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Air France-KLM CEO criticizes Paris’ main airport for shortage of jet parking | New Straits Times

PARIS: The CEO of Air France-KLM has urged Aeroports de Paris to improve Charles de Gaulle Airport in the French capital. He says a shortage of jetways has led to a daily scramble for aircraft parking spaces and increased operating costs.

Speaking to reporters to mark the French-Dutch aviation group’s 20th anniversary, CEO Ben Smith said that during the morning rush hour, dozens of planes do not have a jetway or ‘contact’ gate, forcing passengers to use buses to reach the terminal.

“We have to negotiate with ADP every morning, depending on what the other airlines have, to try to find parking spots for our fleet,” Smith said.

ADP did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2021, President Emmanuel Macron’s government asked the state-controlled ADP to come up with new proposals after abandoning plans for an entirely new terminal at CDG.

Smith has no regrets about the government’s decision to ax Terminal 4, citing a costly 15-year transition and the lack of a direct link with a proposed new rail line to the capital.

Instead, he urged more investment in existing facilities.

“We’re not talking about new capacity. We’re talking about improving what’s already there. It’s very important to us.”

Other group leaders said discussions have begun with ADP about possible changes.

Smith cited a list of other perceived faults, including the long distance to maintenance hangars, which left aircraft stuck for hours during extra tow times. He also complained about a lack of border control staff and “old baggage systems.”

The row comes as ADP and Air France prepare to welcome tens of thousands of visitors for the Olympics. Both say they are fully prepared and are working well together.

“The infrastructure is in place, the staff has been recruited and the processes have been defined,” ADP deputy CEO Edward Arkwright told the Paris Air Forum last week.

‘NOT IDEAL’

Smith’s comments partly reflect the fierce competition between hubs in Paris, London, Frankfurt, Istanbul and the Gulf. He demonstrated on Google Maps how some airport maintenance facilities are closer to the terminals, avoiding CDG’s long tow times for regular maintenance checks.

French network Air France operates a hub at CDG’s Terminal 2 and accounts for 55 percent of ADP’s traffic. A company-commissioned study on Wednesday found it contributes 3.2 percent of regional GDP.

Hubs, developed by the American parcel group FedEx in the 1970s, allow airlines to offer more connections, which attract more traffic. To thrive, they depend on streamlined connections.

The compact halls of Terminal 2 were officially opened by President Francois Mitterrand in 1982, just as the American hubbing revolution was about to reach Europe. They were designed to serve an earlier agenda: reducing gate-to-curb time.

“It’s not the ideal layout; it’s quite difficult to operate,” said Air France CEO Anne Rigail.

The area largely came to a standstill during the pandemic. Now that traffic has returned to normal, Air France will have to park 10 percent of its medium-haul flights and 5 percent of its long-haul flights at remote stands, a company spokesperson said.

For passengers, this means a bus ride and extra transit time. For the airline it means less efficient use of the hub. Air France declined to provide figures on the impact on operating margin, which stood at minus 6.2% in the first quarter.

Charles de Gaulle – 50 years old this year – is the EU’s largest airport with 67 million passengers in 2023.

For the 2024-2025 period, regulators approved an average 4.5 percent increase in fees airlines pay for airport use, coupled with a 3 percent reduction in fees for using remote aircraft parking lots.

ADP has said its 2023-2025 investment plans include a renovation of baggage sorting, more connections and shorter taxi times.

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