|Just how important is a F1 Grand Prix to a city? Pretty important when an estimated 500 million will be watching this weekend.|
Valencia will this weekend host its second European Grand Prix on a street circuit around the harbour area. Despite the non-appearance of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher organisers will be relieved that the Renault team have been re-instated for the race, thus allowing local hero, and two-times world champion, Fernando Alonso to compete on one of his two home circuits.
The airport will undoubtedly be boosted by a variety of special charters and business jets during the event. Valencia Manises airport has had a turbulent year since the first Grand Prix took place in the city. Having become an official Ryanair base in October 2007 the airline withdrew its based aircraft a year later after a dispute with local authorities regarding financial support. However, despite the axing of 12 routes, this summer Ryanair is still offering non-stop flights to 12 other destinations (all Ryanair bases) including new routes to Cagliari and Madrid. In total the number of flights operated by the airline is down only around 30% from its peak last summer.
Ryanair has retained all its flights to Italy (Bologna, Cagliari, Milan Bergamo, Pisa and Rome) which has helped grow the Italian market so that it is now bigger than the UK market. Even the revamped Alitalia has returned to the market after initially withdrawing from the airport. Whereas in 1999 the top five country markets (Spain, UK, Germany, France and Italy) accounted for 92% of passenger traffic, last year they accounted for just 83%. In other words traffic beyond these five major markets had more than doubled from 8% of the total to 17% in less than a decade.
During the winter season passenger numbers were down 30% compared with the previous year, although the latest figures show that in July demand was down just 14% compared with 2008. Overall, passenger numbers in 2009 are similar to those achieved in 2006 when the airport handled around five million passengers.
Romania sixth biggest foreign market; USA new market
While each of the top three international country markets (Italy, UK and France) saw traffic fall between 2007 and 2008, several other markets saw notable gains including Germany, Netherlands and Romania.
Central European LCCs Blue Air and Wizz Air both operate from Romania and even compete on flights to Bucharest Baneasa. Tarom and Vueling also operate flights in this market. In total six different airports in Romania are linked with Valencia; Arad, Bacau, Bucharest Baneasa, Bucharest Otopeni, Cluj Napoca and Timisoara. Some of these are among the new routes that have been gained by the airport during the last 12 months.
|Gained||BCM (Blue Air), BJZ (Iberia), BLQ (Ryanair), CAG (Ryanair), DBV (Iberia), FNC (Iberia), JFK (Delta), LEN (Iberia), MAD (Ryanair), MLA (Vueling), MLN (Iberia), OTP (Vueling), TSR (Wizz Air), VLL (Iberia), ZRH (Swiss)|
|Lost||BLL (Ryanair), BLQ (Iberia), BSL (Ryanair), BVA (Ryanair), CMN (Royal Air Maroc), CPH (Sterling), DBV (clickair), DUS (Lufthansa), EIN (Ryanair), FKB (Ryanair), FRA (Lufthansa), FRL (Ryanair), GVA (Swiss), HAJ (TUIfly), HAM (Lufthansa), LBA (Jet2.com), LEN (Lagunair), LHR (clickair), LPA (Spanair), LPL (Ryanair), MLA (Ryanair), MST (Ryanair), MXP (clickair, Volareweb), NCE (Iberia), NYO (Ryanair), OPO (Ryanair), OSL (SAS), SCQ (Ryanair), SOF (Bulgaria Air), VCE (Iberia)|
|Source: Derived from OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008 and w/c 3 August 2009|
The biggest coup for the airport has been the recent launch of transatlantic services to New York JFK provided by Delta. This is currently the only scheduled long-haul service from the airport, but is seasonal, running until October and then restarting next Summer. None of the MEB3 airlines yet link Spain’s third largest city to any of their Middle Eastern hubs.
Iberia still #1 but Lufthansa pulls out
Iberia accounts for over 45% of all scheduled flights representing some 28% of scheduled capacity. Ryanair and Vueling each have between 15% and 20% of seat capacity followed by Air Europa and Spanair. The only other European legacy airlines present are Alitalia, Swiss and Tarom while other leisure orientated airlines include airberlin (feeding its Palma hub), Blue Air, easyJet, Norwegian, Transavia, TUIfly and Wizz Air. Lufthansa has dropped all of its routes to Dűsseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg during the last year and not even its low-cost partner Germanwings has a presence at the airport.