easyJet and Ryanair increasingly challenging Air France on regional domestic service in France
The French domestic market is dominated by flights to and from Paris’ two major airports; Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY). Last year, according to figures from Aéroport de Paris, domestic traffic at these two airports was up 7.2% and accounted for 18.9% of total passengers. Since around 2004, seat capacity in the French domestic market has been relatively stable. Prior to that, the existence of Air Littoral and Air Liberte/Air Lib had provided some competition to Air France. However, once these airlines ceased operating, Air France had a virtual monopoly on the domestic market with CCM Airlines/Air Corsica (in which Air France has a small stake) focusing on routes to Corsica.
easyJet entered the French domestic market in 2002 with several routes from its bases at Paris CDG and Orly, while Ryanair did not operate any French domestic routes until 2008.
LCCs having impact on regional domestic routes
The first attempt by Europe’s major LCCs to break into the French regional domestic market (routes that do not involve Paris) was not until the summer of 2008 when easyJet began double-daily flights from its Lyon base to Bordeaux and Toulouse, which were both annual markets of around 250,000 (Air France) passengers.
Despite opening a base in Marseille in November 2006, it was a further two years before Ryanair began domestic flights, to Brest and Lille. This helped to propel the Marseille – Lille route from tenth (in 2007) to third (in 2009). Of the top 12 regional domestic routes in 2011, the only ones not to have been stimulated by LCC activity were the Corsican routes to Ajaccio and Bastia from Marseille and Nice, and Marseille to Bordeaux.
Vueling joins easyJet and Ryanair in 2011
During 2011, Europe’s fourth biggest LCC Vueling launched its first French regional domestic routes from its mini-base in Toulouse to Nice (in April) and Lille (in October). The Toulouse – Nice service will end shortly, but easyJet will commence daily flights against Air France on the route at the start of the summer season. By also starting Toulouse – Lille flights this summer, easyJet will be competing directly with Vueling and Air France. At the same time, easyJet will introduce four domestic routes from Nice, all of which will compete directly with Air France. Although Marseille is no longer a designated base for Ryanair, it is still planning to launch daily flights between Marseille and Bordeaux from the start of the summer season, representing the first time that this city pair has been served by a major LCC.
The following is a chronological listing of all the regional domestic routes started by major LCCs in France and the current competition provided on the route.
|Launch date||Route||Airline (WF1)||Competition (WF2)|
|4 April 2008||Lyon – Bordeaux||easyJet (12)||Air France (30)|
|2 May 2008||Lyon – Toulouse||easyJet (14)||Air France (36)|
|7 June 2008||Lyon – Biarritz||easyJet (2)*||Air France (19)|
|27 October 2008||Marseille – Brest||Ryanair (4)||Air France (7)|
|28 October 2008||Marseille – Lille||Ryanair (7)||Air France (18)|
|12 December 2008||Lyon – Bastia||easyJet (2)||–|
|30 March 2009||Marseille – Biarritz||Ryanair (3)*||Air France (3)|
|30 March 2009||Marseille – Nantes||Ryanair (7)||Air France (24)|
|31 March 2009||Marseille – Tours||Ryanair (3)||–|
|2 November 2009||Lyon – Nantes||easyJet (7)||Air France (37)|
|4 November 2010||Lyon – Nice||easyJet (4)||Air France (21)|
|5 November 2010||Lyon – Brest||easyJet (4)||Air France (19)|
|27 March 2011||Toulouse – Nantes||easyJet (5)||Air France (18), Airlinair (9)|
|23 April 2011||Toulouse – Nice||Vueling (4)*||Air France (18), easyJet (7)|
|3 October 2011||Toulouse – Lille||Vueling (6)||Air France (18), easyJet (4)|
|25 March 2012||Marseille – Bordeaux||Ryanair (7)||Air France (24)|
|26 March 2012||Toulouse – Lille||easyJet (3)||Air France (18), Vueling (6)|
|26 March 2012||Nice – Toulouse||easyJet (7)||Air France (18)|
|30 March 2012||Nice – Bordeaux||easyJet (4)||Air France (14)|
|30 March 2012||Nice – Lille||easyJet (4)||Air France (9)|
|30 March 2012||Nice – Nantes||easyJet (5)||Air France (10)|
|7 April 2012||Lyon – Ajaccio||easyJet (2)||Air Corsica (3)|
|Source: anna.aero new route database. Competitor information for w/c 4 June 2012. WF1: weekly frequency when launched. WF2: weekly frequency for w/c 4 June 2012.
*Not operated in w/c 4 June 2012.
It is also worth noting some niche carriers that have identified opportunities in the French regional domestic market. In 2010, UK regional carrier Eastern Airways launched flights from Dijon and currently serves Nantes and Toulouse with Jetstream 41s, while Chalair, which operates Beech 1900s, has introduced flights between Lille and Brest, as well as Lyon and Le Havre.