Gilles Gosselin, France director of Volotea: “Opening a base at Montpellier airport ? That’s one of the possibilities”

Gilles Gosselin, France director of Volotea: “Opening a base at Montpellier airport ? That’s one of the possibilities”

Gilles Gosselin, France director of the low-cost company Volotea. Midi Libre – SYLVIE CAMBON

Interview with Gilles Gosselin, France director of the low-cost company Volotea, third operator, in terms of number of passengers, at Montpellier airport, after Air France and Transavia.

How does Volotea, the company you manage in France, fit into the airline landscape?

Since 2012, when it was founded, Volotea has been based on a premise that is still true, that of ensuring that it supports regional capitals in their air development and offers families easier connections. This is what allowed us, last year, to become the leader in the number of domestic lines. We have 61 lines in France. We are ahead of Air France on this point.

But we are not positioned on domestic lines with high traffic, like the Paris-Nice line, for example. Nor on Paris-Marseille. Nor yet on Paris-Montpellier. We have one exception: we operate a public service delegation with the Paris-Tarbes-Lourdes line. This corresponds to our mission and objective of opening up, as with the choice of opening a base in Brest.

Are you a leader on transverse lines only in France or in other countries also?

This is the only country where we are leaders. We also have domestic lines in Italy or Greece, but it is really in France that we have developed so many domestic connections in such a significant and efficient manner.< /p>

You benefited from the withdrawal of Air France on certain domestic routes ?

A little, a little, but we still, on certain lines, in competition. The strategy of Air France and others has changed. Our model showed that it was effective and relevant on these transversal lines. Unlike others before, we operate with aircraft with relatively large capacities. This allows us to have attractive price offers. This made it possible to develop a more consistent volume of traffic.

Before, to make a transverse flight, whatever the airline, it was expensive to make a Montpellier-Strasbourg flight, if that existed. These were lines that were only sized for business traffic. Our policy is to be able to attract different segments of the market, affinity segments, all this clientele who have seen their children, their parents, their family live in diverse and varied cities and who have need to go to Strasbourg, Brest, etc. Thanks to Volotea, people no longer need to go through Paris or take hours and hours by train. With the price of a lower ticket. And it all works extremely well.

That is to say?

If we take the case of Nantes-Montpellier, for example, we have up to three rotations per day at peak and it is our number one domestic line, in terms of traffic in France. It’s a real success, it’s a benchmark for us. It’s a line that combines all customer segments and seasonality. The strength of cross-border domestic traffic is that there is no longer any seasonality. Except perhaps a little on a line like Strasbourg, because there is a very strong attraction with the Christmas Market, throughout the month of December, because all of France wants to go there at this time of year. ;rsquo;year.

With what pricing policy?

We are not necessarily the cheapest, but we try to offer low prices. Our ambition is to offer the best value for money. We are very committed to the quality of our services. We monitor the satisfaction rate of our customers on a weekly basis. On board and in airports.

We communicate a lot with our bases about customers' appreciation of the quality of services and their experience at the airports. We have a customer referral rate of just over 35, which is well over 50 on our subscriber program. All this has allowed us to be named the best low-cost airline in Europe.

Are you applying an all-round development strategy ?

No, we have a cautious strategy. We always start by operating lines in a small way. This is our model. We have a flight program that can resemble lace, we are going to build it very precisely, ensuring that it meets demand. Some companies will produce a flight program per season and will not deviate from it.

We will look precisely at what the flows are, what the demand is depending on the months and days. Then, gradually, we will stimulate demand, then, gradually, we will increase supply.

How does your presence in Montpellier fit into this strategy ?

We have been in Montpellier since 2012. In September, we opened our first line, to Nantes. It was very quickly after the creation of the company. Since then, we have reached the milestone of 2.4 million passengers transported cumulatively since the first flight. Overall, since our creation, across all networks combined, we have transported 60 million passengers in France.

Montpellier is a very attractive region, with a dynamic airport, extremely well placed in the region and which radiates effectively over several catchment areas and high tourist attractiveness. We are the airline of regional capitals.

It’s in our DNA. We are an airline that dialogues. The key word is partnership, dialogue, effective communication with airports and communities. We really want to be a real partner to know each other's ambitions and needs. We analyze and we will create routes based on this dynamism and this will. We are not an airline that will impose a route by diktat. This assures us, in a certain way, that it works because these are creations of airlines which correspond to expectations, needs, ambitions.

How many lines do you operate on Montpellier ?

We are at eight today. Seven domestic and one international, with the opening of Menorca, Friday May 31. The latter is, for us, an important step. In general, in our stops, we start by opening domestic lines, because we know that traffic is important. Then, we move towards international lines, as is the case in Montpellier, with Minorca.

It’s a turn?

No, because we have a high propensity for international lines across the entire network. Of our 270 routes operating from France, 61 are domestic. Concerning Montpellier, this is an extremely positive development. But this is only a stage, since we will, depending on the evolution of this line, necessarily have others internationally. We will discuss it with the teams at Montpellier airport, to define which ones.

In any case, it is an important milestone in the relations we have with the airport, the City and the Region. This is in our development logic. Once local customers know us well, we launch international lines in a more convincing manner.

You are also in Perpignan.

Exactly, we are in Perpignan-Lille and Perpignan-Nantes.

And about other airports in the region ?

This is not in our logic. We are partners with these two airports, that makes sense. We prefer to concentrate our efforts on an airport where we have started development. On which the experience is positive and the relationship strong. All this cannot work with the airports we serve, such as Montpellier, if there is not an almost perfect alchemy, if it is not perfect.< /p>

However, you did go to Perpignan. What logic did this arrival correspond to ?

Perpignan, it was a request from Nantes airport. We have 9 bases in France and Nantes is the largest with 9 aircraft based. We are the first operator in Nantes and on all of our bases, we are generally the first or second operator.

Third company in number of passengers

The airline Volotea is the third company, in terms of number of passengers, operating at Montpellier Méditerranée airport. It displays an average occupancy rate, in 2023, of 96%, when the company's national average is rather between 91% and 92%.

In Montpellier, Volotea arrives behind Air France and Transavia. "It is the only operator on the French domestic network, insists Emmanuel Brehmer, chairman of the board of directors of the Montpellier Méditerranée airport company. For us, it’is a major partner". "If you want to go to Deauville for the D-Day festivities, it's us, with the line to Caen", adds Gilles Gosselin. Who insists "the servant is our strength". And Emmanuel Brehmer reveals the success of the line to Nantes. "Volotea flies almost 150 000 passengers per year to Nantes, when, at the time, Air Littoral (the former regional airline based in Montpellier, today ;rsquo;now disappeared, Editor's note) made 30 000 in annual flow"

With a supply of more than 350,000 seats in 2024, an increase of 13% compared to last year, "Volotea confirms its role as a catalyst for connectivity in Montpellier".

When we have dialogues with the commercial teams of these airports, we always have a strong exchange, a need for connectivity, that is to say expanding the portfolio of destinations, to create wealth and stimulate ;local economy. We have, for example, created a line to London, which does not exist in our network, at the request of Strasbourg airport, the European capital. It was not our will, but that of Strasbourg, which had a real need. Since we're partners, we said "OK". We try to do it and see together how it works.

And a base in Montpellier, that could be feasible ?

Everything is possible. We will continue to develop, to open bases. It’s within the possibilities, it’s being studied, but I can’t tell you when it could be done. In any case, we discuss this subject a lot with our partners at Montpelier airport and the opening of the Menorca line also corresponds to that. We will not open a base in a stopover where we are only domestic or only international. With, in each, good potential.

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