What is the situation of air transport in France at the end of September? The good news is that passenger traffic is back on track and seems to be out of the rut seen between February and April. A period when traffic represented barely 10% of what it was in 2019… September certainly saw a deceleration in the number of passengers compared to August. But August had been recorded a very strong demand for leisure flights. September therefore appears more “normal” in its traffic types.

From January to September, the total number of passengers carried reached 44.68 million, i.e. 32.2% of the traffic recorded in the same period of 2019. While traffic still remains at historically low levels, there has been an improvement in traffic since December 2020. Along with July and August, September is the third consecutive month where total passenger numbers are above 50%.

The European Union and Africa are the best performers internationally. In September, these two market segments reached 56.9% and 54.8% respectively of September 2019. On domestic metropolitan routes, the figure reached 74.5%. Transversal routes (region to region) are the most resilient with a traffic level representing 83.4% of the September 2019 figure. Finally, on routes to the DROM-COM, the traffic level reached 69.1% of September 2019.

Another positive point is the recovery of market share by the French flag. Over the first nine months, French-registered airlines accounted for 47.6% of passenger traffic compared with 39.9% over the same period in 2019. While the French flag’s share is lower on the domestic market (72.1% compared to 77.6%), on the other hand, it is improving internationally (36.6% compared to 31.2%).

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Leisure” airports are a hit

On the airport side, it is the hubs with strong leisure and domestic traffic that are doing best. Montpellier, Beauvais, Nantes and Marseille have shown a traffic level over the first nine months of around 40% of their 2019 performance. The worst results affect Paris CDG – which is highly dependent on long-haul traffic and the hub effect, but also Toulouse and Lyon, whose traffic remains very much linked to business travellers.

In September, Beauvais had recovered 77% of its 2019 passenger volume, Montpellier 70.04% and Orly 69.8%. By contrast, CDG and Lyon remained at the bottom of the rankings with respective passenger volumes representing 42.6% and 53.3% of their 2019 performance. With two surprises: over the first nine months, Marseille handled more passengers than Lyon while Nantes overtook Bordeaux.

Airport Total passenger traffic Jan-Sept 2021 (in mil.) Level of traffic compared to 2019
Paris CDG 16,13 27,8%
Paris Orly</td> 10.18 41.3%
Nice 4,38 38,2%
Marseille 3,05 39,3%
Lyon 2,92 32,2%
Toulouse 2,34 32,3%
Basel-Mulhouse 2,33 33,4%
Nantes 2,20 39,1%
Bordeaux 1,99 33,7%
Beauvais 1,19 39,4%
Montpellier 0,72 48,9%

(Source: DGAC)