Article intéressant, mais seulement dispo en Anglais
Low-cost carriers step up French invasion
EasyJet's decision to open two more French bases at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lyon is the latest sign that low-cost carriers are ready and willing to make a serious push into an airline market that offers significant potential, but has traditionally erected high barriers to entry.
The UK budget operator launched its CDG base earlier this month and will open its base at Lyon Saint-Exupery airport in April. This is in addition to the base it already has at Paris Orly, where the carrier has stationed six aircraft.
EasyJet regional general manager for France and Benelux, François Bacchetta, says there is plenty of potential for low-cost carrier development in France, despite the fact that "the cost of landing at French airports is the highest in Europe" and there is strong rail competition from the TGV. "The penetration of low-cost carriers in France is half the European average," says Bacchetta. "There is big potential and less competition so now is the right time."
Air France has a 60% market share in France by capacity while easyJet is "at number two with just under 6%", according to Bacchetta. "We have to pioneer the market - it's all about market stimulation." He adds that easyJet plans to increase its passenger numbers at French airports to 10 million by 2010 and base between 10 and 15 aircraft in the country. The airline carried 6.5 million passengers in this market in 2007 and aims to carry 8 million this year. This growth will be achieved using its Paris Orly, CDG and Lyon bases, but "if opportunities for new bases arise in the future we will take them". EasyJet operates several domestic services in France, and Bacchetta says flights from Paris Orly to Nice and Toulouse "perform well because we're the only alternative to Air France".
Another UK carrier that has been rapidly expanding in France is regional low-cost operator Flybe, which over the last year has increased the number of weekly departures from CDG from 19 to 91 (see charts of Charles de Gaulle and Lyon departures). Flybe chief commercial officer Mike Rutter says the carrier has "more routes to France than any other carrier from the UK", and is looking at further growth, with Lyon being "a very attractive area". Flybe had been planning to establish a number of bases in France from which to set up a French domestic operation, but these plans were put on ice when the carrier acquired BA Connect.
However, this is still a possibility for the future: "The French market is still very attractivewe are still very interested in a domestic operation and we will watch with interest the success that easyJet will have in opening the market up to low-cost carriers," says Rutter.
Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling last year opened a base at CDG, its first outside Spain, and its weekly departures from the airport have grown over the last year from 56 to 98. Unveiling the decision last March, former Vueling chief executive Carlos Muñoz said the carrier had chosen CDG because "it delivers the best traffic stimulation chance in Europe as fares are still very high in the Paris region".
Irish budget carrier Ryanair has also being spreading its wings in France since opening its first French base at Marseille in 2006. Marseille also has seen a trebling of weekly departures over the last year from Moroccan low-fare operator Atlas Blue.
Barriers to entry still remain high in France, according to Rutter, and Air France "is very comfortable in using the power that their dominance gives them". However, things are starting to improve with a growing number of French airports opening dedicated low-cost terminals, and a new government which has a more positive view of low-cost carriers, says Bacchetta: "The new Sarkozy administration is much more business friendly and low-cost carrier friendly. We're heading in the right direction."