Air France To Cut Short Haul Capacity By 15%

Blaming intense competition from high-speed rail and low-cost airlines, Air France has announced it will be cutting its short-haul capacity by 15%. Up to 465 jobs could be lost after Air France revealed it would be cutting back on the number of domestic flights it currently offers.

Air-France-Airbus A321
Air France Airbus A321. Photo: Air France

Why layoffs?

The national flag carrier admitted that it was overstaffed in the ground operations of its short-haul sector, and that the cuts would come from voluntary redundancies between now and the end of 2021.

Air France To Cut Short Haul Capacity By 15%
Air France check-in. Photo:Air France

When speaking about the cuts in Monday’s press release, Air France CEO, Anne Rigail, pointed out that it was not all doom and gloom for the airline, saying,

“Many new talented staff – pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and engineers – will join us in 2019 to support Air France’s growth.”

When mentioning the expected job losses, Rigail looked to curtail employees fears by adding,

“We also have the responsibility to guarantee an even balance of our activities in certain sectors to secure their long-term viability. This is the idea behind the project presented for the short-haul sector today. We will conduct the consultation process with our labour groups as part of open and transparent dialogue, and we are committed to supporting all staff who wish to move to a new position or develop their career.”

Why Air France need to scale back domestically

While Air France has been striving for years to ensure that they adapt to current market conditions they have faced fierce competition from low-cost carriers that don’t play by the same rules.

Air France To Cut Short Haul Capacity By 15%
3 Ryanair Boeing 737-800’s on the apron. Photo: Ryanair

Air France’s financial situation operating domestic flights has also deteriorated, with the company posting a 189€ million loss in 2018.

High-speed TGV train routes are the main reason that passenger numbers are down, with the airline losing a significant amount of its market share on routes that connect Paris to the provinces in two hours or less.

The other reason for the layoffs is that airlines like Ryanair and easyJet can offer lower fares than Air France, due to their low operating costs. Unlike Air France who has to stick to France’s stringent labour laws, the budget airlines take advantage of European mobility by basing their employees in countries that have lower labour costs.

CEO of parent company Air France-KLM Group Benjamin Smith tried to put a brave face on the downsizing saying in the companies press release,

“The French domestic network is intricately linked to the history of Air France. It guarantees its regional base and connects the French regions to the rest of the world by offering several thousand daily connection opportunities. In a highly competitive marketplace, we are all fully engaged in defending a domestic market that is vital for Air France and also more globally for the Air France-KLM Group.”

Trains will continue to take away market share on short European flights

There is no getting away from the fact that it is now faster and more convenient to get between European cities by train than it is to fly. The train also has the advantage of taking you from city centre to city centre, rather than to an airport that can often be well outside the city. Add to this the stringent security involved in flying and the time spent at the airport and the train wins hands down on journeys of less than two hours.

Air France To Cut Short Haul Capacity By 15%
French TGV train. Photo: SNCF

A simple example to prove the point is getting between Paris and Brussels. If you take one of the frequent direct trains from Paris’ Gare du Nord to Brussels-Midi you will get there in just under an hour and a half. The same journey flying from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport to Brussels- Zaventem takes five hours when you add in time spent waiting airside for the flight.