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New Air France Fares Target Bag-Free Passengers

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Air France is to target people who travel light with a lower-cost tariff aimed at reviving loss-making short and medium-haul routes by tackling competition from budget carriers and France's high-speed trains.

The French carrier said one-way "MiNi" fares would start at EUR€49 (USD$64) including tax for the 40 percent of people who travel without checked baggage, about EUR€20 euros than the current cheapest economy ticket.

MiNi customers will not get frequent flyer points but will get the same onboard service as passengers with "classic" economy tickets.

Air France-KLM has slipped into second place among European network airlines behind Lufthansa on most measures, and analysts have urged it to focus on executing a cost-cutting plan and improving operations.

The airline said it would offer one million tickets this year in the lower price bracket on 58 routes including domestic services. The fares went on sale on Monday for flights from February 6.

Short-haul operations will be grouped in three categories, each flying different aircraft - the Air France-branded network using Airbus A320-family jets, the Transavia low-cost subsidiary flying Boeing 737s, and a regional unit operating planes with fewer than 100 seats.

Air France's website went down during the day. Christian Boireau, executive vice president for French commercial operations said: "It (launch) is more successful than we expected".

The decision to introduce a leaner low-cost model echoes a trend among legacy carriers hit by the growth of budget rivals such as easyJet and Ryanair.

In October, Lufthansa transferred short-haul flights to its no-frills Germanwings brand.

Air France-KLM has been under mounting pressure to act as its long-haul operations have failed to make up for domestic and regional European losses.

It denied reports that a newly installed system of regional hubs in France, designed to cut costs and lure customers with earlier flights, had failed to attract passengers.

(Reuters)

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