Julian Moxon/PARIS

AIR FRANCE HAS stepped up its efforts to become competitive with its inauguration on 31 March of a new "hub" at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The airline has spent Fr51million ($10 million) on the changes, which it hopes will increase by 117% the number of connections between long- and short-haul flights. The carrier's timetable has been restructured around five 2.5h time segments in each day, within which connecting flights will be concentrated.

The aim is to reduce transfer times by 45min, although this depends on the ability of the national carrier to surmount continuing problems with delays, which still affect around 30% of its flights.

The airport is also hampered by having just two main runways to handle up to one flight every 90s. The baggage system will also have to handle considerably more items at higher speed, giving rise to concerns about baggage following the passengers through the system.

Air France will begin its summer season with a 3.5% increase in the number of seat-kilometres being offered on its short-range flights compared to 1995, while frequencies will increase by 6%.

Numbers of flights on many European routes have been increased, with 2,600 services to 54 destinations, while long-range frequencies have grown by 8.5%. Fare wars have had a bad effect on earnings per passenger, however, which are 9.5% below plan.

Source: Flight International