Is Air France’s regional hub strategy in trouble?

Henri de Peyrelongue, Senior VP Network for Air France KLM, spoke at length about Air France's new regional bases during FrenchConnect at DisneyLand Paris earlier this year.

Henri de Peyrelongue, SVP Network for Air France KLM, spoke at length about Air France's new regional bases during FrenchConnect at Disneyland Paris earlier this year. The Marseille 'hub' opened last October and has already seen nine routes axed, while the Toulouse 'hub' has lost four of its new routes for this winter, indicating that the airline is not tolerating routes that fail to perform adequately from the start. (Photo courtesy of FrenchConnect)

Last year, Air France announced that it planned to fight back against low-cost carriers at some of France’s biggest regional airports, by creating regional ‘hubs’ and greatly increasing the number of international destinations served non-stop. The first airport to benefit was Marseille from where several new services were launched from 2 October with several more starting this March. However, recent schedule updates indicate that an alarmingly high proportion of these routes have either already been axed, or will cease to operate before the start of the winter season. A summary of the new routes from Marseille and what has happened is provided in the following table.

Launch date Route W11 S12 W12 Comments
2 October 2011 Athens (ATH) 4 4 2 Frequency reduced by 50% for W12
2 October 2011 Basel/Mulhouse (BSL) 7 3 Last flight 30 July 2012
2 October 2011 Beirut (BEY) 3 3 Last flight 2 September 2012
2 October 2011 Biarritz (BIQ) 2 3 3
2 October 2011 Brest (BES) 7 7 Last flight 27 October 2012
2 October 2011 Casablanca (CMN) 4 4 3
2 October 2011 Copenhagen (CPH) 2 3 Last flight 27 October 2012
2 October 2011 Düsseldorf (DUS) 7 3 Last flight 1 September 2012
2 October 2011 Istanbul (IST) 4 4 Last flight 27 October 2012
2 October 2011 Moscow (SVO) 4 4 4
2 October 2011 Milan (MXP) 12 12 12
4 October 2011 Eindhoven (EIN) 3 Last flight 2 February 2012
5 October 2011 Prague (PRG) 2 3 2
25 March 2012 Barcelona (BCN) 2 Last flight 2 September 2012
25 March 2012 Hamburg (HAM) 4 Last flight 1 July 2012
25 March 2012 Marrakech (RAK) 3 3
25 March 2012 Venice (VCE) 5 5
8 June 2012 Berlin Tegel (TXL) 2 2 Only been operating for a few weeks
3 September 2012 Tel Aviv (TLV) 3 2 Not yet started
Source: new route database, Innovata

Of the 17 new routes launched between last October and the start of the summer season, nine are not operating this winter, suggesting that over half of the new routes have failed to produce satisfactory financial results fast enough. On only four of the nine routes dropped did Air France face direct competition; Norwegian to Copenhagen, Ryanair to Brest and Eindhoven, and Vueling to Barcelona.

Signs of trouble in Toulouse as well?

Following the launch of the Marseille ‘hub’ last October, Air France then announced plans to launch 16 new international routes from Toulouse starting on 1 April. Two of these routes (five weekly services to Brussels and Geneva) were never launched. The Brussels route was already served by Brussels Airlines and also easyJet (since the end of March 2012), while Geneva was and still is served by easyJet.

Recent schedule updates indicate that so far a further four routes will not operate this winter. Athens, Berlin, Malaga and Vienna flights will end at the end of the current summer season, though Athens and Malaga may just be seasonal cancellations and could return next summer. That leaves just 10 routes that Air France will operate from Toulouse this winter for the first time; Seville and Tunis both with four weekly flights; Casablanca, Hamburg and Venice with three weekly flights; and Istanbul, Malta, Marrakech, Naples and Prague each with just two weekly flights. As always, further changes remain possible in the coming months.


  1. Postanote says:

    MRS, TLS and now NCE are not hubs but bases, as connections are not a priority.
    The good point is that AF is as reactive as its competitors: either the route performs or it is closed immediately. Thus regarding air transport not from a customer’s eye (is there demand on the route) but as a cashbox, ignoring if they respond or not to customer wish.
    However I feel that this should have been started long ago, as soon as low-costs (namely easyJet) came stepping in, possibly using their regional subsidiaries Regional, Britair, Airlinair and CityJet, (with much lower costs than the mother company) to counter-attack EZY.
    Is it not already too late?

  2. Dwight says:

    MRS, TLS and now NCE are focus cities.

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