Lyon, France: Bilateral air transport agreements stand in the way of Emirates operating weekly flights to Lyon, France, a French aviation spokesperson told Gulf News.
“The only thing that is preventing the increase are traffic rights,” a spokesperson from Aéroports de Lyon said. “We keep pushing to get the traffic rights because it’s [all] that is missing to have a complete weekly offering,”
The spokesperson said that it would be “extremely penalising” not to have Emirates fly daily out of Lyon.
Aéroports de Lyon oversees Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS), which Emirates flies to. Emirates currently offers five weekly services both ways between Dubai and Lyon on an Airbus A340-500 in a 12-seat first-class, 42-seat business, and a 204-seat economy class format.
Dubai’s flagship airline is the only carrier that offers a direct service between Lyon and the Gulf. Emirates also flies to Nice and Paris.
Etihad Airways offers services from Abu Dhabi through a codeshare agreement but it is not direct. Turkish Airlines offers twice daily services to Istanbul, which connects to the UAE and other Gulf destinations.
For Aéroports de Lyon and Emirates the route has proven successful. The route — celebrating the first anniversary of operations on December 5 — has carried almost 100,000 passengers, according to the Aéroports de Lyon spokesperson who said it was a “real success”.
“It puts Lyon on the map, being on the Emirates network is a real asset. It’s a real asset for the city and for its development,” the spokesperson said.
Gérard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon, told Gulf News the route was “fundamental” to the city because many Lyon-based small and medium sized enterprises wanting to do business with Asia and Africa can connect directly through the Emirates hub.
While the route is proving successful for business traffic on both ends — according to a local investment body, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has invested €300 million (Dh1.5 billion) into local real estate in recent years — it is also attracting a new breed of tourists.
Emirates’ tie up with Qantas and its global network has seen significant increases in traffic in and out of Australia and Thailand. “Emirates have developed new offerings, there is new traffic,” the spokesperson said.
While Emirates, and other Gulf carriers, have been criticised in the past by their European legacy counterparts, Aéroports de Lyon said the airline was not “cannibalising” the industry. Emirates is attracting new traffic, the spokesperson said.
LYS handles 8.5 million passengers a year but once planned renovations are complete in 2017, the airport will have a capacity of 13 million passengers a year and be able to cater to the Airbus A380, the spokesperson said.
Apart from increasing passenger growth and connections to new markets, the Emirates network has helped Lyon to transform its image as an international destination. ”It’s clearly an asset. It gives us legitimacy to talk to other long-haul carriers,” the spokesperson said.
Last month Etihad announced it is taking a 33.3 per cent stake in European regional carrier Darwin Airlines. The re-branded Etihad Regional — operated by Darwin Airlines — will connect passengers from Abu Dhabi to its new destination Zurich — from next year — where passengers can travel onwards with Etihad Regional to Lyon.
Emirates did not respond to requests for comment.