© Collection Air France.DR / Collection Musée Air France.DR

Service on the ground

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Innovative services designed to make life easier for passengers.

From the beginning to the 1970s

Initially, every airline checked in their passengers in town, and brought them to the airfield by limousine or coach. When Air France was created in 1933, it continued this service for flights leaving out of Le Bourget. The Invalides air terminal was created in 1946. Passengers checked in there before taking a coach to Le Bourget or Orly. This continued until 1961, when check-in was centralised at the airport. All passengers going to Paris-Orly or Paris-Charles de Gaulle can now use the Air France coaches seven days a week, whether or not they are Air France customers.

At the same time, Air France developed other services on the ground to facilitate travel for its passengers before and after their flights. Starting in the 1930s, the airline reserved hotels and restaurants on its long-haul flights with stopovers. Passengers could continue their trip while Air France took care of everything. Over time, the range of services grew larger.

Air France and UTA moved into the new Paris-Charles de Gaulle 1 airport in 1974. Air France was the first operator of the Airbus A300, the first medium-range European wide-bodied jet. UTA operated Douglas DC10s, brought into service in 1973.

  • Passengers' embarkation on a Air France bus to Les Invalides - 1960s © Collection Air France.DR / Collection Musée Air France.DR
  • Customers droping off their packages at rue Poissonnière central agency, Paris - 1947 © Collection Air France.DR / Collection Musée Air France.DR
  • An agent at the check-in for a Concorde flight – 1978 © Collection Air France.DR / Collection Musée Air France.DR

The 1980s and 1990s

In 1981, Air France arrived in the new Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle airport. Its modern design made it a base for conquering the European market with Air France's new aircraft, the B737, a medium-range aircraft that replaced the Caravelle. Passengers were provided with a wide range of services: information, sales and reservations counters, foreign exchange offices, a post office, car hire agencies, a snack bar, and a wide variety of duty-free businesses. Domestic and medium-haul flights were in terminal B, with long-haul flights in terminal A. Orly kept its flights to Eastern Europe (with the exception of Moscow), North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, the Indian Ocean, the French Antilles, and Corsica.

Starting in 1989, passengers could reserve an Air France flight on Minitel. Air France became the first airline in the world to offer this service.In 1992, the airline launched its new loyalty program, "Fréquence Plus Air France". This initiative was part of its new commercial strategy.

1995, Air France moved its Montparnasse head office to Roissy, the heart of its operations. It refreshed its product offer and proposed another type of air travel, with a range of services on the ground and in-flight. To prepare for the launch of its new medium- and long-haul flights, ground improvement work began: employees became more recognizable, by wearing a red jacket and an Air France badge, there was a true passenger reception service in Parisian terminals, a stronger presence with check-in by telephone, fax, or Minitel for passengers leaving Paris, boarding passes could be picked up until 30 minutes before departure, along with other improvements. That same year, Air France was the first airline to sign a partnership agreement with the SNCF in the framework of the TGV'AIR product on the Lille-Europe / Aéroport Charles de Gaulle TGV connection.

Electronic tickets began to appear at the end of the 1990s, as the age of e-services began...

  • "Le Club" lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 2A - 1990 © J.F Bauret - Collection Musée Air France
  • Kids corner, Paris-Charles de Gaulle - 2014 © Virginie Valdois
  • New Self-service kiosks, Paris-Charles de Gaulle - 2015 © Claire-Lise Havet

From the early 2000s to the present day.

In 2003, Air France celebrated, along with its customers, the success of the "self-service chain" (electronic tickets, self-service kiosks, etc.) at about 15 French destinations. These investments were part of the "l'avion facile" (easy flying) concept that Air France developed for its customers who wanted more fluidity, speed and efficiency on the ground. These innovations radically changed habits, with innovative technology that facilitated travel and simplified ground procedures.

Since 2005, customers travelling between Paris and Amsterdam have been able to print their boarding passes from a computer connected to www.airfrance.fr. Online check-in and printed boarding passes were gradually rolled out to all customers with electronic tickets. In the past several years, Air France has continued to develop a range of services to facilitate travel for its customers, by making customer channels as fluid as possible.

Air France began to digitalize starting in 2008. Electronic boarding passes are now downloadable on mobile phones, and there is no need for any paper documents other than an identity card. Electronic boarding passes on mobile phones are the most important technological development since the implementation of electronic tickets.

In 2010, nearly 380,000 UM – unaccompanied minors – including 330,000 between ages 4-11, and 50,000 between ages 12-17, travelled on Air France. Approximately 70% of "UM" passengers travel within continental France and the overseas departments. They can belong to the Flying Blue Jeune loyalty programme starting as young as 2 years old.

2012, Air France and the other airlines in SkyTeam offered Skypriority. This new programme provides access to a range of priority services (check-in, lounge access, completion of formalities, boarding) around the world. There are exclusive benefits, from check-in to baggage delivery.

Today, the airport experience is 100% digital. Innovative services are offered to all passengers: e-services, free applications, websites and mobile sites, AF Connect, and customer service provided in 14 languages, 24/7 on social networks, for a more enjoyable airport experience.

Passengers in the Air France lounge, at New York JFK - 2014 © Virginie Valdois

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