Air France Pope-plane

The Pope has popped over to France to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Bernadette’s vision of the Virgin Mary.

Lots of folks are pretty excited about this trip, including the folks at Air France. That’s because on Saturday and Monday (September 13th and 15th, 2008) Air France will be transporting Pope Benedict XVI to Lourdes and then flying him home to Rome.

For the event, the airline has rearranged an Airbus A321 with 3 cabins for the Pope, his delegation, and the more than 70 journalists going along for the ride.

Air France says the crew – two pilots and eight flight attendants – will change on each flight, so that the largest number of staff will get to travel with the Pope.

Here’s the itinerary: on Saturday September 13th, the aircraft will take off from Paris-Orly at 4:30 pm and land at Lourdes-Tarbes at 5:50 pm. On Monday September 15th, the aircraft will depart from Lourdes at 1 pm to reach Rome-Ciampino 1 hour and 50 minutes later.

This isn’t the first time a Pope has flown on Air France: Jean Paul II took two flights on an Air France Airbus A310. In September 1996, he travelled from Reims to Rome, after commemorating the 1,500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis, and from Paris to Rome in August 1997, after the World Youth Day held in France.