Corsica’s Air Bridge to the Mainland

Created in 1989, Air Corsica’s founding goal was to provide its island’s inhabitants with a fast, reliable and sustainable air bridge to the French mainland. In the 34 years since, the airline has become the preferred provider of regional transport for Corsicans, giving them access to business, educational and healthcare opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach.

So near, and yet so far…

The Mediterranean island of Corsica is known for its wild and varied landscapes, specialist produce, rich cultural heritage and incredible beauty, making it the most visited region in France. Glance at a map and it seems a short boat ride away from the nearest point on the French mainland, Nice. But the 230 km (123 nm) journey actually takes up to nine hours by ferry. Which is fine for tourists with a penchant for sea trips. Not so much for Corsica’s 350,000 islanders who need a fast and reliable link to the mainland for business, study and/or medical treatment.

An airline is born

Which is why, in the late 1980s, Corsica’s local government created an airline dedicated to regional transport. Starting with a single ATR 72-200, Air Corsica quickly expanded to become the island’s lead air carrier and fourth largest company, today transporting some 1.7 million passengers and 1,730 tonnes of freight every year. Its ongoing commitment to ATR is such, that over the last six months it has replaced almost its entire turboprop fleet with five brand new ATR 72-600 aircraft. Together, they will continue to provide daily links between the Corsican towns of Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Figari, and the mainland cities of Nice, Marseille and Paris.

A must for businesses

Jean-Luc Bartoli is a native Corsican. Like many local entrepreneurs, he relies on Air Corsica and its ATR aircraft to run his business without having to move home. The CEO of Nice’s Hocotel chain, Jean-Luc flies from his home town of Bastia to Nice at least once a week, in order to manage his six hotels and restaurants. Thanks to this regular air link, Jean-Luc has been able to develop his business on the mainland while dividing his time almost equally between work and home all year round. This last point is vital. Jean-Luc is constantly impressed by the ATR’s ability to take off and land in conditions that would ground other aircraft, which undoubtedly explains why Air Corsica controls nearly 82% of the island’s winter market.

Giving students their wings

These regular flights were a boon for Jean-Luc long before launching his business, when he was still a student and could only pursue his chosen course on the mainland. This is still the case for many young Corsicans today, like 24-year-old Chiara Ferrandino. Currently studying for a Masters in interior design, Chiara has no other choice but to live and study in Nice. But thanks to this service, she can go home for the weekend, catch a flight back to Nice early Monday morning and be in class for her first lecture an hour later!

Taking care of nature…

Corsican winemakers the Grisoli brothers also rely on the regularity and reliability of ATRs to visit customers on the mainland, as well as to fly in urgent spare parts for their wine cellars and tractors.

For them, one major bonus is the aircraft’s lower CO2 and noise emissions. Since their 90-acre vineyard specializes in biodynamic wines, produced using organic methods and with special attention to overall biodiversity, soil fertility and Earth’s natural cycles, this reduced environmental footprint is key.

…and taking care of people

This air bridge to the mainland is often quite literally a lifesaver, with many islanders using it to access medical care not available on the island. There is no university hospital on Corsica, making Marseille and Nice the closest options for certain types of specialist treatment, including paediatric chemotherapy and neurological procedures. INSEME, a charity set up in 2009, has established close links with Air Corsica to ensure that patients and their families benefit from the airline’s rapid and reliable service. Last year, the charity helped some 1,500 people to secure flights to the mainland.

One of Corsica’s favourite businesses

It is thanks to all these reasons—as well as to tourism, which represents one in six jobs on the island—that Air Corsica is one of its native islanders’ favourite businesses. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 92% of Corsicans see the airline and its services as ‘beneficial’ or even ‘highly beneficial’ to their daily lives.