Air France gets closer to Asian travellers

5 December 2001

SINGAPORE – With Americans and Europeans travelling less in the wake of the September 11 crisis, getting closer to Asian travellers has become even more critical now for airlines.

For Air France, that has taken the form of project “Envol Asia” or Inflight Asia – a corporate move to be more “aware and sensitive” to cultural differences and sensitivities of its Asian clients.

Air France said the project was created internally back in 1999 when the carrier saw the importance of the Asian market.

Yesterday, it flew in more than a dozen of its cabin crew to Singapore to show the media they knew more than their “Konichiwa”, “Namaste”, “Ni Hao” and “Annyong Hassey” – terms for greetings in Japanese, Hindi, Mandarin and Korean.

The crew have been sent to several Asian countries for short immersion programmes to learn more about the culture. For instance, in June, 13 cabin crew spent a week in a Beijing university on a crash course in Mandarin.

“Asian customers expect to be treated with a high degree of respect but we must offer them more than that to retain their loyalty,” said Jacques Clabaut, regional director, Air France, South-east Asia and Australia.

A special booklet on each Asian country is available for cabin crew at all times. The booklet has basic information on the country, some basic words and cultural taboos.

Currently, Japan, India, China and Korea are covered in these booklets with Thailand and Philippines are coming up next.

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