Montpellier Airport is on the UP!

Bernie Baldwin

MPL is close to pre-pandemic traffic levels. Network expansion is set to follow.

A traffic recovery from January to the end of August 2022 that reached 92% of 2019’s respective figure, an expectation in 2022 to exceed by some margin the 2021 passenger number of 1,100,000, all while maintaining fees to airlines that have been frozen since 2012.

That’s the rather satisfying position that Montpellier Méditerranée Airport (MPL) entering the final quarter of 2022. And thanks to Transavia France, there is now one based aircraft year-round, according to Pascal Bigot, MPL’s route development manager.

The airport, however, is not resting on its laurels. “It’s a good performance compared with other regional airports, but we all know that Winter 2022 will be difficult, as airlines start to adjust capacity and reduce risk,” Bigot acknowledges. “But we are confident for Summer 2023.”

MPL runs passenger surveys annually involving 25,000-30,000 questionnaires, although these were suspended during the pandemic. Resumption of the survey came in February 2022 with all flights receiving a quota of questionnaires per flight.

The results help MPL to determine the split between inbound originating traffic and local traffic heading out of Montpellier (not tourists returning home) and also the business/leisure traffic ratio (see Table). “As you see”, Bigot points out, “the split in travel purpose is changing with VFR growing and Business decreasing, which is not surprising considering the context. The pandemic has meant changes in the lifestyle of people: travel habits have changed, the environmental consciousness, the impact of jetfuel cost and energy cost in general are now key in the decisions. Part of companies and individuals have decided that they would travel less frequently. Moreover, the current economic situation and geopolitical context have a strong impact on business travel. In summer 2022, the growth was clearly driven by VFR and leisure flows.”

In parallel, MPL is targeting ACA3 certification in 2022, 3+ and 4+ by 2026 and a full net zero emission by 2030.

Helping the 2022 summer season were four new routes. Flyr operated a new twice-weekly service to/from Oslo between mid-June and mid-August. The market had been unserved since 2008. Bigot expects increased capacity in 2023.

Seville with Transavia France, which had never operated before. “It was our first entry point to mainland Spain (though from 30 October, Madrid will be added) and is already a year-round, twice-weekly service.

Another route now year-round is to Rome, also with Transavia France. Unserved since October 2017 (by Alitalia), this also has a twice-weekly service. The same carrier also operated a service completely new to MPL, to Split in Croatia, for a short period from 9 July to 3 September. Flights were once a week on Saturdays.

Upcoming for Winter 2022, starting on 30 October, the new route to Madrid will be accompanied by flights to Oran with

Transavia France and Air Algérie, restoring a service interrupted for two years by the pandemic.

A glance at MPL’s destination map though, shows little in Germany and countries to the east of there. Bigot and his team aim to remedy that. “Germany is the top indirect market currently from MPL with only one direct service, in summer, to Berlin with Transavia France. Flows to central and eastern Europe are important as well, and not limited to summer,” Bigot remarks. “Our goal is to maintain the existing network both in terms of destinations and frequencies and to grow progressively and reasonably in markets where O&D shows potential, namely Germany, Switzerland Belgium, Nordics, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe, Northern Africa.

In the post-Covid challenge of staffing levels, MPL has fared pretty well, according to Bigot. “The airport itself and its local partners and suppliers have seen no lack of staff. So, we are happy,” he reports.

When it comes to infrastructure developments, MPL’s extension of facilities was concluded in March 2019 with new gates, an extended duty-free zone and six new check-in desks. This investment was a visionary decision as Transavia France has since made MPL its fourth French base.

“It all highlights that Montpellier Méditerranée Airport is demonstrating, season after season, its capacity to generate outgoing/incoming flows, year-round flows and an ability to feed hubs,” Bigot declares.

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