France’s Corsair Receives European Approval For €130m In Aid

Many airlines have turned to government aid in order to financially support themselves this year. This is a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic greatly reducing their primary revenue source, passenger traffic. Earlier this week, the European Commission granted French carrier Corsair a two-part aid package totaling over €130 million ($157 million).

Corsair, Boeing 747, Aircraft Graveyard
Corsair no longer operates the Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

A challenging year

As 2020 draws to a close, we are all too aware of what a difficult year it has been for commercial aviation. French leisure airline Corsair is no exception to this challenging trend. Before the pandemic, it planned to retire its three remaining Boeing 747 aircraft in 2021. It also had big plans for 2020, with a new route from Paris Orly to Newark scheduled for June.

However, the impacts of the current crisis forced the former TUI subsidiary to prematurely retire its last 747s with immediate effect in April. The Orly-based carrier had been the last French airline to operate the ‘Queen of the skies.’ In June, the last of these three majestic aircraft flew from Paris to Kemble, UK for dismantling. Many 747s have flown there for storage since the crisis began.

Corsair Airbus A330 Paris Orly Getty
Corsair’s fleet currently consists of five Airbus A330ceo aircraft. These are set to be joined next year by a further five next-generation ‘neo’ variants. Photo: Getty Images

However, the picture has recently begun to improve for Corsair. For example, last week, it received €300 million ($363 million) as the TUI Group sold its stake in the airline. It is also an exciting time for the carrier in terms of its fleet development. In October, the first of five Airbus A330neo aircraft ordered by the airline took its maiden test flight in Toulouse, France.

Financial aid from the European Commission

In light of Corsair’s financial difficulties this year, the European Commission has granted the airline a two-part aid package. This consists firstly of €106.7 million ($129.2 million) of restructuring aid for the carrier. Regarding this aspect, the Commission’s Executive Vice-President, Margrethe Vestager, stated the following in a press release seen by Simple Flying:

“[It] will allow Corsair to partially finance the restructuring plan that should bring the company back to viability and will help avoid disruptions for passengers in the outermost territories of the European Union.”

The second aspect of the Commission’s aid package for Corsair is compensation totaling €30.2 million ($36.6 million). The Commission’s press release on the matter reports that:

“[The remaining €30.2 million] aims to compensate the company for damage suffered due to emergency measures put in place by governments in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.”

Corsair Boeing 747 TUI Livery
F-HSEA, one of Corsair’s Boeing 747 aircraft, in an older livery that reflects TUI’s former stake in the airline. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

The €106.7 million restructuring package itself consists of multiple components. These are:

  • €21.9 million ($26.5 million) of tax deferrals
  • €4.8 million ($5.8 million) of tax credit
  • €18 million ($21.8 million) of soft loan
  • €62 million ($75.1 million) of participating loan

A small airline with a long-range focus

According to Planespotters.net, Corsair’s fleet currently consists of just five Airbus A330s. As reported earlier, these are to be joined by a further five ‘neo’ variants. One can subdivide Corsair’s existing airliners into one A330-200 (21.5 years old) and four A330-300 (average age of 9.5 years) aircraft.

According to SeatMaestro, these have a high-density 3-3-3 seating configuration in economy class. This represents an extra seat per row compared to the 2-4-2 norm for such aircraft.

Corsair Boeing 747-300 Paris Orly
Historically, Corsair has operated every variant of the Boeing 747 apart from the most recent -8 variant. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Despite its small size, Corsair serves various (largely French-speaking) long-haul leisure destinations from its base at Paris Orly. These range from Caribbean islands, including Saint Lucia and Saint Martin, to North American cities such as Montréal and New York.

Have you ever flown with Corsair? What do you make of the European Commission’s aid package for the airline? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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