AF to reduce domestic-only flights as a condition of bailout

Old Apr 29, 20, 2:46 pm
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AF to reduce domestic-only flights as a condition of bailout

Latest news read : https://www.bfmtv.com/economie/air-f...v-1904372.html

"Cette condition (...) nouvelle et drastique va nous amener à revoir la mobilité sur le territoire français", a poursuivi Bruno Le Maire. Concrètement, "dès lors qu'il y a une alternative ferroviaire à des vols intérieurs avec une durée de moins de 2h30, ces vols intérieurs devront être drastiquement réduits et limités simplement aux transferts vers un hub".

Une telle contrainte obligerait Air France à ne plus vendre de billets entre Paris (Roissy ou Orly) et Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux et Lyon. Seuls les passagers utilisant ces vols intérieurs pour se rendre ensuite ailleurs en Europe ou dans le reste du monde, y compris l'outremer, pourraient être acheminés depuis ces quatre villes vers l'aéroport où ils prendront leur correspondance.
In sum : as a condition of the gov't funding, AF is no longer permitted to sell domestic-only flights between Paris and neighbouring cities within 2h by train. Domestic flights sold as connections are still possible (for example inter-continental flights connecting to close-by cities are unaffected).

Probably not a bad idea, honestly. The train is a more eco-friendly method of travel, and generally less hassle going from Paris to say, Lyon or Bordeaux.
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Old Apr 29, 20, 3:20 pm
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Originally Posted by mlin32 View Post
Latest news read : https://www.bfmtv.com/economie/air-f...v-1904372.html



In sum : as a condition of the gov't funding, AF is no longer permitted to sell domestic-only flights between Paris and neighbouring cities within 2h by train. Domestic flights sold as connections are still possible (for example inter-continental flights connecting to close-by cities are unaffected).

Probably not a bad idea, honestly. The train is a more eco-friendly method of travel, and generally less hassle going from Paris to say, Lyon or Bordeaux.
No doubt the coronavirus is attacking the lungs but also the brain of politicians, leading to a Greta-delirium crisis. For sure someone living close to CDG and going to Mérignac should be forced first to go to Montpatnasse (1 to 1.5 hr) then take the train and another 45 min to reach Mérignac. But...silly me...the planet will be saved.
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Old Apr 29, 20, 4:38 pm
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
For sure someone living close to CDG and going to Mérignac
I was not aware that the denizens of Goussainville, Aulnay or Garges-les-Gonesse constituted such a large part of AF's clientele on CDG-BOD... .

To be a little more serious about the issue, surely you cannot design a transport policy merely around the people that live in close proximity to the airports at both ends. That would not be sustainable. I do not think that there is a god-given right of everyone to have access to an airport or mainline station to all potential destinations at no more than 15 minutes from their doorstep. Besides, if there is such a humongous demand from the 93-95 area to BOD, I think that there is a station at CDG2 that could be put to good use in providing the required direct train services to the Bordeaux area.

That said, while it seems to me that there is much to be said about thinking of replacing air services by train services below a certain distance, this is not something that can be improvised on the spot and has a large number of implications that need to be evaluated carefully and suggesting that one can simply decree this as a condition of emergency financial assistance is rather bizarre. This has the feel of symbolic gesturing by a politician amplified by journalistic theatrics that makes the whole thing rather difficult to take seriously.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 12:33 am
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
I was not aware that the denizens of Goussainville, Aulnay or Garges-les-Gonesse constituted such a large part of AF's clientele on CDG-BOD... .

To be a little more serious about the issue, surely you cannot design a transport policy merely around the people that live in close proximity to the airports at both ends. That would not be sustainable. I do not think that there is a god-given right of everyone to have access to an airport or mainline station to all potential destinations at no more than 15 minutes from their doorstep. Besides, if there is such a humongous demand from the 93-95 area to BOD, I think that there is a station at CDG2 that could be put to good use in providing the required direct train services to the Bordeaux area.

That said, while it seems to me that there is much to be said about thinking of replacing air services by train services below a certain distance, this is not something that can be improvised on the spot and has a large number of implications that need to be evaluated carefully and suggesting that one can simply decree this as a condition of emergency financial assistance is rather bizarre. This has the feel of symbolic gesturing by a politician amplified by journalistic theatrics that makes the whole thing rather difficult to take seriously.
I was just taking an example of course
My point was that it can be faster and more convenient for someone to fly rather than taking the train and, even if not, I am strongly against that kind of forced measures like “it will be forbidden to sell a pure PAR-BOD ticket”. Let the market adjust itself. On those cases (LYS, RNS, BOD, NTE), most of the market has already switched to train, but just let pax the possibility to fly if they wish. And when SNCF is on strike during weeks, the same politicians will cry because they cannot fly. The point-to-point travel is contributing to the global results of a line. I found very ironic that Le Maire is asking AF to become more profitable and competitive as a condition of the loan, while the French state interventionism has been one of the main reason for AF being non-competitive. And to that they add some eco-blabla in their request, in a punishment mode, to please some even more crazy politicians and the “bobo” population.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 1:24 am
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
... And when SNCF is on strike during weeks, the same politicians will cry because they cannot fly. ....
Not only strikes but reliability as delays are not so unfrequent.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 1:57 am
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
Let the market adjust itself.
Markets do not have the solution to everything The problem here is that we are talking about environmental externalities and if we are talking about externalities, market mechanisms are, by definition, incapable of addressing them (assuming that you are not going to argue that carbon credits and the EU ETS are a perfect system to ensure full internalisation of environmental externalities).
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Old Apr 30, 20, 2:09 am
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Most of us here know how to turn a billionaire into a millionaire: let him buy and run an airline.

