Julian Moxon/PARIS

FRENCH INDEPENDENT airline Air Littoral has consolidated its hold on the south of France by creating a new Nice-based airline, to be called Air Littoral Riviera. The carrier says that the move is directly aimed at preparing for the liberalisation of Europe's skies in April 1997.

The new airline will form the basis of a hub at fast-growing Nice Airport to add to Air Littoral's existing hub operations at Montpellier. Nice-based private investors will own 34% of the airline and, under an accord with Nice Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the airport will provide infrastructure and promote Air Littoral Riviera as a "gateway to southern Europe".

The subsidiary will begin operations in October, initially by augmenting Air Littoral's existing routes, but then launching its own network. The aim is for 34 new routes from Nice Airport to be opened by April 1998, with a minimum of 300 connecting flights a week. Operations at Nice will be organised around four "waves" of daily activity. Acquisition of up to 20 turboprop- and jet-powered aircraft is being considered to add to Air Littoral's existing fleet of 28 Fokker 70s and 100s, Canadair Regional Jets and ATRs.

Air Littoral is also considering a third hub in the south of France, or in northern Italy "-to protect our southern network. We want to create a real European regional airline, because, in 1997, we will be against very tough competition from other airlines in the region". The development occurs against a background of increasing activities in the French independent-airline industry. On 24 June AOM and Air Libert, signed a codesharing agreement on their routes between Paris Orly, Montpellier and Nice (Flight International, 26 June-2 July). This could lead to the creation of the biggest independent carrier in France, although the two airlines, which suffered poor performance figures in the first quarter of this year, have yet to agree on how a merger could be achieved.

Brittany-based Brit Air is also preparing for increased competition by adding Fr650 million ($130 million) to its capital to provide for the acquisition of a further six Canadair Regional Jets, to be used on its growing network within France and Europe.

Source: Flight International