easyJet’s dominance at Bristol under threat from Ryanair

Image: easyJet celebration
Tony Hallwood, Bristol’s Aviation Development Director (left) celebrates “its excellent relationship with easyJet” with the airline’s 150 millionth passenger in July.

easyJet’s base at Bristol was acquired in 2003 when the airline took full control of Go, the low-cost airline created by British Airways back in 1998. Go had started operations at the airport on 22 May 2001 with an inaugural flight to Nice and developed its base there to encompass 10 destinations and 18 daily departures by the summer of 2002.

Go’s decision to launch its first regional base at Bristol had been influenced by a number of factors. In 2000 Bristol had opened a new terminal and its annual traffic throughput had passed two million for the first time. New owners Macquarie Bank and Cintra were keen to exploit their new terminal capacity and so negotiations were entered into which resulted in the airport becaming Go’s second base after London Stansted.

Last year the airport handled 5.71 million passengers which ranked it ninth in the UK. This represents a near tripling of traffic in just seven years.

easyJet triples route network

Since 2002 easyJet has trebled the route network from Bristol and this summer a total of 31 destinations were served with typically 40 daily flights. Including seasonal destinations easyJet currently offers a total of 37 routes, ranging from Inverness in the north to Madeira in the south.

Chart: easyJets operations at Bristol
Source: Derived from airline website timetables

This winter the airline will serve 31 destinations, an increase of seven since last winter. Funchal (Madeira), Gdansk, Innsbruck, Lisbon, Milan Malpensa, Valencia and Warsaw are new winter routes.

During the summer there were new services to Bordeaux and Milan Malpensa, while Ibiza flights were resumed for the first time since Go operated them during the summer of 2001.

map: flight routes

BA Connect demise removes domestic competition

Since Flybe’s acquisition of BA Connect and its decision to abandon the Bristol base (apart from a solitary route to Jersey) easyJet no longer faces competition on its domestic routes. In fact, the only routes on which easyJet does face significant direct competition are to Amsterdam (where it competes with KLM’s four daily flights), and to Paris CDG (where Air France provides three daily flights). For this winter the airline’s routes and frequencies are summarised below:

easyJet Frequency Destination
>13 per week Alicante (14), Belfast BFS (20), Edinburgh (19), Glasgow (19), Malaga (14), Newcastle (20)
7-13 per week Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin SXF, Faro, Geneva, Krakow, Milan MXP, Paris CDG, Prague
5-6 per week Madrid, Murcia, Rome CIA, Venice
3-4 per week Gdansk, Inverness, Lisbon, Madeira, Palma, Nice, Toulouse, Warsaw
1-2 per week Pisa, Valencia
Source: easyJet website

Ryanair’s recent major expansion at the airport to 15 routes has avoided further direct competition though it will fly to alternative airports that serve Barcelona and Milan. While easyJet still has a 54% share of this winter’s capacity, Ryanair now has 25% with Air Southwest the third biggest carrier with a 4.1% share of capacity and 10% of flights.

A few failures along the way

Image: OLT
A rare case of a regional airline getting the better of an LCC in head-to-head competition saw easyJet driven off the Bristol – Hamburg route by little known German regional airline OLT, operating Saab 2000 turboprops.

Not all routes have been an unqualified success. Routes to Bilbao, Budapest, Copenhagen and Hamburg were dropped after not achieving a sufficient return. On the Hamburg route easyJet succumbed to pressure from little-known German regional OLT which operated double-daily flights with 50-seat Saab 2000s, compared to easyJet’s six weekly flights. Bristol and Hamburg are both major Airbus manufacturing and production centres and this business dominated route clearly preferred frequency over price. The Budapest route has been picked up by Ryanair.

Rome was served by Go for just nine weeks during the summer of 2001 and it would be over three years before easyJet added it back to the network with a daily service starting in October 2004. For an analysis of fares available from Bristol at short notice and those available for early January see this week’s farewatch.

Biggest base outside of London

With a total of 11 A319s based at the airport, Bristol is easyJet’s biggest base outside of London and in 2007 will expect to carry around three million people through the airport. In July the airline welcomed its 150 millionth UK passenger at the airport.

This winter’s schedule sees all Bristol routes served by Bristol based aircraft with the exception of Belfast and Newcastle. The earliest departure is at 06:40 to Malaga and the latest evening flight is the 23:25 arrival from Alicante.


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