It looks like Bruno Lemaire has managed to fulfil this rich man’s fantasy, but with our money.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 2:19 am
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
Markets do not have the solution to everything (...).
And politicians do?

In the particular example of forbidding point to point tickets, other than pleasing Thunberg aficionados, what does it achieve?

AF will need to fly smaller planes. This is less efficient than larger, fuller ones.

Then, people will need to drive from all around the cities to reach the station. Is that a good move? Who has calculated the externalities you mention? Same day return will be harder to do, so we shall need to spend the night in a hotel. What about the costs?
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Old Apr 30, 20, 3:18 am
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Originally Posted by carnarvon View Post
And politicians do?
Certainly not. There are some things on which political processes are better suited than others and other things on which they are not.
On this particular one, addressing climate change, without a shadow of a doubt the political process is essential and the issue cannot simply be left purely to the airline industry and the market, in the same way as tobacco consumption is not an issue that can be left purely to the tobacco industry and the market, food safety cannot purely be left to the industry and the market, health and safety at work cannot purely be left to the industry and the market, etc...

In the particular example of forbidding point to point tickets, other than pleasing Thunberg aficionados, what does it achieve?
I think I made it quite clear in my original post that this particular decision was puzzling. However, deducting from this that seeking to replace plane use by train use is a bad idea, if need be through regulation rather than just relying on market mechanisms, is throwing the baby with the bath water.

AF will need to fly smaller planes. This is less efficient than larger, fuller ones.
This is surely a non-starter of an argument. Larger planes are more efficient than smaller planes on a per passenger basis assuming the same number of passengers. However, if you slash demand to that you replace each large plane by a small plane, you will also substantially reduce emissions.

Then, people will need to drive from all around the cities to reach the station. Is that a good move?
If anything, that would tend to be an argument in favour of encouraging train use rather than plane, as airports are usually quite distant from city centres and less conveniently connected by public transport, requiring more car use to reach them. But on this and the other thing you mention, I think I already addressed that in the last paragraph of my first post above.

Again, the point I am making is not about the specifics of this particular decision, which strikes me as rather odd. It is about the idea that the market is better than political processes at deciding this. This simply is not the case. We cannot let the question of addressing climate change be solved by the market anymore than we could let the question of the health hazards of tobacco consumption or child labour or product safety, etc... be solved by the market.

In relation to the specific decision, I think we need to distinguish between the "effet d'annonce", especially as reported by the press and the reality on the ground. I suspect that what we will ultimately see will bear very little resemblance to what is reported here.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 6:30 am
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A few thoughts to animate the debate, which could support one or the other point of view:
  • The residential areas around airports seldomly house people that fly a lot. On the other hand, many businesses select to locate themselves close to airports precisely because of the proximity to the airport. It's somewhat the case around ORY and CDG, albeit less so than for instance around LHR. What about those traffic patterns?
  • On itineraries where the train arrives in <2h30 from city centre to city centre SNCF typically already has a market share of >75%. So what Le Maire is suggesting squeezes out a mere <25% of the market, not so much. Is that worth the effort?
  • If AF doesn't fly to NTE, LYS, BOD etc it will use the slots for flights to other destinations (maybe not so much in the immediate post-Corona era, but in the foreseeable future). How does that help the environment?
  • Why not do in France what they also do in Germany, connect the airport to the national high speed rail network (CDG already is) and have a high frequency of trains connecting places like Bruxelles, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux to CDG with at least "one train per hour, at the same minute past the hour". To be fair, Germany should have been stricter with that, no more flights Cologne-Frankfurt, but there still are a few flights between FRA and Nuremberg, DUS and STR, albeit less than before. MUC is not (yet) connected to the ICE network, and there are feeder flights to STR and NUE.All these cities are also connected by high speed train from FRA: Stuttgart one train per hour (travel time <2 hours), Nuremberg one train per hour (travel time 2H20), Dusseldorf 2-3 trains per hour (travel time 1H15). The TGV station at CDG could be an interconnection point for an East/West line Strasbourg-CDG-Rennes/Nantes/Bordeaux and North South line Bruxelles-Lille-CDG-Lyon. The various branches (Bruxelles/Lille, Bordeaux/Nantes/rennes) could alternate every hour. That way, no more flights needed, and the intra-Provinces rail connection problem solved.
  • How much of AF's domestic traffic is by AF staff that just lives elsewhere?
  • Isn't this a blessing in disguise, given how loss-making the domestic operation is anyway?
  • I agree, the market should fix it. But in a way, the market has spoken: AF has lost market share on these routes, and is losing money.
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Last edited by San Gottardo; Apr 30, 20 at 6:38 am
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Old Apr 30, 20, 6:54 am
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Originally Posted by San Gottardo View Post
  • If AF doesn't fly to NTE, LYS, BOD etc it will use the slots for flights to other destinations (maybe not so much in the immediate post-Corona era, but in the foreseeable future). How does that help the environment?
Yes, that is an interesting point that raises the issue of the extent to which slot availability at a given airport creates additional demand and the extent to which it displaces it from elsewhere. I do not think that there is a simple, universal straightforward answer to that but that is indeed a relevant consideration.
  • Why not do in France what they also do in Germany, connect the airport to the national high speed rail network (CDG already is) and have a high frequency of trains connecting places like Bruxelles, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux to CDG with at least "one train per hour, at the same minute past the hour".
Yes, I would agree that a well-thought out overall rail network policy in which airports are properly integrated is a far more important than tinkering about with creating obstacles to the odd air connection.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 8:14 am
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
If anything, that would tend to be an argument in favour of encouraging train use rather than plane, as airports are usually quite distant from city centres and less conveniently connected by public transport, requiring more car use to reach them.
Hi,

You either misunderstood, or I did not use the proper words.

Around the cities, means around the cities, opposed to inside the city. People living or working around the cities (suburbs and countryside to clear any misunderstanding) will need to drive the the city centre to catch the train which would be more driving (time and distance) than a drive to the airport.

From the airport, larger planes would mean less CO2 / pax than smaller ones (this is what I meant), so all in all, are you sure it is better for the environment to drive a longer distance to the centre to take the train (knowing that smaller planes will keep flying for connecting pax) than hop on a plane from a nearby airport?

When the number of connecting pax is not enough to finance the flight, then the line will be closed. So much so for the survival of some form of economic activity around those airports.

As San Gotardo has just pointed out : TGV already has 75% of the market on such routes. People are not stupid. The job is done already. People close to the station take the TGV. Others fly. No harm done.

So in short : higher costs and inconvenience for businesses and negligible gain (if any) for the environment.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 10:11 am
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Originally Posted by carnarvon View Post
So in short : higher costs and inconvenience for businesses and negligible gain (if any) for the environment.
Wow. And are you sure that it won't also bring along pestilence and the end of civilisation as we know it, while you are at it?

Let us be serious for a minute here. Given the massive differential in terms of carbon footprint between rail and air travel, at any rate in Western Europe, there is a strong prima facie case, from an environmental perspective, in pushing for a transfer from air to rail travel in short-ish distance travel. Now, after that, as I said in my first post in this thread, whether a particular initiative in a particular context makes sense has to be evaluated carefully as there will be a large number of parameters and implications to take into account. Le Maire's proposal, if it is indeed a genuine proposal rather than empty posturing (I would personally suspect that the latter to be more likely), does not strike me as particularly convincing but dismissing the more general case on the basis of massive over-simplifications is not especially convincing either.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 2:48 pm
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What's "funny" (or I should rather say pathetic) is that nothing prevent another EU airline to fly the same route and without the restriction imposed to AF by the French state shareholder and bank. OK, I don't see U2, FR or VY launching PAR-RNS/NTE/LYS, but BOD why not.
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Old Apr 30, 20, 2:59 pm
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Originally Posted by San Gottardo View Post
A few thoughts to animate the debate, which could support one or the other point of view:
  • The residential areas around airports seldomly house people that fly a lot. On the other hand, many businesses select to locate themselves close to airports precisely because of the proximity to the airport. It's somewhat the case around ORY and CDG, albeit less so than for instance around LHR. What about those traffic patterns?
Exactly my case. My office is at entrance of CDG. I sometimes go to Lyon for business and where I go is closer to LYS than from Part Dieu or Perrache, so it's much more convenient for me to fly (and often cheaper). I have some very close friends in Rennes and I sometimes go there to spend the weekend with them. On friday evening, I can leave my office and be in the terminal 10 min later and it's a much more pleasant exp to fly there rather than taking one of the few trains CDG-Rennes and that takes forever. And eventually, i can even have a quick dinner and champagne at the 2G lounge.
Companies are less and less located in city centers, so train station in city centers are not always something interesting for the business travelers. And for leisure pax, when you see where they put new TGV stations : in the middle of nowhere
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