Air France set to resume flights to Chennai from Paris
Air France set to resume flights to Chennai from Paris. The airline is set to restart operations in Chennai after a gap of 12 years. It last operated to Chennai in 2009. Air France initially planned to start operations early last year which was then postponed to October which once again was postponed due to COVID and travel restrictions. This route last was operated by Jet Airways which ceased operations in 2019.
Resumption of operations
Air France is one of the biggest airlines in Europe. The airline had initially planned to restart operations on the Paris-Chennai route as early as June last year. This plan hit the roadblock due to COVID and travel restrictions placed all over the globe. The airline had then announced it would start operating on October 26th 2020 which again was postponed and now the it has announced it would commence operations on 26th June 2021.
Paris currently would be Chennai’s 3rd gateway to Europe after London and Frankfurt which were operated by British Airways and Lufthansa. This is not the first time the Air France is operating to Chennai. The airline had first started operations in 2006. During its first stint to Chennai the airline had operated thrice weekly. Even last year when the airline had plans to restart operations it had announced a thrice weekly operations which as it stands has been reduced to a weekly operation. This will be the airline’s 4th destination in India after Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Air France will operate this route using its B787-9. The airline has a fleet of 10 B787-9. This aircraft has a three class configuration with 276 seats. It has 30 x business class, 21 x Premium Economy and 225 x Economy seats. The Dreamliner aircraft are one of the latest aircraft type to join the fleet with the first one being delivered in 2016.
The airline will begin operations on 26th June and its first departure to Paris from Chennai will be on 28th June. It will operate once weekly as the schedule stands. The airline will arrive on Thursday and depart on Saturday.
Previous operations of Air France in Chennai
This is not the first time the airline is operating to Chennai. Air France had initially taken over operations of Delta Airlines which is a Sky team member like Air France in 2006. It operated thrice weekly service until 2009 when it announced withdrawal of the route from March 28th 2009. The airline stated that the route does not show economic profitability on the short and medium run.
A major reason for withdrawing operations from Chennai can also be pointed out to the emergence of Gulf carriers. Emirates was rapidly expanding and targeting the Indian market and had daily flights from Chennai providing a good ecosystem for onward travel. Other European carriers serving Chennai in British Airways and Lufthansa had daily flights to London and Frankfurt.
At least half the travellers from Chennai bound to Europe to the Gulf are transit passengers having onward connections to Americas, Europe or Africa. Most of the passengers preferred British Airways, Emirates and Lufthansa as compared to transit in Paris due to its high cost and language barrier.
Other airlines operating to Paris
Pairs has been a soft destination for Chennai. Delta Airlines had initially set up New York JFK- Pairs – Chennai route in 2005, operating daily to cater to passengers having onward connections to US through Delta or Europe and Africa through its partner airline Air France. It used a B767-300ER aircraft and operated from 2005 to 2006 and was later transferred to Air France.
Air France had a stint till 2009 when it withdrew operations from Chennai. The latest airline to have scheduled operations from Chennai to Paris was Jet Airways when it began operations in 2017 to cater to transit passengers and rising French industrial presence in the name of BNP Paribas, Michelin and Renault in Chennai. The airline used its A330-300 aircraft for operation on this route.
Though the route is said to have decent payloads, it had been short-lived due to the financial situation of the airline. Jet Airways shut down during early 2019 and had withdrawn the Chennai-Paris route just a few months before closing down.
The latest airline to operate between the two cities was Air India though these weren’t scheduled long term operations but rather part of the Vande-Bharat mission using their B787-8. These were operated weekly once.