Air France has launched direct flights from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris to the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, as part of its efforts to increase services between Europe and Africa.
Mr Jean-Marc Janaillac, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air France KLM, said the introduction of direct flights on the Paris-Accra route was the latest step in its long term moves to increase its services in Africa.
Air France-KLM, he said, already has an extensive presence in Africa; with flights to 51 destinations in Africa and more frequencies through its partnership with Kenya Airways.
At the launch, Mr Janaillac noted the initiative would strengthen the partnership between France and Ghana, reinforce business relations and improve tourism, especially as Ghana celebrates her 60th independence anniversary, and also the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Air France would operate three flights a week between Paris Charles De Gaulle and Kotoka international airport, Accra, using an Airbus A330 with a capacity of 208 seats until March 2017 and a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, with 312 seats after March; both in three-class configurations.
The A330 has 40 Business class, 21 Premium Economy and 147 Economy class seats, while the Boeing 777-200 will have 28 in Business class, 24 in Premium Economy and 260 in Economy.
“This represents a 50 percent capacity growth for the next summer season and this shows how we are confident of the success of this new route” he stated, adding that cargo was also a key component of its business.
Mr Janaillac said there was great business potential in Ghana and connecting Accra to Paris was Air France’s was of supporting Ghana’s economic development, by facilitating business travel French businesses to increase their presence and activities, and exchange with their Ghanaian counterparts.
He reiterated the importance of security and noted that Air France adopted a three-pronged measures to ensure security at its airport and on-board: first through the use security devices and equipment, presence of security personnel such as police, and sometimes private security and most importantly, the gathering of intelligence to prevent attacks.
Mr Dick van Nieuwenhuyzen, Air France-KLM Country Manager for Ghana, said the Air France-KLM group now offered 10 flights between Ghana and Europe; seven to Amsterdam and three to Paris, with extra seats, which was good for the market in Ghana.
He said the increase in capacity was good for exporters on the route.
The new flights would be handled by the existing KLM staff in Ghana, he said, which meant that passengers would continue to enjoy the services they received on KLM.
Mr Nieuwenhuyzen said government could support the airline and others in the sector by ensuring competitive fares, and charges from handling agencies as well as the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.
Mr François Pujolas, French Ambassador to Ghana, said the opening of the new route symbolised growing interest for Ghana in France and the growing partnership between Ghana and France.
He noted that the focus of the partnership between the two countries was to help consolidate regional integration in West Africa, as they were trying to do in Europe.
This, he said, was because both Ghana and France would be in a better position to address regional problems such as; climate change, security and terrorism, if they were united.
“France is committed to support any project in that direction. That will be the top priority for us and it has many implications, in the fields of security, the economy and business opportunities, and also in the field of culture,” he noted.
He said France wanted to develop and diversify its trade with Ghana, which stood at one billion Euros annually and was concentrated in the pharmaceutical, oil and gas and agricultural products.
“France has a lot of expertise in that was crucial to Ghana’s development, including agriculture, renewable energy generation and services, and tourism, and we would like very much to help Ghana develop in the field of tourism,” he said.
From now till 28th March, AF 780 will leave Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 1330 hours and arrive in Accra at 1905hours the same day. AF731 then leaves Accra at 2225 hours arriving at Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 0600 the following day.
From 28 March 2017, AF780 will leave Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 1530, arriving in Accra at 1950 hours the same day. Flight AF731 will leave Accra at 2340, and arrive at Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 0800 the following day.