Belgian low-fare carrier Virgin Express has decided not to begin operations from Paris Orly this summer, despite being allocated enough slots for routes to Bordeaux, Toulon and Rome Fiumicino.

The airline says it is returning the 112 slots per week to Paris slot co-ordinator COHOR because it believes only one of the three routes it was allocated will be profitable in the near future.

"Furthermore, the restrictions placed on flight timings allowed a maximum aircraft utilisation much lower than that necessary for a low-cost company," says the airline.

It rejected the option of operating a single route from Paris as uneconomic for an airline of its size. "Following discussions with COHOR, the situation has not improved sufficiently and will not allow Virgin Express to build sufficient scale of operation to be low-cost," it says.

Virgin Express was the third largest beneficiary of the Orly slot hand-out after the failure of Air Lib, with only French charter carrier Aeris and easyJet, both with over 140 slots per week, gaining more.

The decision to turn down the Orly opportunity is the second time Virgin Express has examined the creation of a new base, then pulled back. In September it announced it was dropping plans to open a hub at Germany's Cologne-Bonn, citing increasing competition from other low-cost airlines at the airport.

The airline says it will now refocus its attention on building its position at Brussels, where it operates 16 routes.

Source: Airline Business