French airport growth driven by LCCs; domestic demand still falling though LCCs stimulating inter-regional routes

Image: Ryanair
LCCs continue to make up over 95% of all passenger traffic at Paris Beauvais. The same trend can be seen at Bergerac, Carcassone, Dinard and Nimes.

In 2008 a total of 15 airports in France handled more than one million passengers. This is one more than in 2007 with Biarritz the latest airline to reach the landmark. Analysis of the 35 airports that handled at least 200,000 passengers in 2008 reveals that passenger numbers were up 1.5% from 144.4 million to 146.5 million. However, traffic at these airports travelling on low-cost carriers increased by 14.4%. The two main airports serving Paris, Orly and CDG, handled 87.1 million passengers, up just 0.8% on 2007.

Chart: Top 15 French Airports

Nine of the top 15 airports have reported growth in passenger numbers. Lyon and Paris Beauvais both benefited from continued growth by low-cost carriers. At Lyon this was primarily thanks to easyJet while at Beauvais the main stimulus came from Ryanair. Strasbourg’s dramatic drop in passenger numbers is related to the on-going impact of the TGV Est services linking Paris with Strasbourg which began in June 2007. As a result air traffic between Strasbourg and Paris which generated just over one million passengers in 2006 fell to just over 438,000 passengers in 2008, a decrease of over 55%.

Paris airports report varying growth across markets

Data from Aeroports de Paris’ monthly traffic reports reveals that while total traffic was up just under 1% for the year, the performance of different geographic markets varied significantly across the year.

Chart: Traffic Growth
Source: ADP

Monthly year-on-year traffic comparison can be misleading in France as over the last two years there have been a number of periods of labour unrest resulting in cancelled flights. For example, in November 2008 there were strikes for four days which impacted air travel in the country.

Domestic traffic continued to be impacted by improved TGV services and was down almost 4% for the year with nearly all months showing a noticeable decline. International traffic to other European destinations was up in the first half of 2008 and down in the second half resulting in an overall increase of just 1%. Markets reporting significant growth in 2008 were lead by Africa (+4.2%), the Americas (+4.0%) and Asia-Pacific and the Middle East (+3.2%).

Image: Route Launch
At the end of October Ryanair launched a domestic route between its base at Marseille and Lille. By December traffic on this route was up over 100% – qualifying as one of the top ten domestic inter-regional routes for 2008.

Demand up by two million; LCC traffic up three million

Figures published by the association of French airports reveal that while total traffic at the largest French airports (including those in Corsica) was up by 2.1 million passengers, the number of passengers on LCCs increased by 3.2 million. This indicates that the number of passengers on non-LCCs actually fell by 1.1 million.

The airports with the biggest growth in LCC traffic were Paris Orly (+895,000), Lyon (+580,000), Paris CDG (+348,000) and Paris Beauvais (+329,000). At five French airports LCCs continue to account for over 95% of all passenger traffic. These airports are at Bergerac, Carcassone, Dinard, Nimes and Paris Beauvais.

easyJet stimulates inter-regional domestic routes from Lyon

In the French domestic market the most interesting development in 2008 was the launch of domestic flights by easyJet from Lyon to Bordeaux (on 4 April) and Toulouse (on 2 May). These two routes were already among the busiest inter-regional domestic routes in France.

Chart: Inter Regional
Source: Various airport reports

During some months easyJet’s entry into the market grew the traffic by up to 70% on the Bordeaux route and by up to 60% on the Toulouse route. At the end of October Ryanair also launched a domestic route between its base at Marseille and Lille. In November traffic on this route was immediately up 83% and up over 100% in December. This was enough to promote the route into the top 10 of domestic inter-regional routes for 2008.

Tarbes/Lourdes saw 50% growth in 2008

Among the smaller French airports Tarbes/Lourdes airport saw the biggest jump in traffic with passenger numbers up 52.8% in 2008 to 678,897. This was driven by a 64% growth in international traffic to 567,492. The majority of this growth came from increased charter traffic bringing Catholic pilgrims to nearby Lourdes, which last year celebrated the 150th anniversary of the apparitions that made the town famous.


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