CCM bucks the trend by relaxing ties with Air France

 - May 21, 2008, 9:27 AM

Compagnie Corse Méditerranée (CCM) Airlines, the French regional airline that specializes in routes between France and Corsica, wants to buck a trend established by small French regional airlines by loosening its relationship with Air France.

CCM’s aim centers on improving flexibility by becoming more independent, but without withdrawing completely from the partnership the two airlines entered into less than two years ago. Established in 1989 by the Corsican Regional Assembly, CCM, whose primary mission involves providing a link between Corsica and the French mainland, has become the island’s main air transporter.

Threatened by increased competition from Air Littoral and Air Liberté, which opened a breach in its previous monopoly position for air routes between Corsica and France, CCM at the end of 1999 updated its charter agreement with Air France involving some of the national carrier’s flights from Corsica to Paris and two daily round trips between the island and Lyon into a strategic partnership accord.

The commercial alliance enabled CCM to open new direct routes from the Corsican airports of Bastia and Ajaccio to the important French regional cities of Lyon and Lille and from Calvi, Corsica, to Lyon. The routes from Corsican airports to Marseilles and Nice became code-sharing agreements with the possibility of a future upgrade to a franchise accord. Flights to Nantes, Strasbourg and Bordeaux have since been added. The deal also allowed CCM to operate some of the Corsica-Paris traffic for Air France as well as Marseilles-Lille and Lyon and Nice-Lyon.

The arrangement also suited Air France’s interests; CCM last year carried 1.2 million passengers, many of whom connected with Air France flights. However, some contention has arisen between the two carriers. While CCM wants to open new routes from Corsica to the French mainland and add daily service from Paris to the southeastern city of Toulon and Perpignan in the southwest, Air France’s policy of cooperation with regional airlines prevents the latter from flying airplanes with more than 100 seats.

To fulfill its expansion plans, CCM president François Mosconi ordered three more Fokker 100s to boost the airline’s present fleet of three F100s and six ATR 72s. For CCM’s new ambitions to come to fruition and for it to become a strong player in traffic from Corsica, it needs 150-seat aircraft as well as four or five 70-seaters, according to Mosconi. In addition, it requires a political decision by the Corsica Regional Assembly, which holds 60.3 percent of the airline’s shares, to effect a change in its shareholding structure. Any such change would be favored by France’s national administration, which, despite political opposition, seeks to give more autonomy to the island. Such a move would encourage the Regional Assembly to give CCM more decision-making powers.

The big question that remains involves the attitude of Air France, which holds 11.9 percent of CCM’s shares and has declined to comment on the Corsican regional airline’s expansion plans.