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Air France: 90 Years of Elevated Architecture and Design Excellence

Air France has a legacy of 90 years of artistic collaboration in the design of its aircraft cabins, airport lounges, and ticket offices. Renowned architects and designers have consistently elevated the airline’s aesthetics and prestige. They continually enhance the travel experience for passengers. We explore their groundbreaking work and look inside the new Air France aircraft cabins and lounges.

celebrating 90 years of Air France architecture and design
Dress celebrating 90 years of Air France architecture and design by Xavier Ronze, the maestro behind costume design at the Paris Opera Ballet. Source: Air France

High Design: Air France Buildings and Ticket Offices

In the early 1950s, Air France commissioned two friends, Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, to outfit the building for Air France’s staff in Brazzaville. From then on, the company would focus on the aesthetics of lines and shapes when developing its products and services. Charlotte Perriand continued her work with the company. She helped construct and renovate the airline’s ticket offices, placing Air France at the cutting edge of progress. She used photographs and glass domes. The designer added dividing furniture, tiles, and storage space screens to create an uncluttered and sober environment. In Paris, Tokyo, Rio, London, and Brazzaville, Charlotte Perriand refurbished several Air France ticket offices, helping to promote French culture worldwide.

Charlotte Perriand, the renowned architect, collaborated with Pierre Gautier-Delaye, an architect-decorator, on a significant project for Air France. Over a span of fifteen years, Gautier-Delaye renovated and enhanced seventy ticket offices for the airline. One of his notable achievements was the Champs-Elysées ticket office in Paris. He introduced a striking stainless steel strap, an iconic element that would be replicated worldwide. Gautier-Delaye’s innovative approach also included the installation of automatic doors. A clever arrangement of sales desks on raised platforms with vibrant colored floors created a visually appealing, modern environment. The Air France ticket office on Fifth Avenue in New York earned Gautier-Delaye a prize for the most beautiful facade in 1970.

Elevating Cabin Interiors Design

In 1952, Air France collaborated with renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy and logo inventor to design the interiors of their Super Constellation aircraft. These planes offered a prestigious “Parisien special” service.

Air France has always paid meticulous attention to detail in cabin design, often opting for avant-garde choices. Menu covers, for instance, are not just functional but artistic masterpieces. Designers like Beauville, Georget, Alechinsky, Zao Wou-ki, Hartung, and even Christian Lacroix have created stunning covers over the years.

The 1960s saw the introduction of beautifully woven tapestries in the bars of Air France’s Boeing 707s. These tapestries, produced in Aubusson workshops, were the creations of acclaimed artists. Creators included Sonia Delaunay, Camille Hilaire, Georges Mathieu, Pierre Soulages, and Alfred Manessier. Their designs added a touch of modernity and elegance to the aircraft’s ambiance.

Air France Concorde

1994, Andrée Putman’s design for Le Concorde. Source: Air France
1994, Andrée Putman’s design for Le Concorde. Source: Air France

Timeless elegance and attention to detail marked the Air France Concorde’s luxurious interior transformations.

The iconic “Concorde” project gained attention again in 1976. Air France partnered with a renowned French industrial designer to revamp the first version of the supersonic jet. The refurbishment included the lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. It featured furniture designed by Le Corbusier. The stylish cabin interiors had seats in different colors and carefully curated lighting, tableware, and meal trays.

Le Corbusier continued to enhance the cabin decor in subsequent versions of the Air France Concorde in 1985 and 1988. These versions boasted unique designs. One showcased tulip red, blue, and beige livery. The other featured a captivating combination of yellow and grey shades.

In 1994, Andrée Putman took on the challenge of updating the Concorde’s interior to align with 1990s design trends. The iconic white bird continued to symbolize luxury in the skies. Putman introduced her fresh vision by incorporating headrest covers and a striking black and white geometric patterned carpet. She also redesigned a meal tray that resembled a delicately pleated, corrugated cardboard box.

Air France 747s

During this period, the aviation industry experienced a groundbreaking development with the introduction of the Boeing 747 aircraft. Air France enlisted the expertise of Gautier-Delaye once again to enhance the cabin interior of the revolutionary aircraft.

Decoration on the coat closet doors of Boeing 747s. Source: Air France
Decoration on the coat closet doors of Boeing 747s. Source: Air France

During the 1970s, Air France implemented an innovative idea on their Boeing 747 aircraft. They adorned the coat closet doors with artwork by renowned artists such as Hans Hartung, Jean Messagier, and Zao Wou-Ki. Additionally, the airline showcased paintings by up-and-coming color and space specialists like Pierre Alechinsky. This unique and artistic touch added a vibrant and visually appealing element to the aircraft interior.

New Millenium, New Technologies

In the early 2000s, the cabins of airplanes witnessed the introduction of cutting-edge technologies. One notable milestone was the Airbus A380. It featured a captivating three-screen projection gallery showcasing renowned museums such as the Louvre, MOMA, and Palazzo Grassi. This immersive experience included iconic Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs and Bob Wilson’s experimental photography. Even today, Air France continues to prioritize the design of its travel cabins. The airline incorporates its signature navy blue and white color scheme, with touches of red to symbolize excellence.

