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NEWS Last modified on May 15, 2014

Traffic surges at Paris CDG as restructuring continues to pay dividends

The restructuring of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport continues to reap its rewards after operator Aéroports de Paris (ADP) reported a strong surge in passenger traffic.

Traveller numbers into Europe’s second busiest gateway increased by 7.4% in April to 5.5 million, while in the first four months of 2014 by 4% to 19.3 million passengers, as investment in improved passenger facilities, easier connections and the capacity continued to pay off.

Significant rises into Paris CDG in April were in international traffic from outside of Europe, which rose by 6.5%, while notable passenger surges were 15.8% from the Middle East, and 10.2% from North America.

Yesterday, the positive impact and success of development of the Air France Hub was showcased to Airport World when I was given a tour of the new facilities.

The ADP and Air France Hub, which handles 60% of the airport’s traffic, was fully completed in February 2013, and has transformed the airport.

The heart of the €580 million transformation is the 2E Hall M, that opened in July 2012, enabling Air France and the SkyTeam Alliance to concentrate operations on the airport’s east end, between terminals 2E, 2F and 2G.

The new building raised capacity at Paris CDG by 7.8 million, and its creation has gone hand-in-hand with the reconfiguration of the other two terminals and easier passenger flows throughout the Hub.

Tour leader Jean-Paul Claret, Air France Hub communications officer, admits that Paris CDG previously did not meet the standards expected and what other airports offered.

“To be honest it was a little bit dirty in the past previously, but not now, and we offer many opportunities with great services. It has improved the experience for passengers, and really taken Paris CDG to a new level," he explains.

The Air France Hub now operates more than 18,000 connecting opportunities between long-haul and medium-haul and vice-versa in less than two hours, that Claret says in his opinion, puts its on par with London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and has led to passengers choosing Paris CDG.

In April, ADP says the number of connecting passengers was up slightly by 0.6%, further evidence that the new facilities are aiding and attracting increased traffic.

The development also included the building of a tunnel connecting Terminal 2E and 2F, which Claret says has cut the number of missed flights dramatically, that was an issue in the past.

He says it is due to the new facilities reducing the time it takes travellers to get to aircraft, which are all now all under 25 minutes and resulted in a 10 minute gain in flight transfer time.

Claret adds the experience for connecting passengers has been massively improved: ”Since the development opened, 0.8% of people have missed their flights compared with more than 2% before, which is a big difference. This is very important.”

During the tour I did question why the state-of-the-art Hall M closes at 2pm everyday, but Claret says the decision was taken to keep it purely as a long-haul flight area, as 75% of Paris CDG long-haul traffic is before 2pm.

On leaving I was still left perplexed as to why it cannot be operated throughout the entire day to maximise such an impressive high-tech facility.

Development potential is seen by ADP and Air France as one of the major assets of the hub, as it has room for growth and can expand to anticipate future changes.

Paris CDG is still not finished with expansion it seems, and Claret explains that the building of a new Terminal 2B, to replace 2B that was closed in 2012, is still in the pipeline.

He says work on a project set for completion by 2017, has been halted and put on hold due to airlines showing a lack of interest in moving into it.

A Terminal 4 could also one day be built, maybe by 2022, although no firm commitment or plans have been made, Claret says: “This has been put back due to the recession, but could be built by 2022, and is dependent on future passenger traffic growth and finances.”

The last stop on the tour was one of the showpiece facilities of Hall M, the swish 3,500 square metre, €13 million Air France and SkyTeam Lounge, which can seat 688 passengers at one time.

An enthused Claret, says the new stylish state-of-the-art lounge has been well received by passengers, and ADP and Air France are also set to introduce a family baby area in the busy holiday months of July and August.

He also adds that a new lounge in 2G is set to be opened by 2016, and 2 more lounges are set to be built around the same time – one in the arrivals area and one in another part of Terminal 2.

Improvements since restructuring are reflected in a recent study of 816 passengers by Air France and ADP, that found foreign travellers are now satisfied with the service at Paris CDG, which they say ‘dispels certain myths about Paris airports’ and included a 91% overall satisfaction rate recorded at Paris CDG.

After seeing first hand the impact of the changes and restructuring, I must say I was impressed with the high-tech M Hall, and the improvements made to Paris CDG, which has all be done with some French style and panache.

The increasing passenger traffic is a clear sign that the transformation and investment in Paris CDG is paying off, and it seems like it maybe gearing itself for a push to become Europe’s busiest, but also maintaining its position as one of the most central hubs in the region along with London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol.

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