Air France launches Marseille offensive with 13 new routes

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, CEO Air France-KLM (right) is presented with the key, presumably to the new Air France base, from Hugues Heddebault, Regional Director Air France Méditerranée and Jean-François Brando, President Aéroport Marseille Provence. The names of the new destination airports are projected onto historical and contemporary Air France aircraft on the tarmac.

In the week that easyJet announced the creation of two new French bases at Nice and Toulouse, Air France began operating its new “decentralised” network from Marseille Provence Airport on Sunday 2 October. Around two-thirds of all seats were filled on the new flights on the first day of operation. Since first revealing the planned network in mid-July, Air France has made a slight alteration on the Milan Malpensa route. Instead of being served twice-daily with its own narrowbody Airbus fleet, the route will now be served twice daily using Airlinair’s smaller ATR 72s.

13 new destinations in addition to existing 12

Air France already operates non-stop to 12 airports from Marseille (nine domestic and three international – Algiers, Rome and Tunis). The 13 new routes are split between three domestic (assuming you count Basel-Mulhouse as French rather than Swiss) and 10 domestic routes and will generate 63 weekly departures.

Weekly frequency Destination Competition in S11 (WF)
14 Milan Malpensa (MXP)
7 Brest (BES), Düsseldorf (DUS), Basel-Mulhouse (BSL/MLH) Ryanair to BES (7), germanwings to CGN (3)
4 Athens (ATH), Casablanca (CMN), Istanbul (IST), Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) jet4you to CMN (4), Royal Air Maroc to CMN (12), Pegasus to SAW (4)
3 Beirut (BEY), Eindhoven (EIN) Ryanair to EIN (4)
2 Biarritz (BIQ), Copenhagen (CPH), Prague (PRG) Czech Airlines to PRG (4)
Source: Marseille Airport, OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2011

Air France’s new routes include four that will be served at least daily with Milan Malpensa even served twice-daily. Year-round direct competition is limited to the Casablanca and Prague routes as Ryanair only operates Brest and Eindhoven as summer seasonal routes.

The full line up: François Calmef, Head of Aircrew Air France, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon: CEO Air France-KLM, Jean-François Brando, President Aéroport Marseille Provence, Thierry Brunel, Head of Air France Marseille Provence, Hugues Heddebault, Regional Director Air France Méditerranée, Laurent Lamulle, Chief Pilot, Air France. Later on, over 1,000 people attended the base launch reception.

Air France looking to regain market share

Having stated that it intends to “regain market share in a highly competitive context”, it is interesting to see how Air France has performed in Marseille over the last 11 years.

Marseille airport 2000-2010 Annual passengers by airline (millions)

Source: Marseille Airport

Air France’s passenger numbers fell from around three million to 2.7 million in 2002, and remained almost unchanged for the next six years, before falling in 2009 and 2010. Ryanair arrived at the airport in early 2006 (from Glasgow Prestwick) before establishing a base at the airport in November 2006. The airline rapidly established itself as the second biggest player at the airport. However, a difference in interpretation regarding EU employment law resulted in Ryanair removing its based aircraft from the airport earlier this year, although for this summer’s peak season it has brought back two aircraft enabling it to serve over 20 destinations from Marseille. The based aircraft enable the carrier to operate seasonal services to five destinations in Morocco and four domestic points in France.

What they said

According to the airline’s official press release: “With this new project involving all its employees in France, Europe and the Mediterranean, Air France intends to initiate a virtuous circle that will enable its medium-haul operations to regain profitable growth, the foundation of the Air France-KLM group’s strategy, while offering customers attractive fares and ensuring long-term employment. Air France will thus be offering very attractive one-way fares starting from €50 including tax!”


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