La Tribune reports this morning that Air France is planning to go head to head with EasyJet and Ryanair by launching a range of low-cost domestic flights linking French cities. The plan is to use Nice as a base for the operation. I checked in with my contact at Air France who said the company had no comment at this time.
The story says Air France will use its sister brand, Transavia, to offer cheap flights linking Nice with the rest of France, using 186-seater planes. Until now, Transavia has specialised in European short-haul tourist services from Orly. Air France is understood to have picked Nice as the base because EasyJet of the high numbers of leisure travellers who pass through the airport to visit the Côte d'Azur. EasyJet already has a strong presence there, with flights to Paris, the UK and Geneva.
The low-cost plan is part of a series of measures Air France is looking at to save money on its domestic flights by bypassing Paris. It wants to improve efficiency by about 20% at the regional airports it serves--with faster flight turnarounds, fewer check-in staff and more outsourced work.
EasyJet and Ryanair are both well-established in the French domestic flights market. Ryanair uses Marseille as a base to serve Biarritz, Tours, Lille, Nantes and Beauvais, while Easyjet offers flights from its Lyon base to Bordeaux, Toulouse, Biarritz and Nantes.