Brest-Orly: does the Chalair company have a solid back? – Our file on the Brest-Orly link

35,000 passengers between Brest and Paris-Orly in 2022, in the shadow of the 304,000 at Brest Paris Charles-de-Gaulle. Where is the balance point for Chalair Aviation, which will operate the line from March 6? “Sixty thousand, a level that we hope to reach in one year”, answers the president of the company Alain Battisti. The line is fragile, its profitability not exceptional in a period of soaring operating costs: according to him, road and terminal fees have a higher cost than that of fueling its 12 planes with kerosene. And the carbon tax weighs 400,000 € per year.

Chalair Aviation consolidates its establishment in Brest while it posts a turnover of 28 M€, declared nearly 2 M€ of cumulative losses in mid-2022, has its fleet of planes (40 M€) and experiences contrasting in France. Since 2019, it has notably positioned itself on four public service obligation (PSO) lines, co-financed by the State and local authorities to help open up territories.

Renunciation at Poitiers, confusion at Limoges

This is the case, until November, for the Quimper-Orly line. Twelve thousand passengers used it in 2022, far from the financial equilibrium threshold estimated at 80,000 passengers. It seems unlikely that the contract will be renewed as it stands, while local authorities in Cornwall, the departmental and regional councils or the State will have spent €14.50 million of public money over four years to keep it afloat. .

Each of the players in the file is aware of this, especially since Chalair recently denounced an agreement of the same type, before its expiry, on the La Rochelle-Poitiers and Lyon axis. It will leave the field, in April instead of October, after having reduced the rate, the traffic melting to 5,000 passengers per year. “We were losing a lot of money despite the subsidies, it was no longer tenable,” admits Alain Battisti.

In Limoges, the public partners refused his offer. The company, the only one to apply, proposed to continue on the daily Limoges-Paris line, in OSP until March 3, claiming €6 million in additional aid, to reach €13 million. Its partners said no after having injected 10.10 M€ between 2019 and 2023. Five passengers (19 seats) frequented its flights on average. The line is suspended.

Brest Bordeaux and Rennes Toulouse on the rise

For lack of alternatives, the same partners have nevertheless entrusted Chalair, once again, with the Limoges-Lyon line, in which they have committed €9.80 million over four years. It carried 10,000 passengers in 2022. This is slightly more than the 8,800 recorded by the company between Brest and Bordeaux, an unsubsidized link. The company also plans to double, at the end of March, the resources allocated on the Rennes-Toulouse line, which it has been operating since October 2022 at the rate of a daily round trip. The occupancy rate of the 48 seats per flight is 68%.

Chalair’s history with Brittany will include flights with Ireland in the summer of 2023, departing from Quimper. And later other connections from Brest and elsewhere. It plans to buy or lease three more planes, after selling four in 2022.

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