Air France: SAPHIR, a bespoke programme

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With the SAPHIR programme, Air France offers special services on all its flights to facilitate travel for people with reduced mobility due to disability.

With SAPHIR, an information and booking assistance service for people with disabilities, customers are taken care of throughout the entire client journey, both before and after their flight. SAPHIR assists them with booking, and ticket issuing and transport service. The service is available in France and 20 other countries.

Requests for assistance must be made during booking, at least 48 hours before departure, directly on the Air France website or via a dedicated phone number.  Sales advisors at the customer relations centre are trained in handling disability-related issues by medical specialists, and are equipped to respond to questions related to motor and sensory difficulties.

In 2001, Air France was the first airline in the world to offer a free travel assistance service to passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility. For more than 20 years, Air France has carried nearly 600,000 customers annually with this specific assistance. Customers can request the SAPHIR card, which, thanks to the passenger profiles created, makes it possible to keep a record of  their assistance needs and their medical equipment carried on board or in the hold.

More details below about Saphir Services:

BOOKING

Through Saphir’s service, disabled or reduced mobility customers can book their flight and receive helpful tips and information It is available from metropolitan France and its overseas departments (Fort de France, Pointe à Pitre Réunion) as well as 19 other countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, USA, Finland, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland).

The request of assistance has to be made at the time of booking the ticket, at least 48 hours before departure.

The booking can be made through the Saphir call center, from a travel agency or Air France Agency, or directly online on airfrance com (available 24 hours a day 7 days a week) once the reservation is completed, and depending on the requested service, the customer is automatically called back by an agent in order to finalise the trip preparation, proceed to payment and ticket issuance.

Today, three functions enrich the costumer journey:

  • a non premium telephone number (price of a local call in France), available from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm as well as Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm the 33 09 69 36 72 77
  • a service of real time transcription and of Visio interpretation in French Sign Language ( This service is provided by our partner Acceo and makes Air France Saphir service available to anyone with hearing impairment. To use this service, it is necessary to have at your disposal a PC/MAC, an Internet connection,
    Internet Explorer or Safari as a search engine, a microphone and a webcam
    These functions complement the services already available on the website booking, request for assistance and tickets issuance They allow for a better response to the expectations of disabled or reduced mobility customers.

SAPHIR CARD

Thanks to the Saphir card, customers enjoy an immediate recognition at the airport.
Free and personal, it allows them to be recognized and not to have to describe their disabilities or needs for assistance every time they travel. During the ticket’s booking, customers only have to specify the number of their Saphir card: their specific information and needs are already filled in their file.

TRAVEL COMPANIONS

For everyone’s safety, the PRM passenger is asked to check whether to travel with a companion or not. The companion must be major, autonomous and not caring (in addition to the PRM he accompanies) of a child under 4 years of age (France and overseas departments) or 5 years (international flights).

MEDICAL CLEARANCE

In most cases, no medical clearance is necessary to travel with Air France. It is however strongly recommended to contact your doctor in case of pregnancy, recent operation or plastered member. On the other hand, a medical clearance issued by the Air France medical Service is mandatory in the following cases: transport on stretcher or in incubator, request for the supply of oxygen with a flow of more than 2 L/min, state of health requiring unusual medical assistance during the flight. In one of these cases, it is necessary to complete and send the following two forms to the medical service of Air France (contacts communicated by the SAPHIR Service).

ANIMAL

Guide dogs and Service dogs: Air France transports guide dogs for free in the cabin. The conditions for acceptance and transport are:

  • It must comply with all the health requirements of the countries of departure, arrival and/or correspondence
  • It must be identified by a plate or harness. If not, the passenger must be able to confirm its function
  • It may travel not muzzled but must remain permanently attached
  • It must not obstruct the aisles or disturb the service
  • Its behaviour must be irreproachable in all circumstances

A seat with as much space as possible is offered, but the dog cannot occupy a seat Emergency exits are prohibited.

On flights more than 8 hours long, proof of the measures taken in the field of hygiene (in particular for satisfying the animal’s natural needs) may be requested. If the animal cannot behave properly in public and no means of protection has been provided, the transport in the cabin may be refused.

As of March 1, 2021, in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s revision of the Air Carrier Access Act, only psychiatric service dogs (psychiatric SVANs) are allowed onboard.

These dogs must be trained and educated to perform their duties for the benefit of persons with disabilities by a training organization or trainer. To verify that all acceptance criteria are met, a new reference form is available on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulatory portal or on the AF website.

A request for service animal transportation must be submitted at least 48 hours prior to departure via email with the following documents:

  • Completed and signed application form
  • A copy of the pet’s passport page with information on breed, weight and size
  • For scheduled flights that last 8 hours or more, a veterinary certificate stating that the dog will not have to relieve itself during the flight, or a list of items (eg diapers, medications) that the customer will take on board to avoid any hygiene problems in the cabin

SPECIAL BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE

In addition to the baggage allowance associated with their ticket, PRM passengers may carry the following free of charge in the hold

  • two personal mobility devices (electric scooter, gyro scooter, etc)
  • one additional piece of luggage, with a maximum weight identical to that of the allowance indicated on their ticket, to transport their medical equipment.

Luggage is taken care of at check in a specific label is affixed to it to facilitate identification.

The cabin baggage policy is the same as for any other passenger.

ADAPTATED FACILITIES

PRM passengers benefit from specific equipment and services onboard:

  • Adapted seats with lift up armrests
  • Easy on board moves provision of a transfer chair for travel during the flight
  • Adapted toilets
  • Possibility to keep foldable manual chair in the cabin, subject to specific conditions
  • Development of an area dedicated to first aid (first aid box, satellite communication system)
  • Provision of a leaflet detailing safety instructions in Braille (in French and English)
  • On long haul flights, the demonstration of safety instructions is done only with a video broadcast on the inflight entertainment screens, subtitled in French and English

TRAINED CREW

The 16 000 Air France hostesses and stewards are trained in the reception of PRM customers. 1000 of them were granted the status of “PRM Client Referrals” after a complete training They are vectors of a change of look and attitude towards costumers and the guarantee of a suitable treatment onboard. In addition, some staff (about 30 in 2015) practice French Sign Language. SF qualified commercial agents and crew members wear a pin in order to be distinguished.

ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT

The inflight entertainment system has subtitled programs for the hearing impaired or “Audio Description” programmes for the blind and visually impaired.

MEALS

Air France offers the possibility of ordering adapted meals for specific diets. On most flights over 2 ½ hours, the customer can order a specific menu. The request has to be made at the booking time, or at the latest 48 hours before the departure.

PREVENT WHEELCHAIRS BREAKAGES

In order to prevent the risk of breakage during handling of personal wheelchairs for passengers with disabilities, Air France has introduced five tags that can be printed by passengers at home. They summarise the proper handling of wheelchairs by identifying the lifting points and the fragile points of the wheelchairs (in green where it is advisable
to hold the wheelchair, in red the parts not to be touched). These are available to customers on the Air France website. In order to better prepare their trip, each customer can print, in A 4 format, the tag corresponding to the type of wheelchair they own, then insert it into a pouch available at the airport. This tag will then be able to accompany
them on all their travels without needing to be changed.

Company Details

Air France