Paris, here we come!

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Crew flying first Seattle Paris nonstop.JPG

Air France 046 touched down right on schedule Monday--the first-ever nonstop flight from CDG to SEA, water cannons spraying the Airbus A330 in a festive salute, the pilot waving French and American flags from his cockpit window. Champagne toasts and official speeches followed, blessing this long-overdue rapprochement of the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle.

Francophile Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur said we'd finally been kissed on both cheeks by the standoffish French. But the rest of Seattle's media reacted with a yawn. No mention at all in the Post-Intelligencer, which hasn't prevented them from prominent displays of Air France ads for the past several weeks. KING's Glen Farley's workmanlike, two-minute clip covered the basics (50,000 passangers a year fly to Paris out of SeaTac, but have to make a connection), while KOMO's Akiko Fujita whined about the price of the nonstop trip. Got news for you, Akiko: if you think the flight's expensive, wait till you order the escargots (about $21 a dozen most brasseries these days).

Seriously, this is not about the cost of air travel. A nonstop flight from Seattle to Paris is about our own sense of identity. Sure, we've been able to reach London, Amsterdam or Copenhagen overnight for decades. But Paris has always eluded us. Now we can live happily in Seattle, just knowing that we can follow up today's lunch at Le Pichet with lunch tomorrow on the Champs Elysées. I tell you, it's life-changing.

What's more, some of those 65 million Frenchies now get to do the same thing: visit Seattle. Little-known fact: the average French visitor to the US is on his third or fourth trip. Air France knows that travel demand can't be one-sided, but until recently, Seattle was in the backwoods of French consciousness. Now, with media exposure and the boom in hi-tech, that's no longer the case. The clincher, for Air France CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta, came at a dinner with French business leaders (carefully orchestrated by Port of Seattle officials) just a few months ago. Finally convinced of the pent-up demand from the European side, Spinetta okayed that 200-seat Airbus, promising to switch to a Boeing 777 if the extra 100 seats can be justified by the headcount.

Allons, les enfants! On va à Paris!

Bastille Day Eiffel Tower.JPG Space Needle.jpg

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on June 12, 2007 10:02 AM.

The Queen's birthday was the previous entry in this blog.

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