Air Transport World

Going for the gold; while others only talk of the future, French regional airline TAT actively prepares for liberalization.

PARIS-IF an Olympiad were held for airlines, Transport Aerien Transregional (TAT) most likely would be a medal winner. This hopeful has worked harder than most to be a top finisher for the 1993 European liberalization games. No doubt, TAT will face serious competition from established champions, who haven't begun to train. But this competitor's secret to probable future success may lie in its preparation and finesse to compete by expanding its route system and upgrading service but staying clear of those airlines that pack bigger punches.

Though liberalization won't arrive for more than a year, TAT already is one of its early beneficiaries, having received six routes from Air France in the shakeout demanded by the European Commission.

This happened because Air France acquired a 35% interest in TAT in july, 1989. Six months later, the national carrier gobbled up the two main domestic carriers, Air Inter and UTA. These moves gave Air France a 97% share of the French market. The Commission, concerned by this national concentration, asked Air France to sell all of its TAT holdings in a 3-stage withdrawal. The request to divest came a week after the French government loaned Ffr2 billion to Air France that it says was for future investment, not to cover heavy losses. By early next year, Air France will have shed its shares in TAT and surrendered its monopoly of 50 international and eight domestic routes.

As part of the first phase of international-route deregulation, six international routes emanating from Roissy Charles de Gaulle were allocated to TAT: London, Milan, Stockholm, Munich, Fm" and Copenhagen. Later, TAT received permission to operate from Paris to Helsinki and Vienna. Because of the lagging economy in Europe, only the ParisMilan route will be launched this year, in November, says the carrier.

Still, TAT will offer four new routes from leading French provincial cities: ToulouseLondon, Lyon-london, Bordeaux-london and Nice-Athens. …

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