Paris Orly airport reopened its doors and especially its runways on June 26 after more than two and a half months of closure due to COVID-19.
The reopening will of course be gradual and will accompany the restart of the traffic that is expected to be anything but fast. But for Orly, the issue is not only to regain the traffic volumes of the past, but also and above all to rethink its network and its customers.
Because if some routes have decreased in frequency, if some are not yet reopened, some will never be and some airlines will never come back.
Slots galore at Orly
Some airlines have disappeared or will disappear in the near future, victims of COVID or the concentration movement that will follow. Some will come back, but less so, like Air France, which will give up 40% of its medium-haul routes and many “Orlysian” destinations in the name of the 2.5-hour rule, if it is not rejected by Europe in the name of competition (which is anything but impossible). But if this rule is maintained, many routes will also be closed, regardless of the airline operating them.
If we put ourselves on the side of the airlines we can say “loss of opportunities”. If you look at it from the airport’s point of view, you might think “that’s a lot of available slots that we’ll have to redistribute”. So yes, Transavia will probably recover some “ex Air France” routes. Nothing says that the clientele will follow, but that’s another subject. But this will not fill the void left by the others.
Is it better to operate from Roissy or Orly?
The question can be asked, but the answer usually comes quickly. Both have their advantages depending on the destination and the target clientele, and that’s how Air France organized things: medium-haul for people whose final destination is Paris, if possible at Orly, and connections at Roissy. A rather obvious logic that does not need to be explained. But if we have to choose, it will be Roissy precisely because of the need to match short/medium and long-haul flights on a single platform.
For foreign airlines, the question arises. They are not interested in Roissy as a hub but as an airport to target “local” customers for feeder flights that will supply their hubs or for those who have their hub as final destination. For Lufthansa, Swiss, British Airways and others, Roissy is, apart from its size, an airport like any other, like Bordeaux, Toulouse or Marseille. They board French people to bring them back home as a final destination or to connect them to their flights.
The fact that Roissy is a hub is of no importance to them as they have no feeder flights that bring passengers to Roissy and they go by themselves to get French customers directly from the provinces.
For them, Roissy is the airport where they go to find a mainly Parisian or provincial clientele who come to Roissy by their own means.
For Parisians, who represent a significant part of this traffic, Orly is generally much more flexible and convenient to access. But Orly was very “congested” by Air France, which will no longer be the case, even if the French airline is trying to install Transavia as much as possible, precisely to avoid too many slots falling into foreign hands.
The aborted lesson of the Orly-Munich of Lufthansa
In early 2020 Lufthansa announced the opening of a direct Orly-Munich route. We had planned to test it but the project fell through because of COVID. On the other hand, the fares were very attractive (even in business) and Air France was quick to respond, which we did not find particularly relevant.
What is the purpose of an Orly-Munich for Air France? Make people travel between the two cities, knowing that Orly is not a hub. What is its purpose for Lufthansa? Exactly the same thing but in addition to feed its Munich hub to attract French passengers its long haul flights. And when we know how aggressive the German airline is on the French market in terms of fares, this strategy had everything to pay off for a price-sensitive passenger who would have paid less for a connecting flight than the direct Air France flight from Roissy and moreover from a more accessible and convenient airport.
An initiative that might not be without a future now that Orly is “liberated”.
Orly for foreign airlines?
For British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss and even Turkish Airlines, the prospect of to get hold of the slots abandoned by Air France and others can offer great prospects when the context will become more favorable.
This would be very bad news for Air France, but it would only confirm that certain government decisions have been taken without much overall vision of the subject.
It would not miss any more these airlines organize themselves to propose a shuttle from the TGV station of Massy and the situation could become dramatic.