Expanding African Footprint

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The Air France-KLM group recently relaunched a direct Air France flight between Cape Town and Paris Charles de Gaulle – a service last provided 11 years ago. Pierre Descazeaux joined Business Traveller Africa for a chat about the airline’s African strategy.

Why the need for the return to a direct Cape Town-Paris Air France flight?

The current KLM offering of daily flights was not sufficient anymore to facilitate the increase in demand from Cape Town. To give the passengers more choice of product we decided to launch the Air France route to Paris, to complement the already daily KLM flights out of Cape Town to Amsterdam.

Are you afraid to shift traffic that is now flying via Johannesburg and do you think you will have trouble filling the large A380, with competition increasing?

There could be some passengers who previously used to fly via Johannesburg to experience our A380, who will now benefit from an improved product offering out of Cape Town, direct into Europe. However, the market in Johannesburg is large enough to attract new market segments that we previously couldn’t accommodate on our A380.

Are you seeing increased consumer/business interest in South Africa, or Africa as a whole?

We see increasing interest in Africa as a whole, including South Africa. This new route launch is part of Air France and KLM’s expansion policy on the African continent, with three new destinations already launched in 2011: Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia) and Bata (Equatorial Guinea). These new destinations bring the number of cities in Africa served in winter 2011 to 38. Also, early next year we will launch new KLM flights to Luanda, Angola.

Do the forward bookings for the new route look promising?

The outlook for this new route is according to our expectations. There is a lot of demand to visit Cape Town during the European winter from the European markets, and also from the USA and Canada. We are satisfied with the current developments.

Do you have a clear idea of what your market is?

In terms of our research, these are the Air France and KLM passengers travelling to and from Africa:

• The average age of passenger is 44

• 70% of passengers are men, 30% are women

• 38% are French, 29% African, 22% European, 9% American and 2% Asian

• 60% travel on business, irrespective of their travel class

• The customers residing in Africa are mainly business people, entrepreneurs or people working for SMEs

• 75% of customers departing from African destinations are travelling to France or Europe

How competitive is the airline market between Europe and Africa?

It’s very competitive, but the demand is also increasing. As a result of this we see opportunities to grow the AFKL offering into South Africa and the African continent in general. That’s why we’ve launched Air France flights to Freetown, Kigali, Bata and Monrovia.

What is unique about the new Business Class seat?

The new Business Class cabin is equipped with a longer, wider and more spacious “full sleep” seat, which is progressively being deployed on aircraft in the Air France fleet. The seat structure has been completely redesigned to provide additional comfort, while preserving dimensions (over two metres long and 61cm wide), making it one of the most spacious and most comfortable seats on the market. The simple controls, the various relaxation positions (even during take-off and landing) and the integration of new storage space has also proved popular with passengers.

What are your expectations of the launch of Premium Voyageur in the South African market?

We are confident that it will be attractive, as the flights to Europe are long and a lot of passengers are looking for extra comfort at a competitive price. This opinion is based on the success of KLM’s Economy Comfort product, which was launched two years ago and has very high occupancy on the South African routes. Premium Voyageur will also be available from 15 November on our A380 out of Johannesburg to Paris CDG.