Destinations, traffic: “Only good news” for Montpellier Méditerranée airport

Little by little, traffic is approaching the results for 2019, the pre-pandemic reference year. It should approach 1.8 million passengers by the end of the year.

“Overall, we only have good news.” Emmanuel Brehmer, chairman of the management board of the Montpellier Méditerranée airport company, smiled again this fall. The results of the season are more than encouraging. “At the end of August, we were at 92% of the traffic recorded in 2019 at the same period,” he explains. A way of saying that the airport is on the right track to regain its ambitions, clearly weighed down with the emergence, in the spring of 2020, of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s easier to catch up with the situation of 2019 when we have a traffic structure like ours, with less international long-haul”, analyzes the boss of the airport platform. And it is therefore the very structure of the offer that allows it to find colors in a fairly short period of time. “For many analysts, it is accepted that the return to the situation of 2019 will not be completed before 2025, or even 2026”. In Montpellier, the pace seems to be faster.

“We’d be mad to boast foolishly”

No fewer than 36 destinations drove traffic to Montpellier Méditerranée airport this summer. In the months of July and August alone, more than 400,000 passengers assumed it. The increase was nearly 30% in July: more than 197,000 against nearly 152,000 a year earlier. Same increase in attendance in August: just over 212,000, against more than 168,000 a year earlier. Since the start of the year, 1.2 million passengers have flown from Montpellier. A year earlier, over the same period, they were… just under 600,000.

An ambition still intact

The management of the airport will present, in a few days, to its shareholders a new development plan, called “Ambition 2026”. The aim is to pave the way for development, not only with the opening of lines but also by integrating all sources of revenue not derived from passenger traffic. This is particularly the case of the risk zone which will be the subject of a specific announcement at the beginning of October with the identity of the operators who will set up there. Even if the project for a second based company, after Transavia, has not been completely ruled out, but is less topical, Emmanuel Brehmer and his teams still have this ambition in sight: 2.5 million passengers.

“We would be crazy to stupidly boast of these figures, slips, cautiously, Emmanuel Brehmer. Simply, the typology of our traffic, mainly medium-haul flights to Europe and the Mediterranean, combined with the partial opening of the base Transavia, to a revival of companies such as Volotea or easyJet, and to the maintenance of a high level of activity of companies such as Air Arabia, requires a faster return to the pre-Covid situation”.

Better fill rates

Where the airport is progressing is again in the very performance of its attendance. While the number of aircraft movements has fallen by 15% since the start of the year, which implies less noise pollution in particular, the level of its traffic is on the rise. “We are, in July and August, on an average level of 145 passengers per flight, develops Pascal Bigot, responsible for the development of the lines. The filling of the planes accelerated a lot: the average rate was between 82% and 85%. This represents an increase of 12% to 20% compared to 2021”.

Admittedly, all is not yet perfect. The business clientele has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic level. The choice of the Air France group to abolish the shuttle to Orly has greatly contributed to this. Businessmen in the region regret the quality of the offer, with at times impractical schedules, according to them. “Everything we lose in Paris has been compensated,” says Emmanuel Brehmer.

It remains for the management of the airport, which regrets “the million Héraultais who will still take the plane to Marseille”, to continue the dynamic brought about 7 years ago and which the Covid has slowed down. Always with this dream: to reach 2.5 million passengers in the short term.

No less than 24 destinations on the program this fall

In the airline world, the summer season ends at the end of October. Then begins a new season, called “low”, which then concentrates a less ambitious program, the trips being less frequent than during the summer. This year, from next October 30, Montpellier Méditerranée airport will offer 24 destinations. This summer, there were 36 of them. In most cases, they are winter extensions of summer lines.

This will be the case for Brest, Caen, Lille, Nantes, Paris-Orly, Paris-Roissy, Rennes and Strasbourg, for domestic flights. In other cases, it will be an increase in the number of weekly services. Thus, Algiers and Oran will be at 4 flights per week, Rome at 2 flights. The Seville destination will also be maintained this winter, as will Athens, Luxembourg, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech, Nador, Lisbon, London-Gatwick, Basel-Mulhouse, Tunis and Amsterdam. The only real news will be Madrid. The line existed at one time, provided by the Iberia company. It hadn’t lasted long. This time, it’s Transavia which takes up the torch, with 2 flights per week, on Thursday and Sunday.

Without the presence of a Transavia base at Montpellier airport, the offer would probably not be as extensive. “For 7 years, we have been trying to catch up on airports like Marseille or Toulouse”, comments Emmanuel Brehmer. Remember that before the disruption of the French, European and international skies, Transavia had announced a target of around fifty lines from Montpellier. Admittedly, the strategy of Air France, of which Transavia is a subsidiary, has been reviewed. But Montpellier always keeps in mind an ever-increasing offer. And if the discussions around the arrival of a second based company end up leading, the conditions for such an objective will be reinforced.

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