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Air France ‘must cut domestic flights to get state loan’

Paris, May 5 (IANS) A French government plan to rescue Air France was contingent on the flag carrier scrapping some domestic flights amid the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has said.

The government has approved a 7 billion-euro loan to Air France, which has been hit hard by coronavirus curbs, the BBC reported.

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On Monday, the European Commission (EU) approved the proposal, saying it met the bloc's rules on state aid.

Speaking to France Inter radio also on Monday, Le Maire said the coronavirus crisis provided an opportunity to “reinvent our model of economic development to ensure it is more respectful of the environment”.

He however, said that this meant a number of Air France domestic routes would need to go.

“It is obvious that today a number of domestic routes are no longer justified,” the BBC quoted the Minister as saying without elaborating on further details.

“When you can travel by train in less than two and a half hours, there is no justification for taking a plane.”

Like most airlines, Air France has drastically reduced its activities and was currently operating about 5 per cent of its usual scheduled flights, said the BBC report.

Last month, Air France-KLM secured at least 9 billion eurps in government aid, as the Franco-Dutch airline group struggles to stay afloat because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this year, Air France-KLM estimated the outbreak would cost the group between 150 million to 200 million euros in between February and April.

The two airlines merged in 2004.

–IANS

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