French is methodically ousted in favour of simplified English that zealously promotes the international business oligarchy”.

Well this name change seem to do just that.The carrier states that “Air France has chosen to adopt generic air transport terms for its travel classes, which are already well-known by its customers“. It claims that the changes have been tested in France and the customer response was “the majority … are in favour of this harmonization, finding it clearer and more international.”

It seems to me, that overall the Customer commitment plan contains changes which  are designed to save money while streamlining travel. Automatic boarding and self check in, when done properly, work well for customers but also help Air France achieve that magic job cull. It does mean though it will be possible to go from booking to boarding without encountering a single human. How does an airline differentiate itself in that environment?

Bonne chance Air France

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