The new SkyTeam terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport opens this week, providing the alliance's founder member Air France with a major weapon in Europe's battle of the hubs.

The opening of the first phase of the new CDG-2E terminal marks the initiation of a €750 million ($877 million) expansion of the Paris airport, which could ultimately boost annual passenger capacity to more than 70 million. Initial capacity is 6 million passengers annually, increasing to 9 million when the second phase is fully operational in 2007. Charles de Gaulle handled 48.3 million passengers last year, and operator Aeroport de Paris (ADP) says capacity will reach 55 million when CDG-2E reaches full capacity.

The terminal, which is directly south of the most recently opened facility - CDG-2F - is dedicated for Air France and its SkyTeam partners Aeromexico, CSA, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air, while Alitalia has relocated to terminal 2F.

Plans are already complete to boost 2E's capacity by a further 8 million passengers with the second arrival/departure hall and a planned 16-gate satellite. "The project could be up and running three to four years after go-ahead," says ADP chairman Pierre Chassigneux.

A second, similarly sized satellite is also proposed, which would boost CDG's capacity beyond 70 million, putting CDG in a competitive position with its main European rivals Frankfurt Main and London Heathrow.

ADP is to start moving airlines to CDG-2 from the 30-year-old CDG-1 terminal to allow a major refurbishment to begin. British Airways has already agreed to move. Refurbishment will begin in April, says ADP, and is due for completion in 2008.

SkyTeam is strengthening co-operation among its four transatlantic partners - Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and Delta Air Lines - in a bid to generate an extra $100 million a year for the next three years. The alliance is also harmonising purchasing.

Source: Flight International