Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées airport: the Court of Auditors still identifies the PSO with Paris-Orly

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The Court of Auditors, in its report on the French airport network, in turn criticizes the public service obligation and the public financing of the line between Bigorre and the capital.

The first salvo came from Bordeaux and its regional chamber of accounts. The second blade comes from the Court of Auditors of Paris which, in its report on the French airport network, grants an appendix to the “competition between the airports of Tarbes and Pau”. A statement which excludes Biarritz, yet the second airport platform in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. “Located 35 minutes by car, these airports share the same catchment area which brings together around 450,000 inhabitants.” A geographical proximity which does not “prevent a certain complementarity. Pau airport is oriented very predominantly to national traffic with a high share of flights to Paris in connection with the density of the local economic fabric. Tarbes, on the other hand, aims mainly to the import of foreign passengers by low-cost airlines to provide a service to Lourdes in particular.In this regard, the court indicates significant marketing expenses, of the order of 86 million euros from 2023 to 2029 for the three platforms of SPLAR, which operates Tarbes, Carcassonne and Perpignan.”In Tarbes, a 2019 survey of Ryanair passengers revealed that the marketing actions of this company had only a very low impact”.The report also highlights the absence of paid parking on the bigourdane platform, one of the few with Tours to benefit from it.

Read also:
Airport: “a useless, costly and environmentally harmful coexistence” of the Tarbes-Pau lines with Orly

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On the contrary, the court underlines the “frontal competition” on the link with Orly, provided in a market economy by Air France in Pau and as part of a public service obligation by the low-cost airline Volotea in Tarbes. “the two platforms are served at the same time every day for an equivalent journey and a significant environmental cost”. According to the Court of Auditors, “the regional planning line from Tarbes appears fragile from the point of view of European law. Public service obligations can be adopted by European regulations only if they make it possible to satisfy transport needs not covered by other connections or by another mode of transport, a fortiori in the same catchment area. Again according to the Court of Auditors, “this situation could be the starting point for a generalized competition between the two airports”, projecting on the fact that “Volotea is evaluating various other international connections, but also towards domestic destinations, in line with the project development of SPLAR, the TLP airport manager.”

And the Court of Auditors concludes on the “urgency of relaunching the cooperation work between the two platforms” and to invoke “a joint ambition of the two regions of Occitania and New Aquitaine”.

90% fill and fallout

As president of the Pyrenean union which manages the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées airport and representative of the Occitanie Region, main financier and manager of the airport within the local public regional airport company (SPLAR), Philippe Baubay has already ensured during the first report, “not wanting to argue”, recalling “that Bigourdan airport and the Tarbes-Orly line, supported by the state and the communities, reflect on the development of the Hautes-Pyrénées. With more than 90% occupancy rate , we note that the Tarbes-Paris line responds to a vital need, all the more so as our landlocked territory has not been taken into account in the route of the new high-speed line (LGV).The service obligation “public is not an option, it’s a necessity. Furthermore, the airport and the line to Paris have all their relevance because they are part of the ecosystem of an aeronautical hub of excellence”.

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