Delta Air Lines to take over Seattle-Paris route from Air France on March 24.

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Champagne corks popped at a lavish reception in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall to celebrate the start of Air France’s new daily nonstop between Seattle to Paris in June of 2007.

Now it’s time to bid adieu to the French accents, designer uniforms and Michelin-inspired meals. Delta Air Lines, Air France’s joint venture and code share partner, takes over the route on March 25.


“In one sentence, it will save the airlines money,” says Joe Brancatelli, publisher of Joe Sent Me, an online newsletter for business travelers. “Chances are if Air France and Delta didn’t have this deal, they would have dropped the flight.”

The good news is that Seattle keeps the route. With all those carry-on bags to stuff into the overhead bins, Delta will build more lead time into its flight. Scheduled departure from Seattle is 1:10 p.m. daily vs. 1:45 p.m. for Air France. Arrival time in Paris for both flights is 8:25 a.m. the next day. Delta will use Boeing’s 767-300ER vs. the Airbus A330 for Air France. Each seats about 210 passengers.

“Unless you’re a premium-class flier, you’re not going to see much difference,” Brancatelli says.

Some would disagree, not so much for seat comfort, but for the overall ambience, food, and of course, the free wine.

For Harriet Welty, an American journalist and author living in Paris, it’s all about the “French touch.”

“I have always favored Air France over Delta or any U.S. airlines flying out of Paris,” she said in an email. “From the minute I got in the plane, I felt I was in France.”

Atlanta-based Delta has a huge base of operations in Seattle, while Air France has to bring in crews and equipment for just one flight. As joint venture partners, they share the revenues from code-share flights, so it makes economic sense for Delta to operate the flights. Delta also took over Air France’s Chicago-Paris run.

“The world has changed so dramatically in the last three years,” Brancatelli says. With rising fuel costs, “It’s all about (the airlines saying) ‘How are we going to squeeze ever penny of revenue out of this?’ “

For the record: It might not be a French Bordeaux, but Delta will pour free wine (and beer) on the Paris flight.

Sea-Tac changes

Delta has been cutting international flights from some cities, but it remains a strong player in Seattle, where it’s the biggest international carrier. It’s planning a $12 million renovation of its Sea-Tac ticketing area, and will add a second daily flight to Amsterdam this summer. (Also new at Sea-Tac is Emirates’ daily flight between Seattle and Dubai starting this month.)

Next on Delta’s wish list is a nonstop between Seattle and Shanghai, CEO Richard Anderson told a group of business leaders over breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle recently. Sea-Tac managing director Mark Reis says that would be welcome news.

“Shanghai (along with Hong Kong) is among the top underserved markets out of Seattle,” he says.

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