Air Littoral in liquidation
PARIS, Feb 17 (AFP) - A somber market for commercial air traffic claimed another victim Tuesday when a commercial court ordered the liquidation of a third regional airline, Air Littoral.
The liquidation follows that of two other regional French carriers, Air Lib on February 17, 2003, and Aeris on November 7, and reflects the damage done by the SARS epidemic, the war in Iraq and global economic sluggishness.
Overall, air traffic declined in France last year, with a 0.5 percent slump in passengers to 99.5 million from 2002. Traffic is also down 2.2 percent from its 2000 level of 101.8 million passengers.
Didier Brechemier, a transportation specialist at the consulting firm Syntegra, said secondary or regional companies have tended to concentrate on southern France, where they have faced fierce competition since June 2001 from high-speed train service in the Mediterranean region.
They have also been hurt by competition from low-budget carriers that force their rivals into cutting operating expenses.
The British no-frills company easyJet was the second leading carrier in France last year, eclipsing even British Airways. Ireland’s Ryanair surpassed Lufthansa, which had occupied a fourth-place position in France.
But industry analysts insist that regional airlines will continue to have a strategic role to play in France.
“In the face of economic pressures, the big companies are withdrawing from certain routes that don’t attract much traffic and are leaving the way clear for regional companies that have smaller planes and much lower operating costs,” said Pierre Jeanniot, former director general of the International Air Transport Association.
Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta sees regional airlines teaming up with general carriers, operating either as subsidiaries or as a franchise, to serve “hub” airports used by general carriers.
Air France currently operates two French regional subsidiaries, Regional and Britair.
Subject: France news