Air France builds U.S. flights

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PARIS -- France and the U.S. have inked a new air traffic deal in a move that allows Air France not only to increase its weekly frequency of flights to North America but also to develop Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport as a hub for Asian travelers.

Starting this summer, Air France will fly between Paris and Boston and Paris and Atlanta, increasing its weekly flights to North America by nearly 80% to 144 trips. The move is in line with Air France's finde-siecle ambition to become Asia's most preferred airline by developing Paris as a hub for Asian travelers to the U.S. East Coast.

"The agreement signed will also enhance our alliances with U.S. carriers Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines, permitting code-sharing and providing more choice to our passengers," says Air France Asia Managing Director Marie-Joseph Male in Hong Kong.

The state-run French airline, besides ramping up its frequency of flights, hopes to promote Charles de Gaulle as a viable, timesaving alternative for Asians flying to destinations in Europe and the U.S.

Initiatives to promote that objective include a convenient airport layout, less taxing flight schedules that prevent Asian travelers from waiting more than two hours to catch connecting flights and airport staff fluent in such languages as Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai and Hindustani.

Air France aims to increase by 40% its capacity on Asian routes by 2001 and is preparing to meet that goal by building two extra runways at Charles de Gaulle. This will enable the airport to accommodate a total 55 million passengers annually.

The airline currently flies to 15 cities in Asia. Its drive to build Asian business has received another shot in the arm with the approval of two extra flights to India. It will now fly nine times a week to India, a market it has served for 65 years.

In a new tie-up with Air-India and, soon, Indian Airlines, Air France will offer passengers flying between Europe and India value-added services, combined code-sharing flights and a joint frequent-flier program.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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