Air France stated it plans to sign a JV agreement with China Eastern Airlines based on sharing revenues on operations between the two carriers’ hubs, Paris and Shanghai, before the end of 2011 (Cnyes.com, 23-Sep-2010). Air France signed a similar agreement with China Southern Airlines on Paris-Guangzhou services earlier this week.
Air France plans JV agreement with China Eastern by end of 2011
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Air France-KLM Group dreams of CDG airline boosting Air France; KLM again makes more profit in 2016
In 2016 Air France-KLM's long haul network generated more profit than the group as a whole. Yet the dependence of Air France-KLM's profits on the long haul business is under threat from more cost efficient competitors, in particular the Gulf based super connectors. Moreover, Air France-KLM's main European competitors IAG, and now Lufthansa, have developed a clear lead in developing commercial partnerships with Gulf airlines.
Air France-KLM's 2016 operating margin was its highest since before the global financial crisis, but remained below its pre crisis peaks and well below the rest of the world airline industry in what was almost certainly a new record year for global margins. Within the group, KLM's margin improved and was again higher than that of Air France, whose margin fell.
The planned new lower cost airline to be based at Paris CDG as a subsidiary of Air France, announced in outline in 2016 under the project name 'Boost', will now include medium haul in addition to long haul routes. This will be vital to setting it back on a path to sustainable profitability – if agreement can be reached with pilot unions to launch it. Even then, its scope and low cost ambitions will be limited.
US-China open skies: a window in 2019 – alignment of airline partnerships & airport infrastructure
The year 2019 presents a possible opening for China and the United States to sign an open skies agreement. This would principally lift restrictions on flights between the countries – important, since both nations have saturated primary traffic rights and there have been unsuccessful negotiations to expand the allotment.
Most importantly, open skies is a prerequisite for US approval of US-China airlines' joint ventures with antitrust immunity. These partnerships permit airlines to coordinate networks and pricing jointly – which, they say, increases consumer choice, but which other groups worry reduces competition, after experience in the trans-Atlantic market.
Perhaps paradoxically, the lure of a JV will mean that the airlines lobby their governments for open skies that might eventually reduce competition. US airlines will want greater slot availability at Shanghai and Beijing, which could occur in 2019.
Finally, airlines will need to have confidence in a shared future with their partner. China Eastern is close to Delta, while China Southern has a young partnership with American Airlines. Air China, however, does not feel close to United Airlines, which has the highest presence of its own metal in the market. Air China questions whether United actually wants open skies. There is unlikely to be any government deal without the support of Air China, the flag carrier, and a major airline that enjoys a close relationship with the regulator.