Air France competition angers small overseas airlines

Overseas war is declared! Air Caraïbes and Corsair are up against Air France. They accuse the national airline of leading them into unbridled competition on what they call their ” square meadow “, their ” living space “, that is to say overseas destinations, mainly the West Indies, Reunion and Guyana. This outbreak of hives has its origin in the sharp increase in Air France’s capacity on the lines to this area, a rise in power which allows it to compensate for the large number of long-haul lines still closed for health reasons.

By its own admission, Air France has, for example, increased its offer to Reunion by 50%, with three daily flights instead of two previously, including one from Roissy – Charles-de-Gaulle airport. “These are enormous capacities, an oversupply”, worries in the same voice Air Caraïbes and Corsair. In a letter sent about two weeks ago to the ministers of the economy, transport and overseas, as well as to the general directorate of civil aviation (DGAC), the two small companies quantified the “Massive redeployment of Air France capacity on the roads” to overseas. According to their calculations, Air France’s effort “represents more than 710,000 overcapacity seats compared to a pre-Covid year, the equivalent of three jumbo jets daily”.

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This offensive is out of all proportion to the means of the two small rivals. “This forces us to reduce our capacities. We cannot operate as many flights as we would like to do”, says Marc Rochet, general manager of Air Caraïbes. Both companies estimated that “this strategy [est] partly financed by the use of State aid received by Air France during the crisis”. Since 2020, France and the Netherlands have been more than generous in rescuing Air France-KLM from bankruptcy, with a total of 16.65 billion euros paid out in the form of direct loans, bank loans guaranteed by the State and capital increase.

Hard on the fret

In its defence, Air France only wants to see it as mere commercial competition. Overseas was one of the areas “more resilient throughout the crisis, with the successive recovery of affinity traffic and that of leisure traffic (…). “Refuge” destinations when many travel restrictions limited international travel”she assures World. According to the company, it is only “to meet this demand that Air France, like its competitors, has gradually increased its offer, redeploying on these routes aircraft usually serving other destinations, and in particular Asia”. These explanations do not satisfy Pascal de Izaguirre, CEO of Corsair.

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