Strasbourg International Airport sees a light at the end of the tunnel
STRASBOURG, France (eTN) - After five years of decline, Strasbourg International Airport feels more optimistic.
STRASBOURG, France (eTN) – After five years of decline, Strasbourg International Airport feels more optimistic. “I believe that the worst is behind us, as demand for Strasbourg airport is now stable and is even growing again,” analyzed Strasbourg International Airport Director Thomas Dubus. The opening of a high-speed rail link to Paris in 2007 had dramatic consequences for Strasbourg airport. Passenger traffic was divided by two, plunging from 2.2 million passengers a year in 1999 to slightly over 1 million.
The slump in traffic is also a consequence of neighboring competition. With lower taxes at nearby airports in Germany and Switzerland, Strasbourg was also unable to replace losses on the Paris-Strasbourg route by new sources of traffic, mostly from low-cost carriers. “Expensive state fees at the airport remain a major concern to us. Lowering taxes is now a priority for us if we want to remain competitive,” explained the airport’s director.
However, for the first time in many years, there is a new sense of optimism at the airport. For the first eleven months of the year, passenger traffic is growing again. It is up by 2 percent. “We could have seen a stronger growth. However, our results have been affected by political instability in Northern Africa, which is an important holiday destination,” explained Mr. Dubus. While scheduled traffic was up by 4 percent, charters were down during the same period by over 8 percent. “I recognize that we must also be more aggressive to attract tour operators in Strasbourg. We also need to reinforce our marketing presence in neighboring Germany,” estimated Thomas Dubus. Campaigns will be conducted in local papers, while the airport hopes that new flights and lower fares will also entice more German holidaymakers to come on the French side of the Rhine River.
Year 2012 already looks promising. Recently, Spanish low-fare carrier, Vueling, announced the opening of its first route from Strasbourg to Barcelona. The airline will fly three times a week from March 25, putting in the market some 34,000 seats. “We finally demonstrate that our airport is also able to attract low-cost carriers. We are, in fact, offering special packages to accommodate LCA needs, and we hope now to be able to secure more flights in this segment,” added the airport director. However, Mr. Dubus does not want any type of low-cost carriers. For him, Vueling is an ideal airline, as it complements other carriers present at the airport, such as Air France.
To preserve Air France is essential in the airport’s strategy. The French national carrier is Strasbourg’s biggest customer, offering 34 daily flights to 11 destinations. And it brings also some good news to the airport for 2012. “We never gave up in Strasbourg and always found alarmist stories from newspapers about the end of the airport wrong,” assured Eric Fuchsmann, Regional Director for Eastern France. “We are glad to experience a positive evolution this year of 5.8 percent. Our traffic to Paris is also growing strongly, including on point-to-point lines, with Orly-Strasbourg up by 15 percent,” he added.
All routes out of Strasbourg are up with strong growth recorded to Air France-KLM hubs in Amsterdam (up by 26 percent) and Lyon (up by 8.4 percent). For next year, Air France is now looking at expanding its presence. “With the opening of our regional base in Nice and Toulouse, we will boost seat capacity by 85 percent to Nice and 88 percent to Toulouse. We will also offer lower fares with at least 10 percent of our capacity being sold at a bargain price of €50,” explained Mr. Fuchsmann. Could Air France’s stronger presence in Strasbourg a first step into more routes? “We are committed to growing the Strasbourg market,” said an enigmatic Eric Fuchsmann.
Among Strasbourg airport’s priorities for its network are flights to Berlin and to London. It is not sure that Air France could fulfill these wishes, as the carrier offers easy connections to both destinations through Amsterdam. However, Rome could be back on the Strasbourg map thanks to the strong hub of Air France-KLM partner Alitalia.