Air France to abandon Orly Airport

Air France will virtually disappear from Orly Airport by 2026. The French airline plans to concentrate its flights at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The decision comes as domestic flights from Orly are becoming less popular, as people more often video-conferee or travel by train.

Sister carrier Transavia will now become Group Air France’s reference carrier at Orly Airport.

Six routes

Air France will cut six routes from Orly to the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Réunion, and the southern cities of Toulouse, Nice, and Marseille. The number of daily rotations between Orly and these cities had already been reduced recently.

The latter three will be taken over by Transavia, the low-cost subsidiary of airline group Air France-KLM, which has a new fleet made up of the Airbus A320neo family.

Air France will not withdraw entirely from Orly, where passenger numbers on domestic flights fell by 40%, and even 60% for daytime round trips, between 2019 and 2023. The airline will keep one connection there: to and from the island of Corsica. This is due to service obligations.

The development would normally not result in forced departures for Air France’s approximately 430 ground employees affected at Orly, south of Paris. Normally, they could transfer to CDG Airport, located in Roissy, northeast of Paris.

Worries in the south

Before the coronavirus crisis, the connection between Orly and Toulouse was a very popular line for business customers, reaching 26 daily flights and becoming one of the busiest lines in Europe with more than 2 million passengers per year.

Unlike neighboring cities like Bordeaux, Toulouse will have to wait until the next decade to see the arrival of a high-speed line to connect it to the capital in 3 hours and 10 minutes. The local airport, in particular, fears that it will feel competition with the high-speed train.

In contrast, local politicians, in general, fear that the absence of an adequate offer in the airports of the south could negatively influence investment decisions in the local economic fabric and in the economic attractiveness of the Côte d’Azur in general.

The same applies to Nice, at more than five and a half hours by train from Paris, while Marseille – 3 hours by train by Paris – says that the high-speed train between Marseille and Paris is saturated.

Air France, meanwhile, has assured that there will be no drastic reduction in daily frequencies. The group’s capacities between Paris and Toulouse, Marseille and Nice would be maintained at 90% of their current level.

Nevertheless, local players have urged the French state, a 28,6% shareholder in Air France-KLM, to “weigh in this type of decisions taken solely concerning financial interests, to the detriment of a vision of national territorial planning.”

Low-cost airport

La Tribune newspaper points out that the switch could well mean Orly losing its unofficial status as France’s leading regional airport. It will become the first low-cost airport with Transavia, Vueling, and Easyjet operating there.

At the same time, some transport professionals are worried about the regional airports due to what happened in the past in the airports where Transavia replaced Air France.

In Brest, for example, Transavia took over the line to Paris while abandoning it after a year and a half. In Montpellier, the transfer of Air France to Transavia resulted in 300 000 passengers lost per year to Orly, and the connection to Bordeaux was discontinued in 2020.

Although Groupe Air France-KLM has had an excellent year, Air France is unable to curb losses on domestic flights, with 200 million euros lost in 2019 and as much last year, despite a reduction of the offer.

Impact for Belgians

For travelers departing from Belgium, the switch will not have much impact. From Brussels, you can also fly to Marseille, Nice, and Toulouse, while CDG Airport is easily accessible by Eurostar in case of flights to the Air France overseas territories.

However, Orly, closer to the center of Paris than CDG, will be better connected to the capital by public transport from 2024 with the extension of metro line 14. The CDG Express, a new fast rail line between Paris and the airport northeast of Paris, is not planned until 2027.


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