Air Littoral rises anew from ashes of Swissair

 - May 15, 2008, 9:00 AM

Marc Dufour, president of French independent regional airline Air Littoral, finds the prospects “encouraging” for this year–a bold statement coming just months after the collapse of Swissair, its former owner.

The restructuring plan formulated by Dufour, who took over the Montpellier, France-based airline last June, involves reducing the workforce by 185 to 1,000 through voluntary resignations, optimizing the fleet and reorganizing its route network. Air Littoral has reduced the number of aircraft deployed from 39 to 32 and the type of aircraft used from four to three after selling its Fokker 100s. It now flies 17 fifty-seat CRJ100s, 10 ATR 42-500s and five Fokker 70s.

The airline has also abandoned unprofitable routes between its two hubs of Montpellier in southwest France and Nice in the southeast, a move that has cut service by about 20 percent. Air Littoral currently operates 120 connections, including 28 direct routes, three-quarters of them regional services within France. Its remaining European routes span from its hubs to Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Rome, Venice and Naples, Italy; and Munich, Germany.

Last year it carried 1.66 million passengers, up from 1.5 million in 2000, two-thirds of whom were business travelers. Under the new restructuring plan it expects to carry 1.57 million passengers this year.

A new route between Lyons and Figari, inauguarated on February 8, complements Air Littoral’s existing services to Corsica, to which it already offered regular connections from Montpellier, Nice and Marseilles. On top of these regular connections, seasonal links to Figari are to be operated from the French cities of Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Montpellier, Nîmes, Strasbourg and Lille. Air Littoral, which last year carried a total of 280,000 passengers to Corsica, believes the new regular and seasonal services will result in a 15-percent passenger increase to the island this year.

Air Littoral has also applied to operate services between Paris and the French southern cities of Rodez, Brive, Agen and Saint-Etienne. It also expects further opportunities to arise from a partnership with Air Algérie subsidiary Tassili Airline and is examining adding routes from Nice and Montpellier to Algiers.

On January 15 Air Littoral signed a partnership agreement with Lufthansa Systems aimed at improving its commercial network in France and the rest of Europe. It is now finalizing a commercial agreement with Spain’s second largest airline, Spanair.