French Riviera sees sharp decline in bizav traffic

 - August 26, 2009, 8:16 AM

Business airport traffic in the Côte d’Azur, France’s wealthy Mediterranean Riviera, suffered dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis in the second half of 2008 and in the first few months of this year. The two airports in the region–Nice and Cannes–are promoting themselves to two different market segments, and both are upgrading their FBO facilities in anticipation of increased traffic when the economy improves.

Nice Airport, France’s second busiest after the Paris gateways, handled 72 percent of all French Riviera business aviation, reporting a 5-percent year-on-year increase, to 31,227 passengers. Activity generally involves aircraft weighing more than 22 tonnes, which are prohibited at Cannes-Mandelieu, the country’s second-ranking business and private aviation airport, where the number of business aviation passengers fell by 7 percent to 12,409 following three years of strong growth. However, airport clients (mostly businessmen) have enjoyed a smoother flow of traffic and a 70-percent reduction in delays.

The two airports are owned and operated by the Nice-Côte d’Azur Chamber of Commerce and share the same airspace. Nice gives priority to quick-turnaround flights and heavy aircraft while Cannes is dedicated exclusively to general aviation. Nice operates 24 hours a day, has runways up to 9,711 feet long and no limit on mtow.

Cannes operations are limited to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset in summer (up to 9:45 p.m. in June). The airport’s longest runway is 5,280 feet and operations are restricted to aircraft with an mtow of less than 22 tonnes.

Both airports last year introduced a slot-coordination system between April 23 and October 23 to control punctuality. Despite the decrease in business aviation traffic, Cannes airport is continuing its improvement plans. The airport’s environmental charter–which pledges to reduce noise, air and water pollution; includes limits on night flights; and prohibits lengthening the runway, limiting it to four takeoffs and four landings an hour–imposes some limits on improvements, according to Côte d’Azur head of marketing and statistics Umberto Vallino.

While traffic movements are expected to remain steady, the airport is giving priority to enhancing its FBO services and has begun construction on a new hangar due for completion at the end of the year. Three more hangars are in an advanced planning stage and the four new facilities by 2012 will bring to 16 the number of hangars, doubling current capacity.

Meanwhile, anticipating more French Riviera business aviation traffic, Nice is continuing work on a dedicated business aviation terminal started in November last year. The facility, slated for completion in December, will provide private passenger lounges, facilities for crew and helicopter companies and a shopping area.