French Carrier Expanding Into Emerging Markets

French airline XL Airways is experiencing a sort of renewal. At more than two decades old, a new CEO and new fleet is bringing new life to the Paris-based carrier. And with this comes more destinations to in-demand locales.

The airline in 2016 launched direct flights from Los Angeles International (LAX), bringing its US departure gates to four. Demand from the southern California market was and continues to be on the rise, Sascha Bullen, US product manager for XL Airways told Emerging Market Views in an interview earlier this year. “Internationally, we’ve just opened up a Tel-Aviv-Paris route, non-stop from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Ben Gurion.” The airline has also begun flying into Cuba and Saint Martin.

Diversifying Markets

This spring, the airline announced plans for expansion and more far-flung areas including Asia. XL Airways chief executive officer Laurent Magnin spoke of the need to diversity and eventually work to compete with Gulf carriers. “With 50% of our customers being of American nationality, the dependence in the United States of XL Airways is far too great,” Magnin said in an interview.  “We had to “change gears, change the axis”.” The group is now looking towards Asia. Not merely to establish new routes and a presence but to grow alongside a market that remains a factor to global growth as its middle class continues to expand.

“We have to go to Asia,” he adds, “and quickly.”

While a firm date has not been announced, it is expected that XL Airways will launch routes within the next year.

The carrier also continues to bridge France closer to the Caribbean and West Indies. As it continues its development, XL Airways will commence a Bordeaux-Fort-de-France direct flight come January 2018. Six departures will be scheduled between January 2 and March 27 2018. All flights will be direct and carried out on Airbus A330-200 and 300 mono-classes. Bookings are already possible with rates starting from just 519 euros, staying true to the carriers low-cost ethos. As of press time, XL Airways remains the only airline carrying passengers to the West Indies from six other provincial cities, non-stop, including Brest, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes and Toulouse.

“All markets are obviously important to us,” Bullen said. “Emerging markets are of course showing demand and we will not overlook any of them. Our airline is still young, and with a growing fleet. Servicing existing customers while listening to the market is key.”