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European Aviation

Strasbourg airport aiming to bounce back

Stephane Hanot, eTN Staff Writer  Feb 11, 2009

Plagued by the arrival of high Speed Train TGV since the mid 2007, Strasbourg airport passengers' traffic has declined by a third. However, François Bru, Strasbourg airport's new director, has said he not only has a vision but also ideas to revive the ailing infrastructure.

As one of the three capital cities of the European Union, Strasbourg (in Eastern France) has all the advantages of a big metropolis. Luxury hotels, excellent restaurants, glamorous shops and department stores, world-class museums and of course the best in transport infrastructure toll ways, trains and air links connect Strasbourg easily with the rest of the world. However, the opening of the TGV East from Paris to Strasbourg has put the airport in a precarious situation.

By shortening rail travel time from four hours to only two hours 20 minutes between Paris and Strasbourg, the TGV easily swept away traffic from Air France. According to French national railways SNCF, TGV East transported in its first year over 3.2 million travelers between Paris and Alsace and probably over 2.7 million to Strasbourg on 16 daily return. The load factor reached 73 percent.

In parallel, Strasbourg airport has seen its traffic reduced by over 665,000 passengers between 2006 and 2008. Paris-Strasbourg used to represent 1.3 million passengers per year. "We estimate that the Paris route approximately recorded last year 450,000 passengers. Total passengers traffic output is estimated at 1.36 million passengers in 2008, down from a peak of 2.03 million in 2006," said airport director François Bru.

However, the airport's director remains cautiously optimistic about the future, hoping to secure its current traffic market. "We have some handicap such as the absence of low fare carriers. We however base our traffic strategy on working closely with our first customer, Air France/KLM. We want above all to make Strasbourg easily reachable from the rest of the world. And this strategy goes by more flights to Air France/KLM major hubs in Paris, Amsterdam and Lyon," explained François Bru.

Relation Air France/Strasbourg airport has not always been easy in the past. A few years ago, Ryanair opened a flight to London Stansted with financial incentives from Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce, which has the airport's concession. Air France contested the commercial agreement judged by the time discriminatory. In 2003, Strasbourg administrative court decision rules out in favor of Air France, forcing Ryanair to move its operation to nearby Baden-Baden in Germany. It might explain today why the airport's approach to budget carriers remains so cautious.

The airport sees also potential for new routes to Scandinavia, Spain and Montpellier in Southern France. To lure more airlines to fly to Strasbourg, the airport direction is looking to offer new attractive financial schemes, opened to any carriers. "We hope that this new proposal will attract new air services. We want to offer discount of up to 80% on landing fees during the first year and we also can provide a marketing help up to Euro 300,000," added Bru.

According to him, more opportunities coming from general aviation. "Strasbourg has a high potential for direct flights from private aircraft. We seriously look now at developing this activity and asked a consultant to study the airport's potential," said the airport director.

Another opportunity to make the airport more attractive is to offer more services to passengers and attract service activities. "We look to set up a commercial zone with offices, a conference centre and a hotel," explained Bru. "We opened in December our train station connecting the airport not only to Strasbourg but the entire region. Not a lot of airports with 1.5 million passengers per year benefit from such facilities."

Strasbourg hopes to stabilize its traffic, then growth might be back from 2010.

 Strasbourg airport aiming to bounce back
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