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Air France refused to comment Friday on this week's report
that it is considering launching a low-cost subsidiary to be called Air France Express,
most likely next year.
According to the French news service AFP, citing unnamed
company sources, the budget carrier would operate from bases in three southern
French cities: Marseille, Nice and Toulouse. All three are predominantly
leisure destinations but have a steady flow of business traffic.
Air France has successfully kept low-cost carriers out of
its hub at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, but budget rivals dominate the
southern French cities, with EasyJet especially strong at Nice. The report
claimed that the French flag-carrier is in discussion with unions about Air
KLM, the sister carrier of Air France, has its own low-cost
subsidiary, Transavia, which is based at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, but
operates to around two dozen destinations from Paris' second airport, Orly.
However, all the Orly services are to overwhelmingly leisure-oriented
Low-cost subsidiaries of mainstream airlines have a checkered
history on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, British Airways sold its budget operation Go to EasyJet in 2002. Lufthansa owns the German budget
airline Germanwings and announced earlier this week that the two would start
interlining fares, with Lufthansa also giving Germanwings passengers
frequent-flyer program and lounge access.