Monarch and Ryanair enter London – Barcelona market; both airlines target current easyJet route monopolies

easyJet is the biggest airline between the UK and Barcelona, but the airline as of last week faces competition from purple Monarch on the previous orange monopoly route from London Gatwick.

easyJet is the biggest airline between the UK and Barcelona, but the airline as of last week faces competition from purple Monarch on the previous orange monopoly route from London Gatwick.

One of the European cities to benefit most from the development of low-cost airlines during the last 20 years has undoubtedly been Barcelona. After hosting the summer Olympics in 1992, the city saw airline passengers between the UK and Barcelona (which in this analysis includes El Prat and Girona airports) surge from less than 750,000 in 1991 to 4.3 million in 2007. Apart from the global awareness generated by the games and a number of major infrastructure improvements, the city became a fashionable city break with the introduction of low-cost flights from the UK by easyJet (from June 1996), Go (from September 1999) and finally Ryanair (from February 2003). While easyJet, Go and other UK low-cost carriers have served Barcelona El Prat (BCN), Ryanair had, until recently, focused on serving Girona (GRO) some 90 kilometres north of Barcelona.

However, in the last two years, passenger numbers between the UK and Barcelona have fallen by an alarming 29% to only just over three million. The good news is that this week saw the launch of a new daily service operated by Monarch Airlines between London Gatwick and Barcelona El Prat (competing directly with easyJet), while the beginning of December will see the launch of double-daily Ryanair flights between London Stansted and Barcelona El Prat (also competing directly with easyJet).

UK - Barcelona traffic 1987-2010 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: UK CAA

No Spanish carriers serving London – Barcelona

During the peak summer month of September 2011, the following scheduled flights were operated from the UK.

Market Carrier (WF) Airport (WF)
London – BCN British Airways (63) London City (7)
London Heathrow (56)
easyJet (63) London Gatwick (35)
London Luton (14)
London Stansted (14)
Regions – BCN Aer Lingus (4) Belfast International (4)
bmibaby (4) East Midlands (4)
easyJet (33) Belfast International (4)
Bristol (10)
Liverpool (14)
Newcastle (5) (5) Leeds/Bradford (5)
Monarch (7) Manchester (7)
Ryanair (7) Edinburgh (4)
Leeds/Bradford (3)
London – GRO Ryanair (19) London Luton (4)
London Stansted (15)
Thomson (2) London Gatwick (2)
Regions – GRO Ryanair (38) Birmingham (3)
Bournemouth (5)
Bristol (8)
East Midlands (6)
Glasgow Prestwick (7)
Liverpool (6)
Newcastle (3)
Thomson (3) Birmingham (1)
Manchester (2)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 5 September 2011
WF: Weekly Frequency

In the two years since last looked at the UK – Barcelona market, several services have been dropped, including Iberia’s Heathrow service, all Flyglobespan flights, bmibaby’s Cardiff and Manchester routes, easyJet’s East Midlands services and some of Ryanair’s Girona links. However, bmibaby started East Midlands flights and Ryanair began serving Barcelona El Prat. easyJet remains the biggest airline in the market with 96 weekly departures, beating Ryanair with 64 and British Airways with 63.

With Iberia’s withdrawal from the Heathrow route, it means that there are no Spanish carriers serving this market, not even Vueling. The Spanish LCC, part-owned by Iberia, has so far studiously stayed away from the UK – Barcelona market, although it does serve London Heathrow this winter from Bilbao (double-daily) and La Coruna (daily).


  1. Arthur Dent says:

    Spooky timing guys! Just as you point out the lack of Spanish carriers in the UK – Barcelona market Vueling announces that it will start serving Cardiff three times weekly starting next March.

  2. Allplane says:

    What about UK-REU (Reus airport has been losing lots of routes recently but it is also an alternative to reach the BCN area, although much less important than GRO in traffic).

    Btw, I really hope these flamenco dancers were not part of Monarch’s mise-en-scene for their new Barcelona service. It would show they have no clue about the markets they fly in (a bit like inaugurating a flight to Scotland with performers dressed in England’s football shirts)!

Comments are closed