From Chengdu with love. On a windy and chilly 12 December at Paris CDG’s Terminal One is a bright coloured anna.aero Assistant Editor. Jonthan Ford, seen depicting the colours of a certain airline he had flown on the day previous to get him to Paris, is pictured with Air China’s A330-200 registered B-6115, which had operated the inaugural flight from Chengdu, the destination for next year’s World Routes conference taking place in September. Ford’s picture was so impressive that even Franck Goldnadel, an Executive Director of Aéroports de Paris, and Chief Airport Operations Officer and Paris CDG Airport MD, wanted his photo taking in the same style.
anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford, was warmly invited by Aéroports de Paris to attend the launch ceremony of Air China’s inaugural flight from Chengdu on 12 December. Not only is this an important route for Paris, but indeed for Europe, as its opens another new connection to the host city of World Routes 2016, giving attending European delegates another option to get to next year’s event which is being held between 24 and 26 September at Chengdu Century City New International Exhibition & Convention Centre.
This new route means that Air China now serves a total of three routes from Paris CDG, with the Star Alliance member also serving Beijing and Shanghai Pudong from the French capital. Flight CA457 arrived in Paris at 08:15 on 12 December, meaning that the inaugural service touched down on time. The aircraft then has a four hour turnaround before its departure back to Chengdu at 12:15, with the return flight number being CA458. Services on the 8,246-kilometre sector are planned to operate four times weekly, with Air China flying the city pair using its A330-200s.
The route comes at a very important time for Paris after recent events, and with this new connection being launched shows that demand to visit the city is still a priority. Speaking to Ford at the inaugural event, Aéroports de Paris’ Head of Aviation Marketing, Antoine de Lamothe, said that Paris was the number one O&D market in Europe from Chengdu and the Sichuan Province region of China, and that the link further grows Paris CDG as one of the leading airports in the world outside of Asia to have direct links to China. Paris becomes the second European destination that Air China serves from Chengdu, with the carrier already serving Frankfurt, the largest Star Alliance hub in Europe. Along with Air China serving these two routes, British Airways offers a direct link from London Heathrow, KLM serves Amsterdam and Sichuan Airlines links the Chinese city to Moscow Sheremetyevo.
After arriving into Terminal One from his hotel, one of the first information boards that anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford, came across was a monitor promoting the inaugural flight between Paris and Chengdu. These displays were pictured in various sites around the terminal in order to promote the new service to the thousands of passengers passing through the facility that morning.
It’s 08:15, and the dark night skyline starts to smudge into a brighter shade as the daylight picks up across Europe, just in time for the fire truck baptism ceremony for Air China’s inaugural flight from Chengdu. Now, anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford has one rule of thumb when it comes to judging an airport’s FTWA, and that is that if he is there in person, he’ll give it a high score no matter how good or bad it is. Now this was the fourth inaugural flight ceremony that Ford had been to since joining anna.aero back in May, and of the three FTWAs that he has witnessed from outside of the aircraft, they have not disappointed. Paris CDG’s Fire Department did a splendid job with this arch despite the weather and dark setting.
Welcome to Paris. The first passengers disembark the inaugural flight to be greeted by the French and Chinese media.
The light had picked up considerably when it was time for the VIP delegates to disembark from the inaugural flight, which was parked on one of Terminal One’s remote stands. Delegates arriving from Chengdu were greeted with flowers on arrival, presented by Air China ground staff based at Paris CDG.
Move over King Kong, Kung Fu Panda’s in town. Paris CDG went all out to impress its passengers and Air China with their route launch cake, and they did not disappoint. Luckily the cake does depict a CDG – CTU reference so that people are aware that the link from Chengdu was not being launched to Blackpool, but Paris (anna.aero is forever getting the two towers mixed up). This was the first time that Ford had seen people wanting to pose with a cake at a route launch, with everyone wanting to be ‘papped’ with star of the show. Even Concorde managed to get a look in, albeit from a far.
Meeting the master. To most people, making a cake involves just a few hours in the kitchen to create something simple and to purpose. However, for the master who created this Eiffel Tower/Panda combo, it took four weeks of careful planning and consideration in order to pull off this stunning piece of culinary architecture. Guy Martin, a man who has two Michelin stars to his name, told anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford that it was hard work in order to create a cake which could support itself with so much weight, yet still be as true to the image of the tower as possible. Well Martin, it’s a 10/10 from anna.aero for effort for this creation.
Another attraction at the launch ceremony was a photo booth. Passengers and staff had the chance to have their photo taken with the main banner promoting the launch, allowing them to have a souvenir from the day. Modelling the process in action are the inaugural crew and Air China ground staff at Paris CDG.
The first speaker at the launch ceremony was Zhai Jun, the Ambassador of China to France. He spoke of how important it was to grow links between the two nations and he wished Air China the greatest success on the new route.
Also taking to the podium during the speech ceremony was Franck Goldnadel, an Executive Director of Aéroports de Paris, and Chief Airport Operations Officer and Paris CDG MD. He said during his speech: “I am thankful for Air China in developing this new link to Chengdu and we are happy to see their continued expansion from Paris. We work closely with Air China and we hope this route performs to its full potential.”
Now for the moment that anna.aero just loves… the cake cutting ceremony. With Martin’s homage to the Eiffel Tower being too delicate to cut, the French chef also made some gateaux that were able to be cut and eaten by the passengers on the inaugural flight to Chengdu. The gateaux were formed with a short pastry base layer, with a hazelnut and chocolate mousse centre, topped with a shiny chocolate ganache draped with gold leaf. Ford can confirm that it was some of the best sweet tasting food that had ever greeted his pallet.
Making sure that everyone got the chance to taste some of the excellent gateau, Martin himself was even handing out his culinary excellence to the VIPs that were at the inaugural ceremony.
Enjoying the fun of the inaugural ceremony and getting ready to sample a slice of route launch cake after a busy morning were Ding Qi (centre), Director General of Air China in France and Belgium, and Franck Goldnadel (right). Also joining them was a member of the Chinese tourist board (left) who is based in France.
“Oh wow there is free champagne…now you’re talking my language Paris CDG…oh yeah, and there’s a pilot panda as well….” Although Ford was more excited to hit the champers (despite the early hour), he was also intrigued by the panda cub that was sitting at the end of the table. Chengdu, based in the Sichuan Province of China, is the world capital for pandas. It will also be one of the key features for delegates wanting to take a tour at next year’s World Routes conference.
In friendly discussions at the inaugural event are Jun and Goldnadel, both of which were most likely discussing how to further grow business links between France and China. Not only is the panda on the cake eavesdropping on the conversation, even Guy Martin wants to hear the plan of action (nice photobomb!).
The media sweep to the inaugural captain to get his views and opinions of what it was like to help bring the inaugural flight from Chengdu to Paris CDG.
Also having their picture taken before the first flight back to Chengdu were the returning crew.
Passengers on the return flight to Chengdu were fortunate enough to be able to board the aircraft via a jet bridge instead of having to use a remote stand which the arriving passengers had to use. The return flight boarded at Terminal One’s gate A12.
anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford would like to thank Aéroports de Paris for inviting him along to the inaugural flight ceremony of Air China’s service to Chengdu, especially Aéroports de Paris Head of Aviation Marketing, Antoine de Lamothe.