As the aviation industry comes to grips with the impact of Covid-19, the Airport of Nice-Côte d’Azur has had to adapt to the collapse of air traffic and new sanitary measures. “It’s as tough as it gets,” says Franck Goldnadel, the new Head of the Nice-Côte d’Azur airport. He took up his position right in the midst of the storm, in September 2020.

What is the current state of air traffic at the Nice-Côte d’Azur airport?

Currently, our air traffic is the same as it was during the first lockdown, when we had about 10 flights a day. When France opened up, traffic took up again, eventually reaching 40% to 50% of our usual number of flights. When a second lockdown was announced, we didn’t immediately register a drop in passengers because during the first week of lockdown many people were still coming back from holidays (France has a national holiday at the end of October, ed.). Now, it’s as tough as it gets. November is already a usually quiet period, but at the moment we only have about ten flights a day. We’re obviously following very closely what’s going to happen and are impatiently awaiting the decisions of the French government next week.

Private jet traffic has certainly declined, but not as much as commercial traffic

You’re the first French airport to introduce rapid antigen tests, can you tell us more?

Thanks to the city of Nice and the French Transport Ministry, we’ve been able to introduce antigen tests for departing flights. It’s on a voluntary basis, so there’s no requirement that passengers do it. The test is helpful because by doing it before departure, passengers won’t have to queue for a test at arrival. We hope that quick antigen tests will become the rule throughout Europe. It’s both reassuring for passengers and an effective way of fighting the pandemic. It would also help us get air traffic back on track. However, for that we will need all European countries to be on board and at the moment, Italy is the only one to have adopted the solution.

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Have you seen a decline in private jets?

Business traffic is a very important part at Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport. It actually represents between 30 and 40% of our total air traffic. It has obviously been constrained by the pandemic, for instance because of border closures. Yet, at the moment it’s easier for European business travellers to travel on a business flight rather than on commercial lines, which are less reliable. Private jet traffic has certainly declined, but not as much as commercial traffic.

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A drop in passenger numbers anywhere between 65 and 70%

We’re almost at the end of the year, how are 2020 numbers looking?

The year isn’t over yet, but we’re expecting a drop in passenger numbers anywhere between 65 and 70% compared to the 15 million passengers we had in 2019. This reflects on the state of the region as a whole… With no more business tourism and no more congresses, the transport industry is inevitably impacted. We’ve also closed Terminal 1 to concentrate air traffic on Terminal 2.

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What do you think the future will look like ?

Vaccines are on their way and we know the disease better now. In 2021, we should start seeing a way out of it, when the economy does pick itself up, we need to be ready. Now the question also is: when will we have enough confidence to start flying again? Only then life will go back to normal at the Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport. The Côte d’Azur remains an attractive region. But according to widely accepted estimates, air traffic is not expected to return to its 2019 level before 2024. It is not a crisis that will be forgotten in a few months; it is a crisis whose weight we will carry for several years. In any case, really hope that the recovery will be the strongest one possible for the region as a whole.

Terminal 2, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport