Air France slips as LCCs intensify – now long haul challenges


Air France remains the biggest airline in Paris by some distance, but low cost airlines have grown their share of seats in recent years. Air France's in-house LCC, Transavia France, has only slowed the tide, while competitors such as easyJet and Vueling have taken market share. Norwegian has also been part of this low cost onslaught, initially on medium haul and now on long haul routes to the US.

To make things more difficult for Air France, other low cost operators are also entering long haul markets from Paris, particularly on the Atlantic, including Level, WestJet, French Bee and WOW air, with Primera Air also planning to enter.

Air France has not fully been able to defend its Paris share against LCC competition by the use of Transavia, a genuine low cost operator focused on medium haul and based in Orly. As long haul low cost competition grows, it will hardly be any easier for Air France to defend its position with its new CDG-based subsidiary Joon, which operates both medium haul and long haul and does not even set out to be a low cost airline.

  • Low-cost carriers (LCCs) have gained market share in Paris, with Air France facing competition from airlines such as easyJet, Vueling, and Norwegian.
  • LCCs are expanding into long-haul markets from Paris, with airlines like Level, WestJet, French Bee, WOW air, and Primera Air entering the market.
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Paris Orly airports handled a combined total of 101.5 million passengers in 2017, marking the first time they exceeded 100 million passengers.
  • LCC traffic has grown faster than the overall Paris market, with CDG now having a double-digit percentage of traffic from LCCs.
  • Paris Beauvais-Tillé airport has experienced a decline in traffic, with a decrease of 8.8% in 2017 compared to the previous year.
  • Air France's low-cost subsidiary, Transavia France, has increased its market share, but Air France's overall market share has decreased in recent years.


  • The two big Groupe ADP airports topped 100 million passengers in 2017 for the first time, but Paris Beauvais-Tillé's traffic is falling.
  • LCC traffic growth has outpaced the total Paris market, with even CDG now having a double digit percentage of traffic from LCCs.
  • Long haul markets are now under fire from LCCs, led by Norwegian and also including Level, WestJet, French Bee, WOW air and Primera Air.

Two big Groupe ADP airports topped 100 million passengers in 2017 for the first time

The Paris airport system is dominated by the two big airports owned by Groupe ADP, namely Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Paris Orly, which handled 101.5 million passengers between them in 2017 (a year-on-year increase of 4.4% and the first time they had exceeded 100 million).

CDG handled 69.5 million passengers (+5.4%) and Orly handled 32.0 million (+2.4%).

Paris CDG and Paris Orly: passenger numbers, 2000 to 2018*

Paris Beauvais-Tillé's traffic is falling

In addition, Paris Beauvais-Tillé (BVA), owned by Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de l'Oise and Veolia Transport, handled 3.6 million passengers in 2017.

BVA grew quite rapidly from around 2.5 million passengers in 2008 to 4.3 million in 2015, but its 2017 total was lower by 8.8% year-on-year and by 15.8% from its 2015 peak.

Paris airports together handled 105 million passengers in 2017

The 2017 total of 105.2 million passengers for the Paris airport system of CDG, ORY and BVA is second in Europe only to London's 205 million (but it is a distant second).

Over the past five years (2012 to 2017) passenger numbers in the Paris system have grown by 13.5%, with Orly up by 17.8% and CDG up by 12.8% (BVA was lower by 5.6%).

Paris Vatry is mainly a cargo airport

A fourth Paris airport, Paris Vatry, is mainly a cargo base, but also handles a very low volume of passenger traffic (mainly in the summer). In 2017 only 122,000 seats were flown from Vatry, and no traffic figures are known.

In 2018, according to data from OAG, there are only three weekly passenger flights from Vatry, operated by Ryanair to Marrakech (once a week) and Porto (twice weekly), adding up to less than 60,000 annual seats.

LCC traffic growth has outpaced the total Paris market

LCC passenger numbers grew by 53.4% in the period 2012 to 2017, accounting for 8.6 million of the additional 12.5 million passengers in the system over that period (almost all BVA traffic is with LCCs).

In 2012 LCCs accounted for 17.3% of Paris passenger numbers (13.7% at the two ADP airports). In 2017 this share had risen to 23.4% (20.6% for ADP).

Paris airports: LCC share of passenger numbers 2012, 2016 and 2017

Paris Beauvais-Tillé's is almost all LCC traffic, led by Ryanair

BVA has been essentially an all low cost airport throughout the period (Air Moldova, its only non-LCC, has had a very small seat share varying between c0.5% and c1.5% since 2014).

Ryanair is the biggest airline at BVA, with 75.6% of seats in the week of 9-Jul-2018 (the seasonal peak week for the Paris airport system). Wizz Air has 18.5%, Blue Air 4.1%, Air Moldova 1.2% and Volotea 0.5%.

Paris Beauvais-Tillé: airlines by seat share, week of 9-July-2018

Air France still Orly's biggest airline, but the airport has the most LCC seats

Orly is the more significant low cost operation of the two ADP airports, with an LCC passenger share growing from 25.0% in 2012 to 37.8% in 2017.

This has been led by the growth of Transavia France, the LCC subsidiary of Air France-KLM, and supported by Vueling's growth. EasyJet has been relatively stable at Orly over this period.

Transavia's growth at Orly has been (deliberately) at the expense of Air France, but the national flag carrier remains the airport's largest airline presence, with 30.6% of seats in the week of 9-Jul-2018. Transavia France is number two, with 16.4% of seats, followed by Vueling with 8.6% and easyJet with 6.8%.

Paris Orly: airlines by seat share, week of 9-July-2018

LCC share is also growing at Air France's CDG hub

CDG, for many years resistant to LCCs, has started to succumb to the onslaught in recent years. LCCs' passenger share at Air France's main hub grew from 8.7% in 2012 to 12.7% in 2017.

EasyJet, the number two airline at CDG, has led the charge, but Air France remains comfortably the leading operator with 49.4% of seats in the week of 9-Jul-2018 versus easyJet's 6.4%.

Delta, Air France's partner in SkyTeam and the North Atlantic JV, is number three, followed by fourth placed Vueling, which strongly increased its presence at CDG in summer 2016.

Norwegian, which only entered CDG in summer 2016, is now the airport's sixth largest airline (after Lufthansa, which has reduced its capacity at CDG over the past five years).

Paris CDG: airlines by seat share, week of 9-July-2018

Paris Beauvais-Tillé: route numbers broadly stable

The total number of routes at Paris Beauvais-Tillé has been fairly stable in recent years, only increasing by one, to 56, in summer 2018 (based on the week of 9-Jul-2018 versus the week of 10-Jul-2017).

There were 55 routes in summer 2012 (based on the week of 9-Jul-2012).

Paris Beauvais-Tillé: new routes summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?


Wizz Air




ORY (Air Malta, Transavia France), CDG (Air Malta)


Wizz Air


Valencia Manises*


ORY (Vueling, Transavia France), CDG (Air Europa)

The net increase of one route this summer reflects the start of services to Kutaisi, Sibiu (both by Wizz Air), Malta and Valencia (both by Ryanair) and the withdrawal of Katowice, Warsaw Chopin (both by Wizz Air) and Manchester (by Ryanair).

Paris Beauvais-Tillé: routes withdrawn summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?

Katowice Pyrzowice

Wizz Air




CDG (Air France, Flybe, easyJet)

Warsaw Frederic Chopin

Wizz Air

CDG (Air France, LOT); Ryanair operates BVA-Warsaw Modlin

Paris Orly: number of routes is falling in summer 2017

The total number of routes from Paris Orly this summer will be 127 (based on the week of 9-July-2018), a reduction of seven from last summer, but up versus 119 in 2012.

The reduction by seven this summer is the net impact of five new routes and 12 route closures (see tables below).

The new Orly routes consist of Berlin Tegel, launched by Aigle Azur last winter and joined this summer by easyJet; Aigle Azur's new Moscow Domodedovo service; La Rochelle, operated by Air France; and French Bee's new service to San Francisco.

Paris Orly: new routes summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?

Berlin Tegel

Aigle Azur*, easyJet

CDG (Air France, easyJet)

La Rochelle Laleu

Air France


London City

British Airways

No, but BA operates ORY-LHR, easyJet & Vueling CDG -LGW, BA & Air France CDG-LHR

Moscow Domodedovo

Aigle Azur

No, but Aeroflot operates ORY-VKO, Aeroflot & Air France CDG-SVO

San Francisco

French Bee

CDG (Air France, United, XL Airways France)

Paris Orly: routes withdrawn summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?

Berlin Schoenefeld


No, but Air France & easyJet operate CDG-TXL



CDG (Air France, Vueling, easyJet)



CDG (Air France, Flybe)

Boa Vista Aristides Pereira



Budapest Ferenc Liszt


CDG (Air France, easyJet)

Lannion Servel



London Heathrow

British Airways

CDG (BA & Air France), BA operates ORY-LHR, easyJet & Vueling CDG -LGW, BA ORY-LCY

Oslo Gardermoen


CDG (SAS, Air France, Norwegian)

Prague Václav Havel


CDG (Air France, CSA Czech, Vueling)

Tehran Imam Khomeini

Iran Air

CDG (Joon, Mahan Air, Iran Air)

Verona Villafranca





BVA (Ryanair)

Orly will be the second base for IAG's long haul low cost brand

Paris Orly has also grabbed headlines as the second base for IAG's new long haul low cost airline brand, Level.

Established in 2017 with routes from Barcelona to Boston, Los Angeles and Oakland in response to Norwegian's plans to launch long haul routes from Vueling's biggest base, Level will start operations at Orly in Jul-2018 with services to Montreal and Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) and, in Sep-2018, to Fort de France (Martinique) and New York Newark.

On Orly-Newark, Level is taking over from British Airways' OpenSkies subsidiary. It will compete with Norwegian's service launched earlier this year and with La Compagnie, which recently switched its service from CDG (La Compagnie argues that Orly is "closer to the capital's major decision making centres").

Level's Newark operation will also compete indirectly with Air France's Orly-New York JFK service, with CDG-JFK services from Air France, XL Airways France, Norwegian, Delta and American Airlines and with CDG-Newark flights operated by United and Delta.

On Orly-Montreal, Level will compete with Corsair (part of TUI Group). On its Fort de France and Pointe-à-Pitre services, Level will face direct competition from Air Caraïbes , Air France and Corsair and indirect competition out of CDG from XL Airways France.

Paris CDG route numbers are growing; Norwegian, WestJet adding trans-Atlantic

The total number of routes at Paris CDG is up by nine to 277 this summer, which is 45 more than in summer 2012. The increase this summer reflects the launch of 17 new routes and the suspension of eight (see tables below).

Paris CDG: new routes summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?

Ankara Esenboga

Turkish Airlines*, SunExpress


Bergen Flesland

Air France

ORY (Norwegian)


Jet Airways*





Fortaleza Pinto Martins

Air France


Granada Federico Garcia Lorca


ORY (Transavia France)

Halifax Stanfield












Quebec City Jean Lesage**

Air Transat


Saint Pierre

Air Saint Pierre


San Jose Juan Santamaria***

Air France



Georgian Airways



Montenegro Airlines

ORY (Transavia France)

Toulon Hyeres

Air France

ORY (Air France)

Wroclaw Strachowice

Air France

BVA (Ryanair, Wizz Air)

Among the new routes at CDG this summer, highlights include four new long haul low cost routes: Norwegian's three new US services to Denver, Oakland and Orlando, and Westjet's new service to Halifax.

Norwegian is the only operator on these new US services on the basis of airport pairs, but its CDG-Oakland route competes with services from CDG to San Francisco operated by Air France, United and XL Airways, and with French Bee's new Orly-San Francisco operation.

Norwegian is also launching CDG-Boston this summer, but this is not a new route for the airport, being already operated by Air France and Delta.

Norwegian already operates trans-Atlantic routes from CDG to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale (and launched Orly-New York Newark in Feb-2018).

Other highlights include the launch of Chennai by Jet Airways (started last winter), Indianapolis by Delta, and the north Atlantic island airport of Saint Pierre by Air Saint Pierre.

In an apparent challenge to low cost airlines, Air France is launching a Paris CDG to Wroclaw service, a destination already served by both Ryanair and Wizz Air from BVA.

Paris CDG: routes withdrawn summer 2018



Operated from other Paris airport?

Brindisi Casale

Travel Service

BVA (Ryanair), ORY (easyJet)




Patrai Araxos

TUI Airlines Belgium


Praia Nelson Mandela



Salzburg Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



Sao Pedro Cesaria Evora









Joon is taking some of Air France's traffic at CDG

Joon, the new millennials-targeted, lower cost subsidiary of Air France, launches services to Fortaleza and Seychelles (previously operated by Air Seychelles) in May-2018 and also takes over its parent's services to Mumbai (from 18-Jun-2018), Cape Town (from 3-Apr-2018).

Joon's destinations in Europe, Middle East and North Africa (Barcelona, Berlin Tegel, Cairo, Istanbul Ataturk, Lisbon, Naples, Oslo Gardermoen, Porto, Rome Fiumicino and Tehran) are all existing Air France destinations.

All of Joon's flights operate under the AF code. The unit cost targets set for Joon by Air France imply a CASK similar to that of KLM - certainly more cost efficient than Air France, but not low cost.

See related report: Joon: Europe's (compromise) newest airline manages to break all the LCC subsidiary start-up rules

WOW air is growing rapidly at CDG, offering indirect long haul low cost

In addition to direct long haul low cost services from CDG operated by Norwegian and WestJet, the Icelandic LCC WOW air has operated between CDG and Reykjavik since 2013.

It launched North American destinations from Reykjavik in summer 2015, thereby offering one stop low cost long haul from CDG. In summer 2018 its weekly frequencies from CDG will rise to 18 at the peak of the season, from 14 last summer and 10 in summer 2016, and it will fly to 15 destinations in North America.

Primera Air plans low cost US routes from CDG

The Nordic low cost operator Primera Air also plans to establish a base at Paris CDG, from where it expects to become another low cost long haul operator with services to New York, Boston and Toronto deploying narrowbody A320neo family aircraft.

It is also planning short haul routes, including a six times weekly Malaga service. It had hoped to launch its trans-Atlantic Paris routes this summer, but this has been delayed due to Airbus delivery delays.

Air France may suffer further erosion in its market share

Air France remains significantly the biggest airline presence in Paris, with almost 42% of seats in the week of 9-Jul-2018 (note that this seat share includes Joon). However, this has fallen from nearly 49% in the same week of 2012.

Air France-KLM's low cost operator Transavia France has increased its share to just over 5% from less than 2% in 2012, but the combined Air France/Transavia France share has dropped to 47% in Jul-2018, versus 50% in Jul-2012.

Paris airports*: top 10 airlines by seat share, week of 9-Jul-2018




Seat Share

Growth y-o-y


Air France










Transavia France















Royal Air Maroc





Delta Air Lines





Air Algerie










Air Caraibes




As noted above, low cost airlines have grown their share in Paris and although this is partly due to Transavia's expansion, competitors such as easyJet and Vueling have also grown. Norwegian had almost no presence in Jul-2012, but it has 1% of seats in Jul-2018.

Moreover, low cost operators are also now making their presence felt in the Paris market, led by Norwegian and also including Level, WestJet, French Bee and WOW air, with Primera Air planning to enter also.

The Paris aviation market is enjoying an increased level of dynamism but its leading airline, Air France, may suffer further erosion in its market share.

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