Air Transport World

Doing nicely in Nice, thank you. (Nice/Riviera Airport)

NICE--Aspiring to be the primary gateway to Europe's high-tech industrial sun belt, newly "rebranded" Nice/Riviera Airport has neither delusions of grandeur nor is it resting on its laurels. Last month's dedication of its striking, rebuilt international passenger terminal is only the latest phase in a remarkable metamorphosis from provincial airfield to world-class air-transport hub. A total of $170 million was earmarked over a 5-year period to modernize the facility, spread over 370 hectares, partly on land reclaimed from the sea.

"Well never be a second Atlanta or a 747 airport," comments Marketing Director Clive Raymond. "But we're just right for the 767s, the MD-87s, the Fokker 100s and the A340s entering service in 1993. Consider us a kind of Gallic Raleigh/Durham, with a San Jose market in the background." France's second-busiest airport after Paris Charles de Gaulle, Aeroport Nice Cote d'Azur, the official French nomenclature, will serve an estimated 6 million passengers this year, comparable to the traffic at Berlin Tegel or Indianapolis. By 2010, total passenger surge is projected to reach 20 million.

The airport has chalked up a largely unheralded 5-fold increase in passenger traffic over the past 20 years. What once was a sleepy airport without an image is repositioning itself with typical French panache. The strategic goal: To establish a long-haul network and carve a firm niche in the economy of the "new Europe" that will unfold on Jan. 1, when the hotly debated Maastricht treaty on European political and monetary union is scheduled to come into force.

Last year, Nice/Riviera logged 11.5% more scheduled traffic--but only half the passengers--than Britain's highly successful northern hub, Manchester, acknowledged as Europe's fastest-growing airport and a role model for the French airport's planners. In terms of passengers, the Riviera complex--favorably situated midway between Barcelona and Milan--already outperforms the airports of capital cities such as Vienna, Lisbon, Dublin, Budapest and Prague. …

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