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Air France's Hop! to rival easyJet and Ryanair

Published: 30 Jan 2013 11:50 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Jan 2013 14:00 GMT+01:00

Most of the 136 destinations the airline will serve will be in France, but flights will also depart to towns and cities across Europe, from Budapest in Hungary to Aberdeen in Scotland. The service is due to be up and running by March 31st.

The company hopes the budget airline will stem the increasing share of the French market held by other low-cost operators, which currently stands at 20 percent, according to figures published in the French media.

"Air France had to react before its share of the market shrank to little more than a trickle," an expert told French news website Le Tribune.

Airline industry analyst Marc Watkins from specialist website anna.aero, told The Local on Wednesday that Air France's gamble could pay-off.

“It will be a real challenge, but one way that Hop! could succeed is by feeding passengers into Air France’s long-haul network,” he said.

“If I fly Hop! from Nantes to Paris, and then onto Singapore, that second leg is what could work for Air France, while Hop! itself may just have to function as a loss-leader,” he added.

Hop! will offer passengers three different price packages, the cheapest of which will be a one-way ticket for €55 available only to those travelling without luggage. There will be a Basic Plus service and a Maxi Flex offer which will allow customers to cancel and change tickets free of charge. Tickets can be purchased at www.hop.fr

The new airline is the result of a merger between Air France’s subsidiaries Britair, Regional and Airlinair.

The merger is conspicuous for its exclusion of CityJet – Air France’s loss-making subsidiary based in Ireland – a fact that did not escape Watkins' notice.

“The launch of Hop! seemed like an obvious chance to merge all four [Air France] subsidiaries, but CityJet has been left out, which begs the question ‘Why?’”

The Irish subsidiary has experienced some turbulence in the last year, with its Paris-based pilots threatening to strike last Christmas, and a French court fining the airline for paying its French employees under Irish contracts.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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