Paris - It looks like no airport lounge I’ve ever seen: large vaulting roof, waves of natural light, trees along the centre of a re-created Parisian boulevard, chic, designer passenger seats (economy class, too) upholstered in leather.
The terminal known as Satellite S4 is one of the jewels in the crown of the ever-expanding and modernising Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), which is home to the national carrier, Air France – and the biggest airline hub in Europe.
Satellite S4 (in Terminal 2E) went live on June 28 and is part of a decade-long modernisation of CDG which seeks to position the airport as one of the best in the world.
It features a 3 000m2 business class lounge, the largest on the Air France network, with at least 100 000m2 dedicated to passengers on international flights.
S4 is for passengers flying with Air France and its Sky Team partners.
Able to handle 7.8 million passengers every year, S4 is aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Paris-CDG airport in terms of long-haul traffic and the quality of service offered to passengers.
Air France manager Jean-Paul Claret acknowledges that, “in the past, there may have been some who felt that CDG was not a very appealing place… but that has completely changed”.
Offering more than 25 000 connections a year around the world, the airport is second only to Atlanta in the US as a hub and is much bigger (in terms of connections offered) than either London Heathrow or Frankfurt in Germany.
“For passengers from both inside and outside Europe (as, for example, from South Africa) Paris-CDG offers quick and convenient connections wherever you may want to go.”
Aeroports de Paris (the authority which builds and maintains the facilities) and Air France are embarking on a major drive to popularise Paris as a connecting hub.
For South African passengers, connecting via Paris-CDG could save hours in connection times in comparison to Heathrow, especially to destinations in other parts of Europe and even Asia, says Claret.
One of the strong commitments in the redevelopment of the airport has been to put passengers from all over the world at ease.
The main languages at the airport are French and English and there has been a focus on making signage visible and easy to understand.
And, to assist passengers who do not speak English or French, Air France has set up a team of multilingual agents speaking Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Tamil, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese and literary Arabic.
“We want to make the experience – whether arriving in France or transiting to another destination – as pleasant as possible. We know that this is a stressful time for travellers and our aim is to reduce that stress as much as possible,” says Claret.
In the design of the airport, but especially in Terminal S4 (which alone cost n580 million), Aéroports de Paris has paid particular attention to the atmosphere, the shopping areas, passenger channels and the materials used.
Light and spacious, the S4 offers passengers 6 000m2 of boutiques, bars and restaurants and 25 000m2 dedicated to the boarding lounges, the equivalent of 128 tennis courts. It features water walls designed by Taro Suzuki, wooden patios, plant walls inside and out, as well as trees, earning the building “High Environmental Quality” certification.
And Paris-CDG already appears to be making its mark as a preferred hub choice for passengers from all over the world.
Research carried out a few weeks ago – and based on interviews with just over 800 passengers – revealed an overall satisfaction rate of 91 percent.
Air France said the study showed that several different aspects came to the attention of passengers in a positive way at the airport: the speed of check-in (89 percent) and access to the boarding lounges (91 percent), the cleanliness (94 percent), safety (96 percent) and the atmosphere (95 percent). - Saturday Star