Air France: Operations move to Charles de Gaulle Airport

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In response to a changing landscape of air travel and a growing focus on environmental sustainability, Air France has announced a significant shift in its domestic operations. The airline, responding to diminishing demand for domestic business travel and recent French government policies encouraging sustainable travel, is set to relocate all domestic flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) by 2026. This move paves the way for Air France's low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, to take the reins at Paris-Orly Airport (ORY). In this article, we'll explore the reasons behind this strategic shift and its implications for both Air France and the broader aviation industry.

The changing landscape of air travel

Air France's decision to shift its domestic operations is, in part, a response to the changing dynamics of air travel in the 21st century. The rise of videoconferencing, a decrease in domestic business travel, and a growing preference for more sustainable travel options, such as trains, have contributed to a decrease in demand for point-to-point domestic flights. Air France reported a significant decline in traffic on domestic routes departing from ORY, with day-return trip traffic plummeting by as much as 60% between 2019 and 2023.

This trend aligns with the French government's commitment to promoting sustainable travel. In May 2023, France officially banned short-haul flights on routes where there is a suitable rail alternative available. This policy mandates that the train journey must be under two and a half hours, connecting the same cities previously served by flights. Additionally, the train schedules must allow travelers to spend at least eight hours at their destination and return to their point of origin.

Responding to these changes, Air France recognized the need to adapt its domestic operations to align with more sustainable travel options. The shift to CDG allows the airline to optimize its resources and capacity for international flights while responding to the changing travel preferences of its passengers.

Focus on low-cost subsidiary – Transavia

As Air France repositions itself at CDG, its low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, is set to fill the void at ORY. Following consultations with relevant authorities, Transavia is scheduled to begin services to Toulouse, Marseille, and Nice from ORY starting in the summer of 2026. The airline will maintain capacity between Paris and these cities at 90% of current levels while ensuring the same level of service to the French overseas territories.

This strategic shift ensures that Air France remains a strong brand presence in all the markets it serves. By offering a sustainable travel choice through Transavia at ORY, Air France aims to adapt to the changing travel landscape while meeting its passengers' evolving needs.

Implications for Air France employees

Air France has assured its employees that the impact of this shift will be limited. Colleagues based in French regions will be offered voluntary transfers or departures, while flight crew bases in Toulouse, Marseille, and Nice will remain intact. For those transitioning to CDG, Air France guarantees equivalent positions, ensuring a smooth transition for its workforce.

Air France's commitment to consulting and cooperating with unions demonstrates the airline's dedication to finding the best solutions for its employees affected by the relocation.

Air travel and sustainability

Air France's strategic shift reflects a broader trend in the aviation industry, where airlines are reevaluating their operations and adapting to the global push for more sustainable travel. The shift from plane to train, as exemplified by the French government's policies and KLM's efforts to partner with train providers, showcases the industry's commitment to environmental responsibility.

In conclusion, Air France's decision to move its domestic operations to CDG and allow Transavia to take center stage at ORY represents a proactive response to the changing landscape of air travel and the growing importance of sustainability. As the airline industry continues to adapt to these shifting dynamics, it is clear that sustainability and environmental responsibility will play a central role in shaping the future of travel.

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