Air France Offers Ultra-Cheap 'Mini' Fares

If you can't beat 'em.... In an effort to beat back the growing loss of traffic to the likes of low-fare EasyJet, Air France is selling new "Mini" fares on short-haul European flights.

Fares start at 50 euros (about $65) each way from most provincial French cities to Paris/Orly. The base ticket includes the regular (and minimal) economy cabin service and carry-on baggage, but tickets are totally nonrefundable and unchangeable, you earn no frequent-flyer mileage and cannot get an advance seat assignment, and you have to pay an extra 15 euros for each checked item of baggage. Tickets are on sale now for flights starting February 6.

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As with the European low-fare airlines, fares are more expensive at popular times and they increase as the plane fills. They're within a euro or two of starting prices on EasyJet, which competes directly with Air France on some of these routes.

Will this ploy work? Giant European legacy airlines such as Air France are having a tough time competing against newer low-fare carriers, which enjoy significantly lower costs. So the new Air France fares are almost surely profitable only to fill up planes carrying mainly higher-paying passengers.

At this point, it's far too early to tell whether the new fares will attract a lot of business and whether Air France figures they increase total revenues enough. Meanwhile, if you have a reason to take a short flight to/from Paris, certainly consider Air France Mini fares, which offer a bit more than EasyJet fares for the money. But also consider the TGV train.

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