MIAMI — This March, Air France will celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) hub. Opened on March 31, 1996 with 1,900 weekly connecting opportunities, those opportunities have now grown to an impressive 25,000. Today at CDG, Air France handles more than 100,000 passengers daily with 1,000 arrivals and departures.
Air France-KLM Group CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac proclaimed the CDG hub as the “most powerful in Europe” based upon schedule and network density.
More than 30% of all passenger traffic at CDG are connecting passengers. Chairman and CEO of Groupe Aéroports de Paris (ADP) Augustin de Romanet is proud: “Paris CDG has been recently recognized as the first hub for international connectivity ahead of London Heathrow (…) with Air France, this hub is a leader in Europe for long-haul correspondence opportunities in less than two hours, well ahead of our European competitors”.
To strengthen the airline’s position, Air France-KLM Group also created a “Hubway” between the two airlines’ hubs at CDG and Amsterdam with 12 daily flights, allowing passengers access to 320 destinations in 114 countries in the group’s network.
To celebrate CDG hub’s 20th anniversary, Air France and Groupe ADP hosted a tour for the world’s media. The airline and airport showed off passenger experience improvements and enhancements, including some behind-the-scenes looks at parts not visible to the flying public.
Operationally, Air France is implementing seven new banks at CDG in the first quarter of 2017. This distribution of flights (translating into traffic volume of 60 flights per hour) allow the airline to increase reliability. The airline continually strives to improve its on-time performance.
Having a reliable operation and on-time departures is a “top priority” for Air France CEO Franck Terner. As Mr. Terner eloquently stated, “the heart of the hub is the connection”.
CDG handles more than 100,000 pieces of luggage a day. Improvements are being made in baggage handling. Groupe ADP CEO Mr. Romanet admits the baggage sorting system is currently the “weakest point” for travelers. A €224 million project is underway beneath Terminal 2E to automate baggage handling at the L Gates.
In addition, a new connection between 2E check-in counters and L Gates (totaling 60 km of conveyer belts) will allow the baggage system to handle 15,600 bags per hour.
Focus on the Customer
Air France is looking to entice its customers with what Air France CEO Mr. Terner coined a “seamless transition” between flights at the hub. When arriving from the Schengen Area, there is no need to clear through security check again since transit is accomplished via secure corridors between Terminals 2E and 2F.
Once inside Terminal 2E, an automated train whisks passengers between the K, L, and M Gates, a short two-minute trip between each station.
To help passengers find their way, customized directions can be had when they scan their boarding passes at dedicated kiosks. In addition, airline staff use tablets connected to customer profiles enabling personalized support. Self-service via the Air France app, self check-in and baggage tagging, self-boarding gates, and automated border control all increase productivity and efficiency.
Mr. Terner puts it best, “this is where the world is going and this is where we want to go with our passengers.”
Air France has seven Business Class lounges and one dedicated First Class “La Première” lounge at CDG. French interior architect Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance created the lounge with inspirations of a park. Furnishing, color, and material evoke nature-like scenes that invite travelers to a calm park stroll prior to taking their voyage.
Air France also offers an unique “Kids Solo” lounge for Unaccompanied Minors (UM). In 2016, the airline hosted over 59,000 young travelers between ages 5 to 18 traveling alone through CDG.
Out of six Kids Solo lounges at CDG, the newest is at Terminal 2E, L Gates. It opened in 2016 and has separate game rooms for younger and older children, a reading room, and a sleep area.
Groupe ADP CEO Mr. de Romanet emphasized airports can no longer be about duty free shops. Passengers want dedicated space to relax, sleep, or work, as well as being entertained and experience gastronomy.
To capitalize on the appeal of the French lifestyle, using Paris as a destination hub and Air France as the standard-bearer, Groupe ADP created “instant Paris”, a free international connection lounge located at Terminal 2E, L Gates. This lounge is available to all passengers holding an international ticket.
This 4,500 square meter lounge opened in November 2016 and is the first of its kind in Europe. The lounge features a family play area complete with Kapla blocks, a French Haussmannian styled library, a cinema, a restaurant, and an airside hotel: YotelAir.
There are four YotelAir properties worldwide. The CDG location incorporates updates and improvements from previous designs. There are 84 cabins consisting of Premium, Family, Accessible, and Shower Only cabins. Showers are rented for one hour for €15 and rooms are rented for four hours minimum starting at €75 plus €10 for each additional hour. Chic color-changing lights illuminate each stylish cabin, which can be best described as cozy.
All rooms are interior to the building and are hence windowless. A positive spin – they are quiet as a result!
According to Mr. de Romanet, in less than 20 years, global air traffic is expected to double: “if the cake is expected to be bigger, we have to be careful that our slice doesn’t get smaller.” He continued, “we are doing everything we can to improve our competitiveness…our interests are exactly the same as Air France’s interests.”
“We are very proud to be the Air France-Skyteam hub!”