Grenoble-Isère Airport has in the last week seen the arrival of six new services — Jet2.com began flights from Leeds Bradford and Manchester, and south-eastern France airport also welcomed new operations from Monarch again from the same two Northern England airports in addition to Birmingham and London Gatwick. Indeed, skiers flying on routes from the UK this December will contribute to nearly 85% of all weekly frequencies operating into the city’s airport, serving what is affectionately called the “Capital of the Alps”.
Notably, Grenoble is just one of two of France’s top 30 airports, alongside Carcassonne, that derives over 99.5% of its passenger traffic from the international market. This is due in part to its proximity to Paris — which at just over 430 kilometres negates the need for any domestic flights to the capital — and of course competition from land-based alternatives. However, this statistic will change this year, as new market entrant Volotea will launch ski flights on 22 December from Bordeaux and Nantes, both with twice weekly B717 services. All of these new arrivals to the airport serving the capital of the Department of Isère have resulted in not just a 50% hike in weekly flights, but also a 60% rise in weekly capacity in comparison to last December.
How do you run a winter-only airport?
While many airports suffer from annual peaks and troughs in passenger activity, Grenoble, it could be argued, almost takes this to an extreme, as it has no scheduled services between May and November. The airport’s owner, global airport investor Vinci Airports, also runs nearby Chambéry-Savoie, which has a very similar annual traffic profile.
In addition to this seasonal variance, some weekdays see little or no flying, while on peak Saturdays there can be up to 60 flights in a day. The airport is expecting its annual traffic to have increased in 2013 to between 340,000–350,000 passengers, representing growth in the 9-12% range.
easyJet reduces capacity by 15%
Flying from Grenoble is dominated by easyJet, which this December currently has around 40% of weekly flights and seats, and offers connections from seven UK airports to this part of the Rhône-Alpes region. Despite its prominence, easyJet’s capacity has fallen by around 15% year-on-year, perhaps in reaction to new entrants Jet2.com and Monarch. However, as most ski flights tend to take place at the weekends, this reduction may simply be as a result of how many Saturdays and Sundays there are in this December versus last year. Indeed, following the arrival of Jet2.com and Monarch, the airport’s reliance on easyJet has tumbled from around 75% of all flights and capacity last December.
Low-cost carrier Norwegian flies a shorter ski season that its UK peers, between January and April typically, and will reinstate weekly services from its Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm hubs next month. Perhaps uncharacteristically for an airport that Ryanair or Wizz Air both fly into, neither carrier currently makes much of an impact at Grenoble. However, for this winter season Geneva-based Wizz Air has started its Warsaw service one month early and has switched its operations from Warsaw Frederic Chopin to Warsaw Modlin.