Whole new world is opening up for passengers at East Midlands Airport
AN agreement between Air France, Flybe and East Midlands Airport is making it easier for travellers to access hundreds of destinations across the world.
The deal is also designed take market share from Heathrow and mitigate the fall in passengers following the closure of BMI Baby.
Henri Hourcade, general manager of Air France/KLM for the UK and Ireland, has been to Castle Donington to meet business leaders to explain how the deal can help East Midlands firms drive global trade.
The aim is to make the East Midlands more accessible for overseas travellers and enable them to avoid the brutal slog to Gatwick or Heathrow.
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The "code-sharing agreement" with Flybe means that people can book a flight with Air France that will take them from East Midlands Airport to Charles de Gaulle, in Paris, and then on to any of the global carrier's international destinations. Passengers will end up with one ticket, one check-in and a straightforward onward connection to the world.
There are two in-bound and two out-bound services each day being marketed and sold through Air France/KLM.
It is has been operating since the end of October and is already bringing in more visitors to the area.
According to Air France, 10% of bookings are coming from the States.
Mr Hourcade said: "This is putting East Midlands Airport on the global map, giving access to 200 destinations in our network. The plane might say Flybe on the side but everything is organised through Air France.
"Most of our sales are to destinations in Europe but there is demand for flights to South Africa, Singapore and other destinations in Asia.
"Air France has made a massive investment in Charles de Gaulle, spending 500 million euros to improve the experience for people travelling through the airport to other destinations."
Creating agreements with regional airports is an important part of the Air France strategy in the UK. It now has 19 UK airports in its stable, more than British Airways.
Mr Hourcade said: "It is easier for people to fly from an airport closer to home for parking, easier check-in times and less time spent in traffic."
Air France is also hoping to increase market share among those people travelling to and from Asia to do business. It has nine destinations in China.
Mr Hourcade said: "Emerging markets are very important to us and we need to be able to offer firms in this area an easier way to travel to do business.
"The feedback that we have had from people in the area has been encouraging and we are looking forward to seeing volumes increase."
While in Castle Donington, Mr Hourcade met Mats Sigurdson, commercial director for aviation at Manchester Airports Group, the owner of East Midlands Airport.
Mr Sigurdson said: "Code-sharing agreements are an important part of increasing passenger numbers and working together with Air France is important.
"The loss of BMI Baby means that passenger numbers are down this year but, looking forward to 2013, things are looking better. We are investing heavily in increasing capacity and are confident about the future."