Julian Moxon/PARIS

THE FUTURE OF THE proposed alliance between French privately owned airlines Air Libert, and AOM hangs in the balance, with the planned next phase in the deal stalled.

A strategic agreement signed at the end of June has still not borne fruit. This foresaw a commercial alliance, leading later to possible incorporation of AOM into Air Libert,. Workforce objections to the merger, however, have left AOM president Alexandre Couvelaire struggling to remain in the post, with his replacement by Fernand Danand, a senior pilot with the airline, demanded by several unions.

The initial codesharing deal between the two carriers on routes between Paris and Marseilles/Nice is "working well", according to Air Libert,. The planned next stage, however - codesharing on routes to the French Caribbean, which are operated by both airlines - was expected to begin in September, but will not now be taking place "for at least a few months", says one airline source.

Couvelaire has been attempting to win his workforce over to the merger idea, but in the face of losses resulting from poor load factors on several internal routes, is said to be discussing "other ideas". In May, AOM concluded a deal with British Airways subsidiary TAT, also between Paris and Marseilles, but denied at the time any plans to extend the relationship.

Air Libert, admits that it, too, is having a "difficult year", with only 11 of the 23 domestic and European routes, which it planned to open in 1996 becoming operational since the plan was announced in January. "A lot of what we wanted to do has not been possible," says the airline. The lack of availability of slots at Paris Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports is blamed but tough competition on fares, coupled with poor load factors, has also brought losses. "We are discussing what we might do," the carrier says.

Source: Flight International