LYON (eTN) – In the shadow of Paris but also of Nice, Lyon airport is now coming of age. Air France-KLM is still the largest carrier at Lyon with over 200 daily flights linking 41 destinations this summer and carrying 3.41 million passengers last year. The airline shortened connecting times at the airport with safety measures being abolished for connections between two destinations within the EU. It has also boosted its flights with a new daily frequency to Barcelona and a new route to Bucharest with Rumanian State carrier Tarom.
However, France’s national carrier is challenged by competition. After opening its third French base in 2008, low cost carrier Easyjet steps up its offensive. The low cost airline accommodates 1.2 million passengers in 2009 on its flights linking Lyon to 20 European destinations. Bringing a fourth Airbus A320 jet, Easyjet will launch service to six new destinations and can expect to add another 300,000 passengers to its current traffic. “We expect a growth of 27% for this year thanks to our new flights. Our market share already represents 15% of total passenger traffic,” says François Bacchetta, Managing Director for Easyjet in France. Selected new destinations served this winter are two new domestic routes (Brest and Nice), Berlin Schönefeld, Milan Malpensa, Prague and Agadir. Seasonal flights will also be proposed to Bristol and Liverpool.
To sustain the growth of low cost traffic segment, Lyon will launch the enlargement of Terminal 3 before year’s end. The structure, due for completion in the summer 2011, will offer a new jetty with capacities for 4 million passengers.
Another group stepping up its presence is Lufthansa, present in Lyon with five airlines. The Lufthansa Group (Austrian Airlines, Bmi, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss) offers 24 daily flights to seven destinations (Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Manchester, Munich, Vienna and Zurich) and its passengers traffic reached in 2009 close to 720,000, a market share of 10% of all passengers. The Lufthansa Group has been favoring Lyon over the last few years with additional frequencies to Brussels, Düsseldorf, Munich or Vienna with an eye on transfer traffic. Last year, Swiss Airlines opened – in the midst of Europe’s worst economic crisis- a new route to Zurich. “We are highly satisfied by the results on this route and just added a fourth flight ,” explains Patrick Oberson, Swiss Manager for France.
According to Claus Becker, Lufthansa General Manager for France and Benelux, transfer passengers make 70% to 75% of Lufthansa Group’s traffic in Lyon. If Austrian Airlines sees a majority of passengers looking for a connection to Central Europe or the Middle East, Lufthansa and Swiss cater to many passengers flying to Athens, Istanbul, the USA and Tel Aviv, while passengers flying with Brussels Airlines look mostly for the carrier’s extensive network in Africa.
Many other airlines have recently included Lyon in their network: Transavia launched low cost flights to Tunisia, Bellair to Pristina, SAS Scandinivian Airlines to Copenhagen while Afriquiya Airways starts four weekly flights to Tripoli (Lybia) on July 15.
Last but not least, the most expected new line from and to the airport will soon be Rhônexpress. Starting on August 9, Rhônexpress is not an airline but the new rapid tramway service which will put Lyon city centre at only 30 minutes away from the airport! Operational times will be guaranteed even in case of airlines’ delays at the airport. This convenient service however will cost more: € 13 for a one-way ticket instead of €8.90 for the current bus service.