C’est magnifique! Air France’s first flight to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) touched down in a huge spray of water on a soggy Sunday afternoon. The Boeing 777-200ER landed on YVR’s Runway 08L, after a nearly ten-hour flight from Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).
This inaugural flight ran a bit late, arriving at 12:04 PM. The normal schedule has Flight AF374 departing CDG at 10:35 AM, arriving YVR at 11:50 AM, the same day. The return flight, Flight AF379, leaves YVR at 1:55 PM, and arrives CDG at 8:35 AM the following morning.
After touchdown, the 777 received a special escort by YVR’s emergency services along Taxiway Mike, before having the traditional “new airline water cannon salute” from two fire trucks. Mind you, with the monsoon-like rain, it was tough to see the water arch!
Then, with Canadian and French flags flying from the cockpit windows, AF374 taxiied to Gate 65 at YVR’s International Terminal.
Inside the terminal was a special gate event, with music, mimes, and food. The showpiece was an amazing Eiffel Tower cake, surrounded by a field of cupcakes. Dignitaries from the governments of British Columbia, Canada, and France, as well as airline officials, spoke to welcome the outbound passengers to the new flight.
That was followed by the also-traditional ribbon cutting. Then, in a nod to Paris’ Pont Des Arts bridge, the group attached a large padlock to a representation of the Pont Des Arts, to celebrate the link between Vancouver and Paris.
YVR is Air France’s third Canadian destination, after decades of service to Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL and YMX). Air France’s co-carrier, KLM, has been serving the Western Canadian city from Amsterdam (AMS) for years.
Air France will serve YVR with three flights per week until May 3, then increase to five flight per week for the summer season, between May 4 and September 13. The frequency will drop back to three flights per week from September 14 to October 24.
Patrick Alexandre, Executive Vice President Commercial, Sales and Alliances for Air France-KLM, said that the airline hopes to maintain the service year-round, and will be evaluating the demand for the flight. “We’re encouraged by the early load factors that we’re seeing, especially from Vancouver to Paris,” said Alexandre.
Air France’s partnership with WestJet may prove to be a key to the success of the new YVR-CDG service, with WestJet funneling Air France passengers to and from its YVR hub.
The airline is deploying its three-class, 777-200ER on the route, with space for 35 business class, 24 premium economy, and 250 economy passengers, for a total of 309 seats. As with many airlines flying the 777, Air France has opted for 10-abreast in economy, in a 3-4-3 configuration, and the airline has added a 2-4-2 premium economy class.
The business class seats in the 777-200s flying YVR-CDG are of the 10-year-old “Nouveaux Espaces Voyages” (NEV) design, which are no longer very “Nouveaux.” Air France calls the NEV seats “angle-flat,” with the seat going flat for sleeping, but staying angled, with the passenger’s head higher than the feet.
The airline recently introduced a new fully-lie-flat business class “pod,” and Alexandre confirmed that the YVR-CDG run will see aircraft configured with the new “Best and Beyond” interior this summer. The airline has also launched a new marketing and branding campaign, called “France is in the Air,” with new stylish ads, commercials, and a very “chic” in-flight safety video.
The new Air France service re-establishes scheduled flights from Vancouver to France, which had been operated and then abandoned by Air Canada years and years ago. Canadian charter carrier, Air Transat, continues to operate from YVR to France on a seasonal basis. But now, with Air France’s inaugural service, passengers in Canada’s West, along with those in the US Pacific Northwest, will have a great option for flights to CDG and other European destinations. Who wouldn’t enjoy a stopover in Paris?