Air France launches low-cost airline 'Hop!', set to target regional customers with cheap prices. Ciara Sutton reports
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS**NONE**~* Hopping on the budget airline bandwagon - Air France hopes its new offering will help boost sales. Hop! is a merger of the company's regional units and will take to the skies across France and Europe at the end of the month. President of the airline Lionel Guerin wants to challenge low-budget rivals. (SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENT OF HOP! AIRLINE LIONEL GUERIN SAYING: "It's really a renaissance of regional air transport in France and in Europe. We've got a lot of journeys in different areas. The aim is to win back clients with fares that are cheaper and more accessible." The move is part of a reshuffle of the group's loss-making short and medium-haul operations. Frederic Cuvillier is France's Junior Transport Minister. (SOUNDBITE) (French) JUNIOR TRANSPORT MINISTER FREDERIC CUVILLIER SAYING: "It's important to have a regional company, which is unique and prepares the future of regional air services. It's important that all territories in France, as well as areas which are sometimes not fortunate enough to have the infrastructure ." But it's got a long way to go to catch up with leading budget airline Ryanair. It's aggressively shifted capacity to fill gaps left by reductions in short-haul flights by flag carriers such as Iberia, and by the collapse of others such as Hungary's Malev. Ryanair now flies more international scheduled passengers than any other airline, according to the International Air Transport Association. And many budget airlines have grown sharply since the start of the euro zone crisis as flag carriers struggle and business passengers downgrade.