Air France 75 years of service to Africa
Tuesday 5, October 2010
Over the past 75 years, Air France has been continuously developing its routes to Africa and has always operated the most recent aircraft to these destinations, such as the Boeing 707 in 1960s, the Boeing 747 in the 1970s and the Boeing 777-300 in 2007. In February 2010, Air France was the first airline to operate the A380 to Africa.
In 1936, Air France operated flights between Toulouse and Dakar and soon after to Pointe-Noire in the Congo. Scheduled services between Metropolitan France and Equatorial Africa started before 1939 and developed as from 1946 with the launch of the Dakar-Baloma-Conakry-Robertsfield-Abidjan-Accra-Lomé-Cotonou-Lagos-Douala-Libreville-Port Gentil-Pointe Noire-Brazzaville route.
In 1950, the twin-engine Douglas DC-3 followed on from the Bloch and Sikorski beginnings, to the Lockheed and Dewoitine of 1939-45 and the Junkers 52 after the war.
In May, the opening of Lomé airport enabled Air France to launch flights from Paris to Togo, via Algiers and Niamey.
In 1951, the Ivory Coast was linked to Paris-Casablanca-Bamako-Abidjan and in September, Air France launched its Paris-Dakar-Conakry-Abidjan route.
In 1952, Air France launched flights to Libreville on the Paris-Algiers-Kano-Douala-Libreville-Brazzaville route, operated by the Constellation.
In 1953, Air France operated a first flight to South Africa by Comet. Air France soon started operating the Paris-Tripoli-Fort Archambault route, later changed to Paris-Tunis (or Tripoli), Fort-Lamy, Fort-Archambault, Bangui, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. At the end of the year, Air France launched its France-Rhodesia route. This flight, which left Paris every other Sunday, operated the Paris-Algiers-Fort Lamy-Brazzaville-Livingstone (Northern Rhodesia) – Antananarivo-Reunion-Mauritius route. All the other Paris-Antananarivo services were operated via Cairo and Nairobi.
The frequency and rapidity of routes continued to accelerate. After the Lockheed 749 Constellation, in 1956 the Super Constellation L1049 G linked Paris to Dakar in just 10 hours.
In 1960, the Boeing 707 Intercontinental flew the Paris - Dakar route in 5 hrs 15 min and Paris – Abidjan in 7 hrs 35 min.
In 1972, the non-stop Paris-Dakar flight on Fridays was operated by a Boeing 747 equipped with 357 seats including 34 in First class and 323 in Tourist class. The flights on other days were operated by a Boeing 707.
In summer 1975, Air France started operating the Boeing 747 on its Paris-Nairobi-Reunion route.
On 21 January 1976, Dakar was Concorde’s first commercial destination, continuing on to Rio de Janeiro.
In 1982, Air France operated the Paris-Nairobi-Kigali-Bujumbura route every Monday by Boeing 747, as Bujumbura airport was now accessible to wide-bodied aircraft.
In 1992, Air France merged with UTA which itself was the result of a merger between TAI and UAT, airlines which had been operating flights to Africa since 1946. At the time there were three weekly flights to Johannesburg by Boeing 747, with two of these flights continuing on to Cape Town and Windhoek. In 1996, Air France increased this to five weekly flights and it became daily in 1998.
In April 1993, Air France launched a weekly flight to Yaoundé (Cameroon) via Douala.
In winter 1994, instead of five weekly flights, Air France flew daily to Dakar. Two of these flights were non-stop, the others stopped over in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Conakry or Nouakchott.
In 1996, Air France increased the number of frequencies to Africa and launched flights to Entebbe (Uganda), Maputo (Mozambique) and a daily non-stop flight from Paris to Abidjan. Air France also operated five weekly flights to Bamako, three to Brazzaville, four to Douala, Lagos, Libreville and Ouagadougou and three to Lomé. Air France operated 45 flights to Africa on its long-haul network.
In 2007, Air France started operating the Boeing 777-300 between Johannesburg and Paris before becoming the first airline to operate the A380 to Africa in February 2010.
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