By Cyril Altmeyer, Reuters
French airline Aigle Azur is expanding long-haul flights and adding partnerships, and hopes to return to profit following a management and shareholder shake-up last year.
The airline, founded in 1946 and which usually focuses on Mediterranean routes, on Thursday signed a partnership with French Caribbean specialist Air Caraibes and a catering deal with Newrest. It also said it would launch flights to Beijing in June and Sao Paulo in July.
"We are looking absolutely everywhere... except the North Pole!," CEO Frantz Yvelin told journalists in Paris.
He said Aigle Azur, which is due to receive its first two A330 widebody planes in mid-April, wanted to increase revenues to EUR320 million(US$394 million) in the 2018-19 financial year, up from 160 million in the previous year, and return to an operating profit.
Aigle Azur's main shareholders are Chinese conglomerate HNA with a 48 percent stake and DGN, the holding company of JetBlue founder David Neeleman, with a 33 percent share.
Neeleman came on board last year, while Yvelin became CEO in August and the company said in a statement that he had cut costs in order to put Aigle Azur on a more competitive footing.
As part of its revamp, Aigle Azur, which flies almost 2 million passengers a year, has also signed partnership deals with China's Hainan Airlines, Brazil's Azul, France's Corsair, and TAP Portugal.
Europe's airlines are currently going through a period of consolidation after the collapse of Monarch and Air Berlin last year, while Alitalia is also seeking new investors.
TAP is happy with its ownership structure but would also be interested in more partnerships, chairman Miguel Frasquilho told Reuters at the Aigle Azur event.
"For us, we don't see any mergers. Partnerships yes, we'll have to see, if good opportunities come around, we will analyse them," he said.