The Three Airlines That Merged To Form Air France’s HOP! Brand
Passengers traveling on Air France’s regional flights will have become accustomed to the HOP! brand over the years. Now known as Air France Hop, the carrier came into existence in December 2012, and commenced operations the following March. It did so following the merger of three existing French regional carriers.
One of the three carriers involved in the merger that formed HOP was Société Airlinair, known simply as Airlinair. According to data from ATDB.aero, this Paris-headquartered airline commenced operations in May 199, having been founded the previous year. French businessman Lionel Guérin was among its four founders.
In June 2005, Brit Air (remember this name for later) purchased 19.5% of the airline, and later increased this share to 39.85%. Over the years, the carrier operated a diverse fleet of regional aircraft to various domestic and European destinations. It served these from bases at Paris CDG, Paris Orly, and Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport.
In terms of Airlinair’s fleet, ATDB lists 60 aircraft as having served the carrier over the years. While these were primarily turboprops belonging to the ATR 42 and ATR 72 series, Airlinair did also operate regional jets designs. These turbofan-powered aircraft included the British Aerospace 146-200 and the Bombardier CRJ700.
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Even before HOP! came into existence, Régional had a close relationship with Air France. This is because the airline was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the French flag carrier, which it set up to operate certain regional services. The airline’s headquarters were located at Nantes Atlantique Airport in western France.
While Airlinair favored ATR turboprops, Régional had a closer relationship with Embraer’s jet-powered aircraft. Indeed, November 2006 saw the airline become the first European operator of the Brazilian manufacturer’s E190 design. It also flew rear-engined ERJ135/145 regional jets, as well as the EMB 120 ‘Brasilia.’
Away from Embraer products, data from ch-aviation.com shows that the Dutch-built Fokker 70 and 100 jetliners also had a place in Régional’s fleet, as did Saab’s 340B and 2000 turboprop models. However, by 2008, Régional had withdrawn all of its remaining turboprop aircraft in favor of an all-jet fleet.
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The third and final airline involved in the merger that formed the HOP! brand was Brittany Air International, known in short as Brit Air. As its name suggests, the carrier had a strong presence in Brittany, serving the likes of Nantes Atlantique, Brest-Bretagne, Lorient South Brittany, and Rennes–Saint-Jacques Airport.
Much like Régional, Brit Air, which was formed in 1973, was also an Air France franchise, and thus its aircraft wore a livery reminiscent of the French flag carrier. These aircraft were often examples of the Bombardier CRJ series, with other designs in the fleet including the ATR 42/72, the Fokker 100, and the Saab 340.
Did you know that HOP! was formed through the merger of three existing French regional carriers? Perhaps you even flew with one or more of them back in the day? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
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