Air France’s bet on leisure routes could catalyse a quicker recovery for the carrier. With business travel demand suppressed, the airline must focus on serving high volume leisure routes and upsell premium cabins to high budget travellers to support a strong recovery.

Pre-pandemic, outbound leisure travel from France accounted for 72.1% of international trips, GlobalData figures show. In 2020, this increased to 74.3% despite restrictions severely reducing the total number of outbound trips. Leisure demand is likely to be one of the most prevalent reasons for travel in the immediate recovery period as travellers look to escape their lockdown locations. Air France’s focus on leisure routes will put the carrier in a stronger position.

Furthermore, GlobalData forecasts that outbound leisure trips from France will see a CAGR of 18.9% between 2021 and 2025, reaching 34 million international leisure trips by 2025. This shows the potential the leisure market holds. The introduction of Muscat, Zanzibar and Colombo, as well as more flights to Miami and Papeete (Tahiti), all leisure-focused destinations, reaffirm the carrier’s strong bet on leisure travel’s strong rebound.

Extending summer-only European flights will satisfy demand

Air France has announced the extension into winter of what are typically summer-only flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Seville, Las Palmas, Palma de Mallorca, Tangier, Faro, Djerba and Krakow.

Air France extending these routes to typically warmer destinations in winter (other than Krakow), reaffirms the carrier’s expectation that familiar, leisure-focused destinations will be in demand. A live GlobalData poll* showed that 41% of global respondents will likely opt for international trips to the same destinations they used to visit pre-Covid when restrictions ease. Given that these routes were served pre-Covid, they could benefit from the increased desire to visit familiar destinations. The smart move by Air France should see the generation of additional revenue by satisfying the current market sentiment.

Air France must upsell business class to high budget travellers

28% of global respondents in a live GlobalData poll** have revealed that their travel budget has increased either ‘slightly or ‘a lot’ since the start of the pandemic. These consumers should be a prime target for Air France’s long-haul business class.

The carrier’s focus on some luxury-orientated long-haul leisure destinations this winter will present ample opportunity to upsell the business class experience to leisure travellers, especially those with a higher budget. Pre-Covid business travellers were the backbone of premium revenue, but with demand down, leisure travellers must be the prime target. Business class should be promoted by Air France as a luxury start and/or end to a holiday. By upselling to leisure flyers, the carrier could mitigate against the loss of business demand, protecting against the loss of revenue.

Air France’s focus on leisure demand in the immediate term could signal a stronger rebound. With business travel suppressed for the foreseeable future, the altering of the schedule to meet rising demand from leisure travel could help the carrier return to profitability sooner than first imagined.


* GlobalData poll, 273 respondents, live since 19 May 2021

** GlobalData poll, 210 respondents, live since 19 May 2021

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