(Bloomberg) -- Paris reopened its most iconic airport terminal as France prepares to welcome millions of visitors for the 2024 summer Olympics while the travel industry struggles to recover from the fallout of the pandemic.
Aeroports de Paris, which operates Charles de Gaulle airport, spent €250 million ($263 million) on works that lasted more than two years and created an additional 36,000 square meters of passenger space, ADP Deputy Chief Executive Officer Edward Arkwright told reporters on site during the reopening ceremony on Saturday.
“It will allow us to get more passengers but also to improve travel experiences, quality of service, commercial revenues and operational performance,” he said, without elaborating on figures.
Charles de Gaulle welcomed 76.2 million passengers in 2019, making it one of the world’s busiest hubs. The oldest terminal, number 1, was opened in 1974 and is recognizable for its futuristic design and concrete circular structure. The iconic central building, which allows passengers to move from one level to the other thanks to suspended escalators in Plexiglas tubes, is surrounded by other satellite buildings.
The newly created passenger space is reminiscent of Parisian bistros or cabarets, with sofas and chairs in plush red and greens, tables decorated with chess boards, tall brass lights resembling fireworks and smaller round lamps inspired by the terminal’s circular shape. Airport architects who worked on the revamp cited Ernest Hemingway’s book “A Moveble Feast,” set in the French capital of the 1920s, as their main source of inspiration.
“People tend to view time spent in airports as wasted time but we are in Paris here,” Caroline Blanchet, ADP’s marketing chief, told reporters. Even transit passengers can get a feel for the city, she added.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Swiss International Airlines, Air India Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. are among airlines that will be switched back to Terminal 1 in coming months. The terminal will welcome about 10.2 million passengers a year, the company said.
Aeroports de Paris will consider adding solar panels at Charles de Gaulle airport, which up until now wasn’t allow by law, Arkwright said.
The terminal reopens at a time airlines and airport operators face increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions. French Finance Minister Clement Beaune, who attended Saturday’s inauguration ceremony, said he’s optimistic the industry will continue thriving in spite of the challenges ahead.
“Airports and airplanes won’t disappear,” he said. “It’s crucial to have green projects in the run up to the Olympics. Airplanes have a role to play in climate transition and Paris airports are very engaged to reach carbon neutrality.”
France just obtained European Union approval to eliminate domestic flights for routes that can be covered by train in two and a half hours or less. The country may eliminate additional domestic flights for destinations that are further away once the country’s efforts to bolster its rail network allow it, Beaune said.
“Over time, we will be able to review and increase our green ambitions,” he said.
Passengers in France also are at risk of getting stuck due to possible strikes during the year-end holidays later this months.
“We will do everything possible to avoid strikes in the holiday period,” Beaune said.
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