View Full Version : Airports in Eastern France
27th Mar 2012, 00:43
While idling away some time looking at a map of Europe, I was thinking about how large eastern France is, and how few airports / commercial airline routes there are.
I'm thinking in particular of an area bounded by an imaginary line connecting Lille-Paris-Tours-Limoges-Clermont-Lyon-Geneva-Basel-Strasbourg-Luxembourg-Charleroi-Lille
Yes, I know that Paris, Lyon, Geneva and Basel are all big airports with good service to a lot of destinations. Yes, I know that since 2009, the TGV line from Paris to Strasbourg has taken a lot of air traffic, and the Rhin-Rhone LGV is doing more of the same. However, it still puzzles me as to how *such* a large area of land has a great big gap in the middle with almost no commercial passenger air service. Reims and Dijon would seem candidates for rather more commercial flying that currently happens at Dijon airbase.and Vatry.
Is there some overriding cause which is stopping air service, or just that the airports in the periphery of the region have taken all the traffic ? Have French laws on employer taxation done it in for the local airports as happened with Ryanair and Strasbourg about 8 years ago ? Has the TGV really scared airlines away from all international flights ? Maybe its because tourist boards in southwest and southern France have done a better job at marketing to foreigners ? Did the French military block all airport development because of a fear of invasion from Germany (quite a rational concern - it happened 3 times between 1870 and 1945 !) or the USSR post 1945 ?
Or is there an alotgether more subtle reason behind this ?
Comments from those who have a knowledgeable background very much appreciated.
27th Mar 2012, 07:43
I know the airline I work for fly to some of the smaller airports in this eastern region of France, such Grenoble, Avignon, Clermont, as well as the larger ones such Nice, Lyon, Geneva, and Chambry.
So dont think this region is as underserved as you believe.
27th Mar 2012, 09:30
Bear in mind that the French are very conservative – they like their air carriers to serve them in their own language. So travellers in the provinces would rather hub through Paris on Air France than on a foreign network carrier. So even Strasbourg is poorly connected (if at all) to the European hubs – and if SXB can’t sustain spoke service, the others certainly can’t. Even Lyon has a lower presence in the global networks than you would expect of it.
There was a curious experiment just after deregulation when Luxair had a go at establishing itself as the ‘home’ carrier of Northeastern France with expanded operations at Metz (or Nancy, or both) and Mulhouse, as well as Saarbrucken just across the border. Didn’t last long.
27th Mar 2012, 11:55
Nowt to do with post WW2 as there are a few countries in the way before any invasion by the commies...
27th Mar 2012, 16:52
not many really big cities in that area, most of the business is related to agriculture and the road network is pretty good as well these days
27th Mar 2012, 17:11
Note that Strasbourg airport was formerly 90% military before being taken over by the Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Colmar is an airport owned by the town of Colmar. (But it does have the necessary facilities to handle Air France's Strasbourg services a few years ago!) (ADC - Aeroport de Colmar - Classification - Utilisation (http://www.colmar.aeroport.fr/classification_utilisation/classification_utilisation-2.html) will give you the spec.)
The major threat to our regional airports in NE France is the high-speed TGV rail link to Paris ... both TGV Est (to Strasbourg and then Germany and beyond) and the TGV Rhin-Rhone (which links Strasbourg with Lyon and the south).
FR was offered a golden hello at SXB, but AF declared that it had been at the wrong end of a dirty tricks campaign. FR made haste to FKB, and AF and many other carriers found themselves adrift because of the success of the TGV.
EZY has found a happy home at BSL, despite co-existing with FR for a short time. FR bowed out, and AB has now found BSL a useful source of slots ....
Sadly after the great expansion of BSL's terminal and facilities in the 1990s, the demise of Crossair and the reduction and restructuring of Swissair (now Swiss) has resulted in BSL only offering a daily feeder flight to ZRH, and a reduction in major legacy carrier interest. Holiday charters and some other legacy carriers plus smaller independent airlines make up the majority of the SLF portion of the airport, whilst the slack is taken up by freight.
27th Mar 2012, 18:43
The area described is sparsely-populated, compared to the Paris area or Provence. In the midst of this area is "Paris"-Vatry, a superb facility in the middle of lots of fields that has had a little success: Ryanair 7 flights per week, plus the odd Luxair and Jetairfly.
I guess the demand just isn't there.
27th Mar 2012, 23:17
SSK's identified the nub of the problem. Without meaning to stereotype, there are huge swathes of France where the rosie-cheeked peasants don't understand why anyone would want to go anywhere other than the nearest big town, and if you're going to go abroad (i.e. the next département) you'll either drive or take the train.:hmm:
It's not until the younger folk escape from their rural enclaves that they discover how much further into the 21st Century is the rest of the world. It's quite sad to see just how deprived some of them are.
A few real-life anecdotes to bolster the sterotype: we had a "major news story" here locally in Feb when an 11-year old realised her dream of boarding an aeroplane as part of a Jim'll'Fixit type event ... a 747 due for imminent recycling. :sad:)
We also have the spectacle of the natives throwing themselves onto the tracks because SNCF have changed the times of the train service. Meanwhile, the local government are proclaiming the desperate importance to the local economy of getting a TGV service. It'll knock 15 minutes of the trip to Paris. No onward connections, but where else would you want to go anyway? :rolleyes:
And my eldest son's school last year went on a trip to Germany, Châteauroux-Munich. 14 hours by coach. This year they went to Berlin, 11 hours by train, 253€ fare per person. :eek: Those are their normal parameters, which serves to reinforce the notion that these places are far away.
So Reims had some scheduled air services, but now it's too close to Paris by TGV and there's also Metz-Nancy to soak up the in-between, non-TGV traffic. Apart from paying Michael O'Leary a substantial contribution towards his "advertising costs" it would require a lot of on-the-ground education to generate demand, and what airline has the resources to do that these days? Only one that I know of.:}
Troyes is getting a service to "Cambridge (London)" this year and you'll be able to fly from Blackpool to "Albert Paris-North" which must mean Beauvais is now practically inner-city Paris.:ok:
28th Mar 2012, 11:27
Hot news ... summer schedule SXB-PMI and SXB-IBZ twice weekly to both ... from Volotea ... a low-cost that seems very reasonable in its add-ons. (www.volontea.com)