Air France will significantly scale back its domestic network in a bid to cut costs and reach environmental goals required by its bailout deal. The changes will mean that the airline’s domestic network out of Paris Orly Airport will shrink drastically, with routes to cities like Lyon and Bourdeaux canceled and replaced by train services. Here’s more on these changes.
Air France has been offering a Flight + Train service for some years now, connecting several destinations to its hubs in Paris. However, the airline’s €7bn ($8.3bn) bailout package last year requires it to take steps to reduce its environmental footprint further, starting with cutting domestic connections.
Under the bailout conditions, Air France cannot compete with the high-speed TGV trains on routes under 2.5 hours. This means routes like Paris Orly to Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, and more have been axed. However, connecting flights through Paris CDG are still allowed under the rules, keeping some services in the air.
While the decision might be mandated by the bailout loan, Air France doesn’t see it as completely negative. The airline operated its domestic network at a loss of €200mn ($238mn) in 2019, finding it hard to compete with the cheaper and efficient rail network.
Speaking at CAPA Live this week, Air France CEO Anne Rigail spoke about why the decision to pull routes was much needed,
“About the restructuring of the French domestic market, it was totally necessary due to the big losses that we had even before the crisis. And of course, with the crisis, it’s all the more urgent to restructure this network…[To do this] We are developing intermodality with the railway company SNCF. We have stopped all loss making routes that were departing from Orly on point-to-point domestic French routes.”
While the mainline carrier Air France is axing several routes, its subsidiaries are making changes too. Air France HOP!, the regional arm of the carrier, will focus on creating a European hub from Charles de Gaulle and a domestic hub from Lyon.
Meanwhile, low-cost subsidiary Transavia will continue to develop in the French domestic market, competing with other low-cost airlines that have expanded in the last two years. This ensures that Air France continues to have its foot in the door in the domestic market.
The pandemic spurred many changes to the European aviation market, with airlines and government both setting priorities. For Air France, the pandemic has given it the opportunity to ax loss-making domestic routes, allowing it to return to profitability in the future.
This comes with the benefit of significantly reducing emissions in the future since trains are much more environment-friendly. Considering the threat of climate changes, governments are moving quickly to reduce emissions where possible, with the aviation industry being a significant polluter.
What do you think about Air France’s decision to cut flights? Would you rather take a train? Let us know in the comments!