Julian Moxon/PARIS

FRENCH INDEPENDENT airline AOM French Airlines has joined forces with British Airways partner TAT to compete with Air France between Paris Orly and Marseilles, the busiest domestic route in France.

The move may signal a further rationalisation of French independents, which have been jostling to compete with loss-making Air France Europe (formerly Air Inter) since the opening up of domestic competition within France. AOM says that it is "-looking at other synergies we may have with TAT".

In late 1996, Air Libert, bought the scheduled services of Euralair, which was described at the time by Air Libert, president Lotfi Belhassine as the "opening shot" in the regrouping of the private airline.

Under the latest deal, full-fare passengers will be able to fly either airline on the route, irrespective of which carrier supplied the ticket. AOM says that it sees the agreement as an early response to Air France Europe's introduction of a "shuttle" service from October.

By combining, the two also hope to increase frequencies and to reduce fares further. AOM already has agreements with American Airlines and Israel's El Al for the on-routeing of international passengers to other French destinations. The airline admits, however, that, despite good performance on domestic routes this year, fare battles have eaten into yields.

AOM was also hit by the forced move from Orly West to the less well-equipped Orly South.

Source: Flight International