VANCOUVER — The fire pits blazing around the Vancouver rooftop restaurant where Air France hosted its first anniversary celebration of its Vancouver-Paris flights were a fitting backdrop for the carrier, which tapped into a hot market when it launched the service on March 29 last year.
“We have surpassed our expectations,” said Jean-Noel Rault, vice-president and general manager of Air France KLM Canada, speaking of the projected loads the airline set out last year when it started. Rault said that by the anniversary date, a total of 199 Air France flights had travelled on the year-old route between the airline’s hub city in France and YVR. The impact of the new service was seen in figures relating to visitors from Vancouver to France, which had risen 33%.
While the winter months had been a challenge, Rault said the summer loads had been strong. He said the airline’s challenge going forward into 2016 would be stabilizing its operation after the first year of opening a new market area.
In May, Air France will ramp up from three to five weekly flights for the peak summer traffic (daily except Tuesdays and Thursdays), using Boeing 777-200s equipped with 309 seats (35 business, 24 premium economy and 250 economy). Passengers travelling on Wednesdays between May 4 and June 22 will experience the latest version of Air France’s ‘Best and Beyond’ business class seats.
When speaking to guests, who packed a champagne feted evening reception complete with an endless stream of food, Rault said the airline was working hard to make its service known to the French community in B.C. but was also creating a high profile in events such as the Vancouver marathon, an event it participated in and also carried runners to, and the VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights, which featured an Eiffel Tower. Rault also thanked travel agents for their support.
Craig Richmond, president and CEO of Vancouver International Airport, congratulated Air France on its first year of service. He said the new route represented 20 years of waiting for a Paris to YVR flight to take place and hoped that daily service was not too far away.
“We will continue to support the route and hope to see it grow,” Richmond said.