French regional airline Brit Air has entered into a 100% franchise deal with Air France which effectively ends the carrier's commercial independence. President Xavier Leclerc stresses, however, that "-we will retain our financial and economic independence".

Brit Air saw turnover increase from Fr650 million ($139 million) to Fr760 million in 1996, and says that it expects the accord to add Fr250 million a year to this figure. It has been flying under a partial franchise arrangement for the French national carrier on Paris-Southampton and Rennes-Paris routes for 18 months. Now, it is to operate all of its domestic and European routes on behalf of Air France from the end of October. Air France will also confer at least 12 of its routes to the regional carrier. Most of them, says Leclerc, will be centred around Lyon and Nice.

Brit Air placed the launch order for the 70-seat Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) in February, and already has in service five of nine 50-seat CRJs awaiting delivery. Leclerc says that he has "accepted" that his aircraft will fly in Air France colours "but they will still carry the Brit Air logo". He adds that there is "no question" of Air France taking a stake in Brit Air.

Fares will be fixed by Brit Air, but will be within Air France tariff categories. "We will fix the timetable, frequencies and capacities," says Leclerc. Air France will be paid an undisclosed percentage of Brit Air's turnover for the franchise, he adds.

It is the Ìrst such franchise introduced by Air France, which is expected to announce further such deals in the near future, says one industry source.


Source: Flight International