Air France to give free plane tickets to those restoring Notre Dame

An Air France Airbus A380 en route to Paris from the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan was forced to return after it blew an engine. . AFP/Daniel SLIM

An Air France Airbus A380 en route to Paris from the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan was forced to return after it blew an engine. . AFP/Daniel SLIM

The offer follows experts saying it could take as much as 20 years to repair the damage.

Plans for reconstruction are already taking shape for Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire engulfed it on Monday. Now Air France has said it will offer all those officially engaged in the reconstruction free flights to Paris.

“All Air France and Air France-KLM teams around the world have been deeply affected and saddened since [Monday],” the airline said in a statement. “Air France will provide free transport for all official partners involved in the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.”

Stephane Bern, the presidential cultural heritage envoy, told France Info that about €880 million (about R13.93-billion) had been raised as of Wednesday evening for the refurbishment, with French President Emmanuel Macron adding that the restoration of the building will take just five years.

“We have so much to reconstruct,” Macron said in a statement. “So yes, we will rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame more beautifully. And I would like it to be achieved in five years from now. We can do it. And we will mobilize.”

Experts have however disagreed with the president’s timeline, saying it will likely take about two decades to complete.

“This will be the largest, most important cultural renovation project in France for some time to come,” Emily Guerry, a professor of medieval history at England’s University of Kent, told NBC. She noted the process will be “very delicate.”

Jean-Claude Bellanger, secretary-general of Les Compagnons du Devoir, an organization that provides training in manual trades, told Le Parisian that hundreds of experts will be needed to make the repairs on the cathedral.

“We need to open some 100 places in our carpentry, stone-cutting and roofing sections,” he said, meaning Air France could be offering free flights until roughly 2040.

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