Julian Moxon/PARIS

AIR LIBERTE has made the first move towards consolidating France's privately owned airlines with an agreement to take over the scheduled routes of Euralair.

Euralair president Alexander Couvelaire calls the deal with Air Liberte "the opening shot in the regrouping of private-airline forces in France". The deal involves no cash payment, but, in return, Euralair has been given a 10% stake in Air Liberte.

French domestic routes will be opened to internal competition from 1 January 1996 and to competition from other European airlines from April 1997, when liberalisation of Europe's air-transport market will be complete. Couvelaire says that alliances of French private carriers "...must take place if we are to compete in Europe".

The deal gives Air Liberte an extra 5,000 slots, which it badly needs, at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Euralair had been serving Madrid and Toulouse from Orly, and Toulouse from Charles de Gaulle, achieving "break-even" on the services, according to Couvelaire.

Air Liberte will take over three of Euralair's six Boeing 737s. Euralair has postponed "indefinitely" delivery of two Boeing 777s and two Airbus A321s and two A330s, which were due to enter service in 1997. Couvelaire says that his airline will now return to "...the business we know best", operating executive charters, cargo, and maintenance.

Elsewhere, Air Liberte's attempts to take over domestic carrier AOM appear to have been stymied. Its hostile bid, has encountered strong opposition from the AOM management and is understood to have been dismissed by the airline's major owner, Credit Lyonnais.

AOM chairman Marc Rochet believes that it will not be sold within the next two years.

Source: Flight International