DALLAS — Today in Aviation, Air France (AF) was officially inaugurated at Le Bourget Airport (LBG) in 1933 after the merger of a number of independent French airlines.
Aviation in the country can trace its history back to 1909 and the formation of Compagnie Générale Transaérienne, which used airships and seaplanes.
Following the end of World War One, various independent airlines began to appear, leaving the country with a disjointed aviation market. The French government stepped in to organize the sector and reduce losses.
This left the country with Air Orient, Air Union, Compagnie Générale Aéropostale, Compagnie Internationale de Navigation Aérienne (CIDNA), and Société Générale de Transport Aérien (SGTA).
With a more structured industry, these airlines then began to expand their networks. New routes were opened across Europe, Africa, the Far East, and South America.
Air France Is Born
The financial crash of the early 1930s severely impacted the burgeoning aviation industry. Pierre Cot, the French Minister of Aviation, set about a major restructuring in 1933. This led to the merger of the independent airlines under one company known as Air France on August 30 of that same year, inaugurating its operations seven days later at LBG.
The new carrier inherited a network covering 37,800 km and a varied fleet of 259 aircraft. Management immediately set about streamlining the new airline and improving comfort and safety for its passengers. This included the introduction of onboard stewards.
Air France took the Air Orient winged seahorse logo, and in 1946, the new airline appointed its first flight attendants and opened its first air terminal in central Paris. The same year, the airline began regular flights between Paris and New York, and by 1948, it had one of the world’s largest fleets with 130 aircraft.
In 1949, Air France co-founded the Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA), a telecommunications services company for airlines. The airline introduced jets in 1953 and started uninterrupted pure jet operations in 1960.
In 1974, Air France shifted most of its operations to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CGG), and in 1975, it moved its headquarters to central Paris. On January 21, 1976, Air France began operating supersonic flights from Paris to Rio using the Concorde, and the following year, it expanded supersonic flights to New York and Washington D.C.
Featured image: Air France SNCASE SE.161 Languedoc. Photo: Air France