Air France is reducing capacity and slashing fares on its domestic routes for its winter schedule as competition with the TGV high- speed train intensifies, but will increase international services to pre-11 September levels.

On domestic routes, frequencies are being reduced or smaller aircraft used in a move which will see capacity down by 7% compared to the level planned for last winter before the 11 September attacks. This year's winter capacity will be slightly down (0.4%) on the winter 2001-02 level. All Air France's point-to-point flights that are operated by aircraft seating fewer than 100 passengers are flown by regional partners Brit Air and Regional.

The airline has revamped its domestic fare structure, with 30% discounts for passengers buying tickets 30 days in advance. Business travellers are offered discounts of up to 40% on domestic flights operating between 09.00 and 16.00, except those serving its Paris Charles de Gaulle hub and Corsica.

The TGV has made further in-roads into the French carrier's domestic market with the launch of new services from Paris in the past year. The airline had held around 80% of the Paris-Marseilles market until the advent of the TGV in June last year, but says it has now lost 25% of the market. French national railway operator SNCF, however, claims that the TGV's impact has been even greater, taking 60% of the market from the airlines.

International routes will have 44 more weekly services than last year when the winter schedule begins at the end of October, of which 34 will serve North America. Capacity on these routes is 2.2% higher than that originally planned for the 2001-02 winter schedule before 11 September, and 9.2% higher than last winter's adjusted capacity.

African capacity has been increased dramatically in the wake of the demise of Air Afrique, Sabena and Swissair, but Air France says that it is "adjusting the number of frequencies and size of aircraft" as rival airlines progressively reintroduce services. Routes to the Middle East remain largely as they were this summer, but capacity in the Caribbean/Indian Ocean network will increase, most notably to Mauritius. It will also resume flights to Madagascar, suspended due to political unrest there.

Source: Flight International