Europe Will Soon Have a New Low-Cost Carrier
Illustration courtesy of Thinkstock
Europe will have a new long-haul low-cost carrier later this year when an airline called French Blue starts service to the Caribbean. It will join the likes of Norwegian Air and WOW Air, who already fly between Europe and the Americas.
The first French low-cost carrier
The new airline is owned by a French conglomerate called Groupe Dubreuil, which is heavily involved in travel and hospitality businesses, but also owns assets in other industries. Dubreuil does have experience in the aviation business already. It currently owns a regional airline called Air Caraïbes. This small carrier flies between destinations in the French Caribbean.
French Blue’s first route will not be to one of the Francophone islands in the West Indies. It will be between Paris Orly and the Dominican Republic vacation destination of Punta Cana. The plan is for the first flight to take off in September of this year. In 2017, Blue hopes to expand to the Indian Ocean with flights from Paris to Mauritius and the French overseas territory of Reunion.
Committed to long-haul routes
French Blue will be operating Airbus A330s and A350s. These aircraft are ideal for long-haul flights, so it appears that the airline will not be establishing any shorter routes anytime soon. Also, to keep operating costs and debt figures low, Groupe Dubreuil will buy the aircraft and then lease them to its two airlines.
Low-cost carriers are not new to Europe. Some of the continent’s biggest airlines follow the budget business model, and LCCs like Norwegian Air have pioneered the low-cost long-haul model. The trend has yet to take off for French-owned airlines. French Blue hopes to change that as it expands its service over the next few years.
Groupe Dubreuil spokesman Eric Fohlen spoke of the lack of French representation in the low-cost air travel marketplace: “In France today, there is no long-haul, low-cost operator. There is an opportunity. Today, low-cost carriers [are] like a way of life and we need to catch the trend.”
A three-class setup
French Blue will have a three-class setup. Basic fares include one free carry-on (and no seat selections). Regular “Smart” fares include one checked bag, meals and the ability to select a seat. Premium class comes with bigger seats and other amenities.
The airline will have onboard Wi-Fi, but all passengers will be required to pay for it. French Blue has an ambitious business plan. It will start with a very limited number of routes, but it hopes to become profitable very quickly. CEO Marc Rochet wants to be in the black in only two years. However, he is also willing to be flexible: “We will see if it works. We've given ourselves two years. If it doesn't work, we'll have to adapt."
More by Josh Lew
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