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Air France is taking delivery of its first Airbus A350 this year, and we’ve just learned the first route the new aircraft will fly. Airline Route is reporting the carrier’s first A350 will take off on Sept. 23 from Paris (CDG) to Bamako, Mali (BKO) and then onwards to Abidjan, Ivory Coast (ABJ).

The peculiar route includes a fifth-freedom leg between Mali and Ivory Coast, both Francophone countries in West Africa.

The Air France-KLM group has 28 A350-900s on order, with 21 to operate for Air France and the other seven in KLM colors. The first Air France A350 just recently rolled out of the assembly hangar in Toulouse, France.

Air France will be getting a completely new business class product, says The Traveler’s Club, with 34 Zodiac Optima seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. These are actually the same used in United’s new Polaris business class cabins. It’s another new business class product for Air France, which has at least three other variations spread across its Airbus A380 and A330 and Boeing 787 and 777s.

TPG staffers have given great reviews to the United Polaris hard product, so this definitely is a step-up over Air France’s old angle-flat seats on the A380 and 2-2-2 configuration on the A330.

It’s unclear if Air France will make its own customizations to the Optima seat — a video from Safran (which now owns Zodiac) shows what the cabin could potentially look like:

While the A350 is a bit wider than the 787 Dreamliner, you can expect a similar layout to United’s 787-10 Polaris cabin, shown below:

In addition to the business class cabin, Air France’s A350 will feature 24 in seats in Premium Economy laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration and another 266 seats in a 3-3-3 layout.

And of course, the flights will be bookable with miles. Since Air France is a SkyTeam carrier, you can use a number of mileage currencies to nab a seat. Using Air France’s own Flying Blue program may yield the best search results — plus, you can transfer points from all the major credit card programs to Flying Blue.

H/T: One Mile At A Time

(Photo by F. Lancelot/master films by Airbus)

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