With its acquisition of Dutch airline KLM this month, Air France has bigger global plans. Ruder Finn's ideas on how to convey them to the public are what convinced Europe's No. 2 airline to tap the independent shop as its first U.S. public relations agency.
Ruder Finn will focus mainly on media relations—working to get consumer and travel-trade media to write about Air France's amenities and expanded service. "We plan to position Air France as the new breed of global enterprise, one that is cross-cultural and has an understanding of the needs of international and business travelers," said Gail Moaney, evp and director of the travel and tourism practice at the New York-based shop. "We're targeting the influencers—people who write the stories that travelers read."
"We felt there were a lot of things happening this year with [regard] to our position in the global marketplace," an Air France rep said of the decision to hire a U.S. PR shop, citing the KLM acquisition, redesigned plane interiors and the addition of a new Boeing 777.
The account is worth an estimated $1 million in billings. Spending plans were undisclosed. Havas' Euro RSCG handles advertising.
Strained U.S.-France relations are a problem for Air France, said Henry Hartevelt, vp of travel research at Forrester Research in San Francisco. "The governments may be sniping at each other, but France is still a beautiful place to visit," he said. "They need figure out ways to stand out beyond Paris."
The carrier says traffic in April was up 18 percent and capacity up 12 percent over April 2003.