It was promised 2 million travelers by 2035 and tens of millions of euros to develop it. And then the covid put the plans on the ground. Rennes airport is not immune to the global crisis in the aeronautics sector, crashed by national and global travel restrictions. In 2021, 400,000 travelers walked the RNS tarmac – its international registration. Half less than in 2019, the last “normal” year. Sign of a good recovery despite everything: between January and March, the airport recovered two thirds of its traffic in the first quarter of 2019. And two lines have opened in recent weeks, including Rennes – London Gatwick, inaugurated this Friday.
Despite the current rebound in civil aviation, the return to pre-crisis levels is not expected before 2024, according to specialists. Provided, of course, that the epidemic does not repeat its own. Expand Rennes airport in such a context? “This is not the issue of the moment”, admits Sabine Granger, director of regional airports of Vinci, co-manager, with the CCI of Ille-et-Vilaine, of the Breton infrastructure. “The primary goal today is to restore traffic. »
Understand: no reason to put millions of euros on the table to accommodate more users as long as they are not back. The finances of the management company, strongly impacted despite state aid, do not allow it. Even if “it is not as catastrophic as for others”, the debt has increased, underlines the CCI. Rennes therefore seems set to remain modest for years to come. Only 16 destinations will be accessible directly by plane from the Breton capital this summer. Far from the hundred proposed by Nantes Atlantique.
The distant “Accessibility Pact”
How far away it seems, the time when we pointed to the saturation of the airport, originally calibrated to accommodate only 700,000 people a year. A threshold exceeded in 2017, after years of continuous growth. A promising horizon but obstructed by the highly contested project of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Was Rennes’ equipment going to stand up to competition from a behemoth a few dozen kilometers away? Everything changed in 2018, with the abandonment of “NDDL” in the open countryside by the government of Édouard Philippe.
Furious, regional officials step up. Their requirement: solutions to the accessibility problems of the Breton peninsula that NDDL had to contribute to solving. In compensation, the Prime Minister announces in particular support for the infrastructure of the Breton capital. A commitment signed, a year later, in the marble of the “Brittany Accessibility Pact”. Regional officials are now counting on 2 million travelers at RNS, thanks to the capture of part of the traffic envisaged for “the airport of the Great West”. While ensuring that it will never be international in scope, so as not to provoke environmental defense associations and avoid a second Zad.
First works in 2019
The summer of 2019 marks what must be the start of the major works. Additional car parks are being built on land ceded by the State. The saturation of parking for travelers, which was limiting the increase in traffic, is thus resolved. The Region, owner of the structure, has developed a general recomposition plan, with, among other things, the redevelopment of the terminal. At the end of the day, 60 to 70 million in total investment spread over fifteen years, at each traffic threshold reached. A job swept away by the health crisis. Only the repair of the track could take place… Between March and May 2020, in full confinement.
The file is not forgotten
“The crisis requires redoing an impact study, given the upheaval in the aeronautical sector, the new legislative context and the change in airport economic models”, details the Region. For a bit, one would think that the development of Rennes airport is postponed indefinitely… No, assures Laurent Giboire, elected representative of the CCI. “For the moment, we need to develop traffic. But the dossier has not been forgotten and we continue to have ambition. »