Start-up Air Nice plans ATR services from southern France

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Businessmen in France are starting up a regional airline, Air Nice, which is to receive financial support from the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur government.

Headed by local entrepreneur Francis Langlois, the Air Nice project focuses on the operation of two ATR 72-500 aircraft based at Nice and Toulouse and plying both French domestic and European routes.

Air Nice is planning to serve Paris Vatry with a daily flight from Nice, and operate three weekly frequencies to Basle, Stuttgart, Prague, Milan, Naples and Palermo.

From Toulouse it has earmarked three or four weekly frequencies to Venice, Naples, Brest and Porto.

The regional government will provide a subsidy of €10,000 ($14,750) per job created by Air Nice and the package could be worth up to €400,000 given that Air Nice is planning to employ a 40- to 50-strong workforce.

"The regional government's backing puts out a very clear signal that the project is a viable and realistic one," Langlois tells ATI, adding that Air Nice has secured around 50% of the €4 million required to launch the business and is currently in negotiations for the remainder.

He is unable to disclose the identity of Air Nice's shareholders ahead of the financing package being finalised, but says he, and some of the staff, will be among them.

Langlois is looking to bring together former pilots and employees of defunct French carriers, such as Air Littoral, AOM-Air Liberte and Air Turquoise, to provide the core of Air Nice's workforce. "Their experience and knowledge of the markets Air Nice is eyeing will be very important to the success of the project," he says.

He puts the case for Air Nice as a niche carrier, operating on routes where there is no direct competition from other carriers. "Paradoxically, the recession - which has triggered network cutbacks - could help us in gaining our initial foothold," he adds.

"If all goes to plan, we could launch operations during the summer 2010 season and introduce a third ATR 72-500, to be stationed in Nice, from early 2011."