Over the weekend, Air France’s newest Airbus A350-900 entered service. The aircraft, christened Saint-Malo, flew to Mumbai on Saturday, May 1st. The new addition to the fleet is the ninth of 38 A350s on order.
Air France took possession of its newest A350 on April 30th when it left Toulouse to head to the airline’s base at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport. The aircraft is registered F-HTYI and has been named Saint-Malo. This follows the tradition of naming the A350s after French cities.
The eight A350s already delivered to the airline are named Toulouse, Lyon, Saint-Denis de La Réunion, Nice, Bordeaux, Marseille, Reims and Dijon. All of Air France’s A350s have been delivered with the same seat configuration. Each aircraft can hold 34 business class passengers in a 1-2-1 layout with a remaining 290 seats, 24 of which are premium economy and 266 economy.
Where will the new A350 operate?
Since arriving with Air France on Saturday, the new A350 has flown from Paris to Mumbai-Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj airport twice on return trips. Unlike some of its neighboring countries, France has not yet introduced a travel ban on India.
However, a ban remains a possibility since the UK, Germany, and Italy have placed a temporary ban on the country due to increased COVID-19 cases. However, France and India are operating under a bilateral air bubble agreement to three cities in India; Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai.
🇫🇷 #SaintMalo back at home this afternoon after an aditionnal test flight ✈️He will discover new horizons very soon ✈️✈️#Airbus #A350 #Airfrance @A318111 @BadreJerome @pilotes_af @CAlloing @AFnewsroom #Avgeek #Toulouse pic.twitter.com/NsIfwqm135
— Olivier Hoarau ✈️ (@OlivierHoarau) April 22, 2021
If a travel ban does come into force, the new aircraft may be used to increase capacity on other routes. The airline had planned to use its A350s to fly to Bamako in Mali, Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Bangkok, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington. With a further 29 A350s set to join the Air France fleet in the coming decade, this aircraft, along with the other A350s, will be a big part of the airline’s future fleet.
The summer 2021 season
Air France has already confirmed that leisure travel will be a large part of its focus over the coming months. The airline plans to add several new routes across Europe and to North Africa. This includes routes from Paris Charles-de Gaulle to Tangiers, Agadir, Monastir, Valletta, las Palmas, Corfu and Rhodes. Flights will also be available from Paris-Orly airport to Bari in Italy, Ibiza, and Algiers. In addition, there will be several new destinations from other French cities such as Nice and Marseilles.
The airline confirmed it is also looking at increasing the frequency and/or adding capacity to popular leisure routes for the summer season. The airline keeps a strong focus on its medium-haul routes, making only a few changes to its domestic network. If a travel ban is enforced, meaning the new A350 cannot fly to India, chances are Air France will use it on other routes rather than keep it grounded.
Have you flown on one of Air France’s new A350s? What did you think of the aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.