Air France considers regional bases a success despite load factors

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Air France believes its regional base programme, launched in late 2011, has been a success despite underwhelming seat occupancy on the routes.

The airline's chief executive Alexandre de Juniac, admits that load factors on services from the airline's regional bases were "not as good as we thought they would be, with strong seasonality". However, the airline declined to reveal the specific figures for each base.

However, he says that from an operational perspective they have been a success as "we were able to test out a number of rules that will be applied to our short- and medium-haul networks". He says: "We have made changes much faster than we used to. We have learnt a lot and we have learnt very quickly."

The SkyTeam carrier's executive vice-president of passenger operations for Orly and French stations, Florence Parly, says the launch of the regional bases proved the carrier could achieve "a level of productivity close to that of the low-cost carriers." She adds that Air France's traffic has increased by around a million passengers as a result of the initiative. 

Many of the ideas tested in the regional operation have been used to shape the carrier's restructuring under the Air France-KLM group's Transform 2015 plan.

Air France launched its first regional base in Marseille in October 2011, which was followed in April 2012 by two more in the cities of Toulouse and Nice. Plans for a fourth regional operation in Bordeaux were shelved.

Aircraft stationed in the bases are staffed by two crews over a longer flying day and who are paid more for working longer hours. As they are based locally the airline saves on accommodation costs.