Christina Mackenzie / Paris

Italian investment fund Seven Group, owner of AzzurraAir, is to take over Air Littoral and invest €15 million ($17 million) in the insolvent French carrier. Seven will continue to develop Mediterranean routes and aims to cut costs by 20% by reducing staff, rationalising the fleet and route network, and raising aircraft utilisation by 20%.

Seven Group will make an immediate investment of €11 million into Air Littoral and invest a further €4 million over the next six months. It will maintain the airline's two hubs in Nice and Montpellier and its headquarters in Montpellier, and will also retain current management, including managing director Jean Durand.

Under the new owner's restructuring plan, Air Littoral's fleet will be cut from 32 aircraft to 17, with only Bombardier CRJ100s retained. The 10 ATR 42-500s and five Fokker 70s will no longer be operated and may be transferred to other operators. Routes from Nice to Barcelona, Madrid and Florence will also be cut.

Codeshare agreements with Air Algérie, Royal Air Maroc, Tunisair and Air One are also maintained, as are the marketing agreement with Lufthansa and Air Littoral's membership of Lufthansa's frequent flyer programme.

Mario Palmonella, chairman of the Seven Group, says: "Our objective is now to set up a top-ranking European regional airline to serve the Mediterranean region based on synergies between AzzurraAir and Air Littoral." He forecasts 2005 turnover for Air Littoral of €190 million carrying 1.5 million passengers. In 2002 Air Littoral had turnover of €180 million, but lost €42 million. It carried 1.3 million passengers (Flight International, 2-8 September).

Source: Flight International