Air France has announced on the GDS system that it will be suspending its flights to MAA-Chennai, India from March 29th onwards due to less than expected revenue obtained on this route. AF currently flies 3 times a week to MAA nonstop from CDG using an A 343. Also AF confirmed that due to the weakening U.S. economy, it will not be deploying its Boeing 747-400 for the summer IATA season to Atlanta this year and instead will be using a Boeing 777-200ER for the service. AF usually uses the B 744 to ATL from CDG for the summer season when traffic levels are high where as in the winter season, it uses an A 343 on the route.
Air France should seriously consider flying 3 weekly flights to ISB-Islamabad, Pakistan using an A 343 which is used for MAA. There are over 60,000 Pakistanis residing in France who hail mainly from Punjab and Kashmir areas of Pakistan so from an O&D perspective, there is a market to tap into. Along with the O&D market segment, the other main market segments for AF to attract on this flight are as follows:
1. High yielding business class flying diplomatic/businessmen/politicians who would fly AF from ISB to UK, North America, North Africa, Europe via CDG and vice versa. This is the same form of traffic that BA had a big market share over EK/QR/PIA and its yield margin on these business class pax from ISB was very high. The foreign diplomats, Western businessmen and many local Pakistani politicians prefer flying a Western airline for the safety it provides and availability of alcohol on board.
2. 6th freedom transit traffic bound via CDG to UK, North America, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Holland. With AF offering one stop flights with good connections via CDG to all the major Pakistani hot spots in the Western hemisphere, they will get good market share from markets that see virtually no competition such as YUL, DFW, IAD, ORD, EWR, CPH and ARN.
The flight timing can be as follows:
AF XXX Dep CDG 1245 Arr ISB 0045
AF XXX Dep ISB 0245 Arr CDG 0715
With these above mentioned flight timings, not only do North African, European, U.S East Coast/YUL/YYZ connect in both directions nicely via CDG but also 2 more key markets such as LAX and SFO. Cargo carried in the aircraft belly too would be high yielding and high volume year round on the CDG-ISB-CDG route. FYI, Pakistani citizens holding residence permits for UK, EU states, USA and Canada do not need a transit visa for CDG!