05 December 2014, 00:50
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Paris to Yerevan? A Luxurious Alternative to Long Layovers

What's that you say? I need to stop in Moscow for an 8 hour layover if I want to fly affordably to Yerevan from the West? Nyet! Today, Air France is an airline with over 800 destinations around the world. Few of them, however, exist in the former Soviet bloc. Fortunately for ImYerevan, one of those destinations is – you guessed it – Yerevan! We were recently invited to a press conference in Paris to get a sneak peak into some of the airline’s upcoming offerings, and it appears that those coming from the West and seeking alternatives to Yerevan’s generic travel routes have a lot to look forward to in the near future from this airline!

Despite being home to the second busiest airport in the Caucasus, Armenia’s closed borders make it a long and winding journey for many travelers. Most affordable flights, in fact, bring those coming from the West all the way out to Moscow (the most frequent and affordable layover) before winding back around like a boomerang to land on this city’s sweet, post-Soviet soil. However, it looks like a recent development may be providing some relief to weary Westerners hoping for a piece of Armenia’s contemporary pie (minus the extra serving of inconvenient layovers).

A sample from Air France's recent batch of advertisements.

In a recent press conference, Air France, who has been one of few airlines providing travellers with much-appreciated direct flights from Western Europe to Yerevan since 2006, announced some exciting updates for the near future. These developments have been on the backburner for quite sometime, as the airline was in research-mode for many months prior to the conference.

Following their extensive research, which included compiling responses from travel agents and survey feedback from close to 10,000 people, Air France stated that it will invest over 50 million Euros by April 2015 to invigorate their medium-haul flights (those lasting anywhere from 3 to 6 hours) with new offerings. Thus, those travelling from Paris to Yerevan (4 hours in duration) will be some of the first to reap the benefits of this new initiative.

A shot of Air France's new, redesigned seating that they say will maximize comfort while reducing the airline's carbon footprint. A shot of Air France's new, redesigned seating that they say will maximize comfort while reducing the airline's carbon footprint.

The most large-scale transformation is their plan to install brand new, high-quality seats. In total, Air France will be placing 7,800 new seats into their aircrafts, which have been redesigned for maximum comfort and are eco-friendly, as they are two kilos lighter than the current seats, reducing carbon emissions by 1,400 tons on the A319s and 2,300 tons on the A320s.

Additionally, passengers’ will enjoy a refined dining experience. The new menu, which the press taste-tested at the conference, is bound to exceed your expectations. See below my perfectly-portioned, airplane-approved meal (perhaps less glamorous than the picture above, but take my word for it, no less delicious).

A picture of my perfectly portioned meal from the press conference. Who knew airplane food could be so glamorous? Oh, that's right, the French.A picture of my perfectly portioned meal from the press conference. Who knew airplane food could be so glamorous! Oh, that's right, the French.

Journalists, who were invited from all over the world (err, that is, within a 3 to 6 hour flight duration), were also provided with a complimentary tour of the Charles de Gaulle airport. We got a chance to see some of the luxurious benefits that passengers flying Air France’s business and first class get to enjoy. Perhaps second only to the open bars, however, were the airport’s resident sheep, who graze lazily amidst the planes and air-traffic control (see below).

Charles de Gaulle airport sheep, in their natural habitat.Charles de Gaulle airport sheep, in their natural habitat.

On a slightly unrelated tangent, we were somewhat alarmed to discover that the airline’s website appears to be misinformed about Yerevan's (and even more absurdly, Almaty's) geographic positioning. The following map indicates our city is located, strangely enough, in the middle of the Black Sea.

Air France takes the concept of "tsovits tsov Hayastan" ("sea to sea Armenia") a little too literally... Air France takes the concept of "tsovits tsov Hayastan" ("sea to sea Armenia") a little too literally...

As much as everyone longs for a literal translation of “tsovits tsov Hayastan” (a common Armenian saying meaning “sea to sea Armenia,” referencing the nation’s former territories), we hope that for the sake of Air France’s passengers, its pilots know better!

We hope these initiatives will incent more to take advantage of these direct flights to Yerevan. If not for the amazing service, delicious food, and free wine, than for the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets upon hearing the sweet familiarity of Armenian tongues in a crowded, international Parisian airport. (It is, however, buffered by the desperate pleas of Air France's stewarding staff, begging zhoghovurt not to sneakily smoke cigarettes in the bathroom while the plane is in flight... It's okay, Yerevan, we love you nonetheless.) Viva la France! 

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