Air France Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The major international airline of France.


Air France was founded in 1933 through the merger of five companies originally founded between 1919 and 1929, Société Centrale pour l’Exploitation de Lignes Aériennes, Compagnie Internationale de Navigation, Air Union, Air Orient, and Compagnie Générale Aéropostale. The new company negotiated with the French government to become the country’s national air carrier. World War II nearly destroyed the company, but on October 11, 1945, Paris-to-London service was resumed. In 1948, the new Compagnie Nationale Air France was reincorporated, with 70 percent of the company owned by the government. On January 12, 1990, all four of France’s government-owned airlines, Air France, Air Inter, Air Charter, and UTA, were merged into the Air France Group.

Transatlantic flight was initiated in 1946 with a Paris-to-New York route, and thirty years later, Air France inaugurated supersonic transatlantic flight with the Concorde. The first Concorde flight was between Paris and Rio de Janeiro, but ultimately the only profitable supersonic route was between Paris and New York, and in 1982 the company made that its only Concorde route.

In the realm of subsonic flight, however, Air France, by the end of the twentieth century, served more than 230 cities in 88 countries. Its fleet is composed of Boeing 737’s, 747-200’s, 747-300’s, and 747-400’s, 767’s and 777’s, and Airbus A310’s, A320’s, and A340’s.

Corporate Divisions

Air France is a major employer within the airline industry. In the United States alone, it employs nine hundred people to serve Air France customers. The Air France Industries Division is responsible for complex maintenance activities that include full checks on all equipment, and required major overhaul operations. The Air France Maintenance Division, operating from two main bases, at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, is the hands-on and online maintenance service. They handle preflight checks, random daily inspection checks, and the entire range of minor to major repairs, up to and including all overhaul work to the Concorde fleet. The Industrial Logistics Division combines all of the Air France groups’ industrial and repair activities.

Air France has developed a customized fleet service, which offers a range of services tailored to individual needs. This service is particularly directed to young airlines or others unwilling or unable to develop their own customized aeronautical maintenance structure. Air France markets all its industrial and aircraft maintenance services under the Air France Industries brand, which ranks as the second worldwide carrier in terms of aircraft maintenance and employs approximately nine thousand staff members. Air France Industries also offers an extensive range of skills and available training, particularly in Boeing fleets powered by General Electric and CFM International engines, as well as in various components used in Boeing fleets and the Airbus. Because of extensive experience with the Boeing 747, Air France is considered a world leader in that aircraft’s overhaul, completing more than three hundred B-747 overhaul checks a year. Combining this skill with the handling of more than 300 engines and 62,000 components, Air France is considered the major service-oriented airline. Developing a concept of customized fleet service and having developed a global quality approach, Air France generated a 29.8 percent increase in operating revenues between 1999 and 2000, amounting to approximately 3.3 billion francs, or 497 million euros.

In 2000, Air France launched a very special globalized service called SkyTeam with three partners—Aeromexico, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air—which focuses entirely on customer service. Air France retains leadership in the French market, Europe’s largest domestic air-transport market, as well as leadership of world tourism.

Safety Record

Given their global network of flights, Air France’s safety record is good. Two hijackings, on June 27, 1976, in Entebbe, Uganda, and on December 24, 1994, in Algiers, Algeria, resulted in passenger deaths, and crashes in 1988 and 1992 in France, and 1998 in Columbia also had fatalities.

However, Air France’s most dramatic disaster was the crash of the Concorde on Tuesday, July 25, 2000. The Concorde’s first fatal accident occurred when Concorde Flight 203, bound from Paris to New York, crashed within sixty seconds of takeoff, killing all 109 persons on board. Another four people were killed in a local hotel on the ground. Both Air France and British Airways Concorde flights were temporarily grounded. Air France suffered some very negative publicity as a result of the crash.

According to the official version presented by a French accident investigation, the crash occurred when a tire hit debris on the runway and burst. This, in turn, caused chunks of tire rubber to puncture under-wing fuel tanks and led to a loss of thrust from an engine on the left wing, which veered the Concorde to the edge of the runway. Proceeding too quickly to abort, the pilot apparently took off with engines not functioning properly, thereby losing control and crashing into the Paris suburb of Gonesse. Air France mechanics are charged to have disassembled the undercarriage for service, reassembling it without the part that keeps the wheels in correct alignment. The missing spacer was found on the original part in the workshop, according to the Paris Observer. Thus, it was not a loss of power that caused the fatal accident. The theory of the missing spacer has been controversial, discussed, refuted, and validated. While Concorde compensation settlements were reached in Germany for families of seventy-five passengers, it was unclear whether the settlement ultimately included Continental Airlines, which investigators believe may have been the source of a metal strip on the runway that may have caused the accident.

  • Baker, Colin. “The Quiet Revolutionary: Despite His Success in Turning Round the Fortunes of Air France, Jean-Cyril Spinetta Prefers to Remain out of the Spotlight.” Airline Business 17, no. 8 (June, 2000): 44-49. Profile of Air France’s chairman and CEO.
  • Gallacher, Jacqueline. “Mission Impossible? Can Air France Banish Its Inefficient State-owned Structure to the Past and Implement a Radical Turnaround?” Airline Business (February, 1994): 28-31. Discusses the effects of deregulation and privatization on Air France.
  • Lefer, Henry. “Air France Concorde: A Valuable Symbol.” Air Transport World 23, no. 10 (January, 1986): 46-49. An assessment of the Concorde on its tenth anniversary.
  • Sparaco, Pierre. “Ailing Carriers Expect Air France Support.” Aviation Week and Space Technology 154, no. 26 (June 25, 2001): 58. Covers Air France’s relationship with Air Afrique.
  • _______. “Air France Rescue Draws Fire.” Aviation Week and Space Technology 141, no. 5 (August 1, 1994): 24-25. Coverage of Air France finances and management.

Air carriers

British Airways



Supersonic aircraft

Categories: History