After six decades of operations in the Indian sub-continent, French flag carrier Air France is now busy reworking its strategy for the sub-continent with a view to better its share of the growing outbound passenger traffic.
Speaking to Indian media in Paris, Jean-Louis Pinson, Air France's senior vice president for international and the Netherlands division said that India is a destination where the airline would look at deploying its new A380s as and when the airport infrastructure at the Mumbai and Delhi is able to support the aircraft.
Pinson said that would also mean that Air France will have to renegotiate its rights portfolio with the Indian government. Air France could evaluate flying in the A380 into the country sometime around 2010, and has placed orders for 12 Airbus A380s.
Its first deliveries are planned for next year.
Air France says that it plans to leverage its network strength with its 100 per cent subsidiary, Netherlands-based KLM. KLM has a dual hub advantage of Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris and Schiphol at Amsterdam as gateways into North America and Canada.
Air France says it has 80 per cent of Indians as transit passengers. Pinson said that Air France would like to be a preferred European airline for the Indian passenger, and that ''we are looking at a long-term investment in this market as the market has strong growth potential.''
Around 250 Air France flight attendants have volunteered to learn Indian culture through the airline's program, which gives them an orientation about Indian food preferences, regional films that are favouries, and even the gestures that should be used while guiding them. French crew will welcome Indian passengers aboard now with a 'namaste', with future plans for a few Indian crew who can converse in Hindi and Tami, says Pinson.
Since the past few years, Air France has tripled its capacity on its India routes, after the easing of bilaterals between the France and India. Reports suggest that it is in discussions with domestic private airlines Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines for a code share agreement. Air France presently flies from Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.