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Air France Celebrates 50 Years of Service at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

With the inauguration of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on March 13, 1974, Air France is celebrating 50 years as the airport’s main operator.  Today, Air France accounts for over half the airport’s traffic, connecting Paris to over 200 destinations in nearly 100 countries.

Air France Celebrates 50 Years of Service at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport - Courtesy Air France

On Thursday (March 14, 2024), Air France marked 50 years of service at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, which officially opened on March 13, 1974.  By the early 1950s it became clear that a third Parisian airport was necessary, as traffic grew at the capital’s historic airports, Paris-Le Bourget and Paris-Orly.  Following eight years of construction, CDG’s Terminal 1 was inaugurated on March 8, 1974 by French Prime Minister Pierre Messmer.  The first terminal was designed by the young architect Paul Andreu, and featured an innovative central circular building linked to seven satellites, earning it the nickname Camembert.

On April 30, 1974, the first Air France flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle took off.  The aircraft was a Caravelle, registration F-BHRA, the first of the type delivered to Air France, and the flight departed for Belgrade and Sofia, with a crew led by Captain Henri Cibert.  Gradually, Air France’s flights migrated to CDG, initially serving Bourdeaux, Nice and Toulouse, as well as London, Geneva, Frankfurt, Turin and Lisbon.  The majority of the airline’s activity was relocated to Charles de Gaulle in November 1974, with approximately two-thirds of the flights and part of  maintenance operations transferred to the new airport.

In 1976 another milestone was achieved as the Concorde joined the Air France Fleet, offering supersonic service from Paris to Dakar, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Washington D.C., Dallas and New York-JFK.  Concorde cut the flight time between New York and Paris to just 3.5 hours, and guests also benefitted from a dedicated airport experience and lounge.  With growing traffic, CDG underwent several transformations and expansions, and Air France relocated a number of times to offer customers dedicated, ever more comfortable infrastructures.

The opening of Terminal 2 in 1982 enabled Air France to expand their network, especially in Europe.  Thanks to a brand new fleet of medium-haul Boeing 737s, and later Airbus A320s, by 1988, Air France offered service to the most destinations in Europe.  When Terminal 2E opened in 1996, Air France initiated a major restructuring, reorganizing CDG into a hub for connecting flights, with seven coordinated connecting banks organized throughout the day.  This realignment better connected short and medium-haul flights with long-haul flights, offering better distributed quicker and easier connections.  This major project allowed Air France to operate up to 60 flights per hour.  

In 2000, Paris Charles de Gaulle added a fourth runway, a first for a European airport.  Terminal 2E also continued to grow, with the opening of Hall L in 2007, followed by Hall M a few years later.  These expansions enabled the terminal to increase capacity to 20 million passengers annually.  Additionally, to facilitate seamless connections, SkyTeam alliance member airlines were also based in terminals operated by Air France. 

Air France Celebrates 50 Years of Service at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport - Courtesy Air France

After 50 years, Paris-Charles de Gaulle now boasts nine terminals and is the largest airport in France, the second largest airport in Europe, and the EU’s main gateway.  Today, Air France operates 650 flights daily to/from CDG, offering 25,000 less than two hours connecting opportunities weekly.  Each day, 100,000 Air France customers are welcomed at Paris-CDG, some of whom will visit the airline's six lounges.    


Source: Air France


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