Air France dominates domestic routes from regions; international markets mostly served by foreign carriers

Map: French Routes
Air France’s presence at French regional airports is limited primarily to domestic operations, which are dominated by services to Paris. The airline’s network strategy is focused on treating Paris as a hub, especially for feeding domestic passengers onto international flights. Of the 15 busiest French airports outside Paris, 12 have at least 55% of their capacity allocated to domestic routes, while nine have 40% or more of seats flying to just one destination, Paris.

Air France’s network strategy is focused on treating Paris as a hub, especially for feeding domestic passengers onto international flights. As a result the airline’s presence at French regional airports (those outside of Paris) is limited primarily to domestic operations dominated by services to Paris. Examining the markets served and carriers at the 15 busiest French airports outside of Paris (from Nice with 10.4 million passengers in 2007 to Pau with 760,000) reveals some startling results.

With over 86 million passengers between them, Paris CDG and Orly accounted for almost 60% of all French airport traffic in 2007, a percentage that has remained virtually unchanged this decade. However, last year French regional airport traffic grew by 5.6%, one percentage point higher than ADP achieved at its two airports.

Domestic routes dominate, especially to Paris

Of the 15 airports examined 12 have at least 55% of their capacity allocated to domestic routes, while nine of these have 40% or more of seats flying to just one destination, Paris.

Chart: Market segment of French regional airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008

The smaller the airport the more dominant domestic flying becomes. Only the top three of Nice, Lyon and Marseille have at least half of all capacity flying to and from foreign destinations. Ajaccio and Bastia on the island of Corsica have less than 10% of scheduled capacity operating to non-French destinations. Lille, which is only around 200 kilometres from Paris, is the only one of these larger regional airports not to have direct flights to Paris.

In recent years the TGV has diverted some domestic passengers travelling to/from Paris from air to rail, but even Strasbourg, which has recently seen traffic fall on the Paris route by 50%, still has nearly 40% of its route capacity serving the capital. With Air France having over 90% of the French domestic market this results in the airline having a major presence at these airports. At 13 of the 15 airports, Air France’s market share is over 50% peaking in Strasbourg at 86%. Only at Nice (28%) and Marseille (34%) does Air France have less than half of all capacity.

easyJet and Ryanair beat Air France for international traffic

Image: easyJet CEO Andy Harrison and Luc Chatel inaugurate the easyJet base at CDG in February 2008
easyJet CEO Andy Harrison and Luc Chatel, French Minister for Tourism, inaugurate the easyJet base at CDG in February.

An analysis of the scheduled international services at these regional airports presents a very different picture. Weekly one-way seat capacity on international flights ranges from 104,838 at Nice to just 1,562 at Bastia. Air France has no scheduled international flights from six of the 15 airports examined and only at Lyon and Strasbourg does its market share exceed 10%.

Chart: International routes at French airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008

Conversely, easyJet has at least a 15% share of international capacity at eight airports while Ryanair has at least a 40% share at six airports. At Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Toulouse there is a broad mix of foreign airlines from flag-carriers (British Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa, SAS) to LCCs (Aer Lingus, bmibaby, jet2.com, MyAir, Norwegian, Sterling).

At the smaller regional airports additional international flights are provided by the following:

Airport Airlines operating international routes
Nantes Aer Arann, Air Transat, Atlas Blue, Iberia, Royal Air Maroc and Tunis Air
Montpellier Air Algerie, Iberia, Sterling, Transavia
Strasbourg Czech Airlines, Iberia, Royal Air Maroc, Tunis Air, Turkish Airlines
Lille Aigle Azur, Air Algerie, Atlas Blue, Centralwings, Royal Air Maroc
Toulon Air One, Jetairfly, Transavia
Brest Aer Arann, Flybe
Ajaccio Luxair, Transavia
Bastia Germanwings, Intersky, Jetairfly, Lufthansa, Luxair
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008

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