Air France’s Latest Cabin Interiors

Air France joined forces with the SGK Brandimage agency to perfectly capture the elegance of French design in cabin interiors. The newly revamped carpet showcases a classic Parisian herringbone pattern. And every meticulous detail puts luxury and sophistication at the forefront.

Inside Air France’s 777-300 Retrofit program.

The inaugural flight of Air France’s latest long-haul cabins took place on January 20, 2023. A Boeing 777-300 ER named “Fontainebleau” departed from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to New York-JFK. This aircraft launched service to Rio de Janeiro airport in Brazil on January 21. It then launched service to Dakar in Senegal on January 22.

Air France has gradually expanded its network of flights equipped with these new cabins. Moreover, by the end of 2023, the airline plans to complete the refurbishment of its 12 Boeing 777-300 ERs. All long-haul Business cabins will feature seats that transform into full-flat beds, offering enhanced comfort to passengers. Additionally, Air France aims to equip the entire fleet, excluding regional aircraft, with in-flight Wi-Fi.

Inside the plane: Air France’s new travel experience

Business Class: A Private Sanctuary

The airline introduced an improved Business cabin with newly redesigned and highly comfortable seats. To provide utmost comfort, the seats transform into a fully flat, spacious bed for a restful journey. Passengers also benefit from Full Access, ensuring easy access to the aisle. A sliding door offers full privacy. The center seats now feature a lowered central panel for those traveling together, creating a cozy and social atmosphere. The Business cabin also offers a range of amenities. They include a wide 17.3-inch 4K High-Definition screen, noise-reducing headphones, Bluetooth connectivity for personal headphones, and convenient electric sockets.

Upon boarding, a backlit winged seahorse welcomes passengers, symbolizing Air France’s rich history and heritage. The airline specified seats made from luxurious materials such as wool, brushed aluminum, and full-grain French leather. They provide a plush and cozy experience. Each seat features elegant embroidery with Air France’s distinctive red accent, adding a touch of sophistication to the cabin ambiance.

Premium Economy: Air Travel Elevated

Air France has introduced its latest recliner-type seat model in the Premium Economy cabin of the Airbus A350, with 48 seats. These seats provide ample legroom of 96 cm, ensuring a comfortable journey. The airline redesigned cushions, offering enhanced softness, while the navy blue herringbone fabric adds a touch of elegance. With a recline angle of 124 degrees and increased width, passengers can enjoy greater privacy and relaxation. The cabin also features a noise-reducing audio headset for a more enjoyable in-flight entertainment experience. Furthermore, USB A and C ports are conveniently available for charging electronic devices during the journey. Experience enhanced comfort and convenience with Air France’s Premium Economy cabin on the Airbus A350.

New Economy Cabin: Wider seats with more legroom

Experience the utmost comfort in our Economy cabin, boasting top-notch amenities and seating for 273 passengers. Each seat has a spacious 43 cm pan and offers a 119-degree recline, ensuring a relaxing journey. The airline crafted every detail for comfort. The seat offers 79 cm of legroom and an ergonomically designed backrest, providing reinforced lateral support. Stay connected with the convenient USB A port available at every seat.

Premium Economy and Economy cabins feature a 13.3-inch 4K High-Definition screen. Passengers can easily connect to in-flight entertainment via Bluetooth. With over 1,500 hours of on-demand entertainment and the option to use personal headphones, boredom is never an option.

Stay connected throughout your flight with Air France Connect, available in all cabins. Enjoy complimentary access to the Air France Connect portal. It offers various passes for sending and receiving messages and accessing vital flight information and connections.

Air France Modern Lounge Design

Air France lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, terminal 2F, by Jouin Manku.
Air France lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, terminal 2F, by Jouin Manku. Source: Air France

Air France has a long-standing tradition of collaborating with esteemed designers to craft exceptional airport lounges. One notable example is the La Première lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, designed by renowned architect Didier Lefort in 2010. Another impressive creation is the lounge in Hall M, Terminal 2E, designed by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance in 2012. This exquisite lounge offers a range of spaces. The airline ensures the utmost comfort and privacy for each guest, taking inspiration from the tranquility of a city park.

In 2018, Air France joined forces with acclaimed designer Mathieu Lehanneur to bring “Le Balcon” to life. This timeless bar is situated in hall L of Terminal 2E and boasts a captivating curved design. It also provides a picturesque view of the runways. Meanwhile, the talented duo of architect Sanjit Manku and designer Patrick Jouin designed Terminal 2F’s lounge in 2021. The airline’s vision of elevated elegance led to a unique space. It offers Air France’s customers a moment of suspended bliss. Time spent in the lounge is an interlude to enhance the travel experience. It encapsulates the essence of French refinement and the art of journeying.

These thoughtfully designed airport lounges reflect Air France’s commitment to a seamless and luxurious travel experience for its discerning passengers.

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