Flying Airplane

Airways – Airline Travel in France

Although France is reasonably big (for European standards), air-travel is not very popular. Prices are often high, and with the competition of the High Speed Train (TGV), it makes little sense to take an airplane. Add to that the requirement to be at the airport several hours in advance, which means the train is faster in many destinations.

However you will find some airlines offering services for flights within France. Most air travel is between Paris and the regions (only the really big cities), and from Lyon to smaller cities (Lyon has become a decent hub for those who need to travel outside of France and who do not want to go to Paris to change airplanes).

Other cities do have scheduled flights within France but often are limited to a few flights a week (cities like Nantes, Toulouse, Nice, Marseille, Caen, etc).

Airports

Nice airport
Nice airport

There are 151 operational airports in France but the vast majority are small and cater to aero-clubs. The top 25 airports that accommodate passenger airlines, scheduled or charter (but excluding private flight, e.g. business jets), are :

Note: the link on the city name brings you directly to the airport’s web site.
Note: International means flights outside of Europe while Magreb means Morocco, Algeria and Tunis.
Note: Air France and Hop! (their low cost subsidiary) are used interchangeably. 

The top passenger airports in France, scheduled and charter (excluding business jet airports only)
#CityFlights toMain Operators
1Paris Charles de GaulleDomestic, InternationalAir France/Hop!
2Paris OrlyDomestic, InternationalAir France/Hop!
3NiceDomestic, InternationalHop!, EasyJet
4MarseilleDomestic, InternationalHop!, RyanAir, Volotea, Air Algerie
5LyonDomestic, InternationalHop!, EasyJet, Air Algerie, Transavia
6ToulouseDomestic, InternationalHop!, EasyJet, RyanAir, Volotea
7Bale-MulhouseDomestic & European (some Magreb)EasyJet
8MontpellierDomestic & European (some Magreb)Air Arabia Maroc, Volotea
9NantesDomestic & European (some Magreb)Hop!, Transavia, Volotea, EasyJet
10BordeauxDomestic and InternationalEasyJet, RyanAir, Volotea
11RouenDomesticHop!
12AvignonUKFlyBe
13RennesDomestic & EuropeanHop!
14PauDomestic & European (some Magreb)Hop!
15GrenobleDomestic, InternationalEasyJet, Jet2, Wizz air
16PerpignanDomestic & European (some Magreb)Hop!, RyanAir
17BiarritzDomestic & EuropeanEasyJet, Hop!, RyanAir
18BrestDomestic & InternationalHop!, Volotea,
19Clermont-FerrandDomestic & European (some Magreb)Hop!
20BastiaDomestic & EuropeanAir Corsica, Hop!, EasyJet, Volotea
21StrasbourgDomestic & European (some Magreb)Hop!; Volotea, RyanAir
22Paris BeauvaisDomestic & European (some Magreb)RyanAir, Wizz Air
23AgenDomesticHop!
24AjaccioDomestic & EuropeanHop!, Air Corsica
25LilleDomestic and InternationalHop!, EasyJet

Airlines within France

Airplane loading passengers at an airport in France
Airplane loading passengers at an airport in France

For flights within France, Air France (the national carrier) and Hop! (a low cost and full subsidiary of Air France, the “!” is part of the name) are dominant. But several routes are flown by others airlines:

Conclusion

The days of frequent air connections between French cities are truly gone, and nowadays if you want to fly, you’ll need to arm yourself with patience to find the right schedule. Add to that the busy air traffic (flights overflying France) and the security requirements to arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight’s departure, and you end up spending more time travelling than taking the train or bus.

In a next article, I will be showing you the differences in prices and travel times. Stay tuned.

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