City of Flight Paris sees an influx of longhaul LCCs. And it’s making Air France nervous.

Congratulations, Paris. You’re now a member of the prestigious 100m club. Last year, the city’s two major airports handled nearly 102m passengers, plus another roughly 4m if you count Beauvais airport, about an hour and a half north of the city. In crossing the 100m mark, the French capital joins a short list of other club members, namely London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles (including all five L.A.-basin airports).

The enormity of its airline market should come as no surprise. Paris, after all, is one of the world’s most visited cities, with sites like the Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower. And not to alarm the traditionalists, but even Disneyland Paris receives something like 10m visitors annually. Paris, of course, is also the capital of France, with a large concentration of national political and economic influence—that’s different from neighboring Germany, where power and wealth are more decentralized. Paris, furthermore, is home to lots of globetrotting multinational firms: the oil giant Total, the pharma firm Sanofi, L’Oréal of cosmetics fame, the bank BNP Paribas and the aerospace suppliers Thales and Zodiac, which airlines know well.

Paris Aéroports, a unit of the publicly-traded Groupe ADP (formerly Aéroports de Paris), is itself a giant entity, managing both Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY) airports, with their 100m-plus passengers. De Gaulle’s passenger volumes reached nearly 70m last year, rising a brisk 5% after barely growing at all in 2016. At Orly, traffic rose 3% to 32m. And this year? Expect more growth and excitement—and surely some bloody competitive battles— because Paris is becoming a magnet for low-cost longhaul carriers.

At the center of this trend is Norwegian, which will soon be flying to the U.S. alone from 17 different European airports— yes, 17. Some of these are smaller cities like Shannon, Cork and Belfast, close enough to reach U.S. shores with B737s. Norwegian naturally flies longhaul from its home region Scandinavia. It does so from Barcelona and Rome now too and will this summer add Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam. Its largest longhaul base: London Gatwick.

Perhaps less understood is the growing importance of Paris to Norwegian’s longhaul network. The city has quietly emerged as…

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