Air France A380
We should have been looking back on Air France’s
A380 in 2022, but alas this cruel 2020 has accelerated
the airline’s retirement of the aircraft. It is a sad
moment as Air France, like many airlines with a flagship
A380, embraced the potential of the spacious interiors
to be a showcase of cabin design excellence and an
expression of national style and pride.
Air France operated its A380 fleet from
November 2009 to May 2020, during which time
it introduced a steady stream of designs and
innovations across all classes, with the headline
act being La Première (first class). The first of its
10 A380s launched with a cabin design that had
already been in service for seven years, but in 2012
the airline decided to invest in an upgrade. With an
eye on finances, the design team had to work within
the existing seat model and footprint for the ninesuite
cabin on the main deck, but the redesign
of the Contour seats represented quite a hike
in costs, with the redesigned models costing
an estimated €200,000 (US$218,000) per seat –
€140,000 (US$153,000) more than the originals.
Yellow Window was brought in for the project,
the France-based design consultancy which had
previously worked with the airline on its B777-300
bar areas. For La Première the brief was to enhance
seated comfort and create a boutique hotel feel.
“They wanted something more slender and lighter,
which corresponded with an image of Air France that
is feminine, refined, French, open, spacious,” recalls
Patricia Bastard, a partner at Yellow Window.
Passenger surveys and feedback groups indicated
that more privacy was desirable in first class, but not
098 JUNE 2020
THE WHITES AND
GREYS USED IN THE
CABIN COLOUR SCHEMES
REFLECT THE A380’S
LIVERY, AS DO THE
OF RED FROM AIR
enclosed suites, which led the design team to opt for a privacy level
in between the suites favoured by Asian and Middle Eastern airlines
and the open style of carriers from the Americas.
The team found inspiration for the desired sense of elegance,
protection and delicacy of form in the tulip, a flower which
represented a major trade in France before the Netherlands’
‘tulip mania’, and which became a symbol of prosperity.
While the overall dimensions of the seat remained
unchanged, its form appeared sleeker, with ergonomics
improved, and technology and controls concealed.
There was even a slight weight reduction as some
trim was removed, such as “the fake wood that gave
it a downmarket feel”, as Bastard recalls.
Over the years, as Air France introduced various
refinements to its A380 fleet, the overall aspiration was
for the spacious interiors to create a spatial experience akin
to travelling on a luxury ocean vessel.
As Carole Peytavin, VP of customer experience at
Air France explains, “We designed the A380 to give the
sort of pleasurable experience you used to get when
travelling across the Atlantic on a cruise liner”.
The two decks of the A380 helped create the classic
liner feel, as passengers could promenade around the
aircraft and between decks. However, as with cruises,
paying for a higher class of ticket did bring privileges.
La Première passengers had exclusive access to the curved
staircase, rising from the front of the cabin to the first-class bar
and Galerie d’Art area, which showed art exhibitions via video displays.
However, there was a touch of égalité, as the A380 had a further five
bars across all classes, playing a role in what Peytavin sees as a
characteristically French touch of conviviality and café culture, a place
where business and leisure passengers could mingle. We wish we were
just bidding au revoir to Air France’s A380s, but sadly it’s adieu.