Air France launches low-fare product to counter low-cost rivals

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Air France's latest attempt to regain market share from its budget competitors will see the SkyTeam carrier introducing a new low-fare product.

Dubbed "Mini" by the airline, it will be available on 58 domestic and European destinations from 6 February on the French flag carrier's short- and medium-haul network. Tickets go on sale on 7 January with prices starting from €49 ($64) one-way.

More than one million tickets will be available at this lowest fare class throughout the year, according to the airline's chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.

Speaking to Flightglobal, he says that the new product, which does not earn passengers loyalty points or include checked luggage, is "low-fare high-quality, not low-cost".

He says the Mini product is aimed at enticing passengers away from low-cost rivals and that the airline "wants to recoup a lot of market share" by attracting "people who would pay €10 more" per ticket in order to receive extra services with Air France such as snacks and drinks.

The new product targets the 60% of customers Air France estimates base their airline choice on price and the 40% of short- and medium-haul customers that travel without checked baggage.

Mini does not allow ticket changes, advance seat selection and passengers must pay €15 if they wish to check in luggage online or €30 to do so at the airport. It can be booked through all of Air France's sales channels and in combination with a full fare return leg, which the airline terms its "Classic" product.

De Juniac says that in conjunction with a soon-to-be-created regional network to feed the airline's Paris Charles de Gaulle hub, and an expanded Transavia which will provide point-to point leisure traffic, Mini will help the airline "address all market segments". He refutes suggestions that it could create confusionfor the airline's customers, saying it was a "diversified offer and good news for passengers and for us". He adds that the new product will also allow Air France to promote its competitiveness in comparison to low-cost rivals. "We had low-cost prices but nobody knew. It's a way of letting our passengers know our product is also low-price," he says.

Christian Boireau, Air France's executive vice-president commercial, France says there was high demand for the new fares on the first day of sales. "We are totally saturated," he says.