Europe’s PELOCO5 carriers drop almost 200 routes for S17; Ryanair and Vueling drop most, easyJet and Wizz Air fewest
At present Europe has five major LCCs that anna.aero considers truly pan-European. These are easyJet, Norwegian, Ryanair, Vueling and Wizz Air. All of them carried over 20 million passengers in 2016 and have bases across several countries, not just in what might be considered their home markets. For simplicity we have dubbed them the PELOCO5 (Pan European LOw COst 5). Using the latest available schedule data for the summer season, in particular the first week of August, we have compared the networks of these carriers in 2016 and 2017.
Between them the PELOCO5 have ceased operations on almost 200 routes, while starting new services on well over 500 routes. Ryanair and Vueling have both stopped flying on over 60 routes, while easyJet and Wizz Air have each suspended fewer than 20 routes each, once you take out those routes that aren’t being operated because of runway maintenance work, notably at Targu Mures in Romania and Vilnius in Lithuania. Wizz Air has the best ratio of new routes to dropped routes (over 9:1) followed by easyJet (just over 5:1) and Ryanair (just under 4:1). Norwegian will have launched just over twice as many routes as it has dropped, while Vueling has actually dropped three times as many routes as it has added. In the rest of this analysis we take a closer look at those routes that have been dropped by these carriers.
Ryanair: cuts all flights at Crotone, Kos and Oslo Rygge
Ryanair has actually dropped 81 routes but this includes 15 routes from Vilnius which have only been suspended temporarily because of runway maintenance work. Of the 66 genuine droppings, 23 are from Oslo Rygge in Norway. Ryanair decided to suspend all routes to that airport at the end of last summer partly as a consequence of the Norwegian government’s decision to introduce a new 80 Krone tax on 1 June 2016 on all passengers departing a Norwegian airport. Two other airports have seen a suspension of all Ryanair services since last summer; Kos in Greece has lost all eight of its routes, while Crotone in Italy has lost three.
That still leaves 32 dropped routes. However, some of these can be explained by a change of airport at one end of the route.
- Warsaw Modlin to Gdansk and Wroclaw: Ryanair has moved these domestic services from Modlin to Warsaw Chopin and will compete head-to-head with LOT Polish Airlines.
- Bristol to Venice Treviso: Has been replaced by Bristol to Venice Marco Polo, Ryanair’s only service to that Italian airport at present. As a result it will be competing directly with easyJet.
- Rome Ciampino to Ibzia: Has been replaced by Rome Fiumicino to Ibiza, a route also flown by Alitalia, Blu-Express, easyJet, Meridiana and Vueling.
- London Stansted to Weeze: Has been replaced by London Luton to Weeze.
Of the remaining 20-plus dropped routes those with the highest weekly frequency last summer that are not in the schedule this summer (not including those that have seen a change of airport) are: Rome FCO to Lamezia Terme (served 14 times weekly in S16), Athens to Paphos, and London Stansted to City of Derry, the last two both served daily last summer. The Athens to Paphos route has apparently been terminated to make way for a new service from Paphos to Tel Aviv in Israel. Meanwhile the route between Stansted and City of Derry, which Ryanair stops at the end of March, will be taken over by bmi regional from the beginning of May, operating the twice-daily service under a PSO (Public Service Obligation) agreement.
Apart from Oslo Rygge and Kos, the airports to lose the most Ryanair routes this summer are London Stansted (six routes), Milan Bergamo, Paris Beauvais and Warsaw Modlin (each losing four routes), and Kaunas and Rome Fiumicino (both losing three routes). A total of 63 airports across Europe have lost at least one Ryanair route compared with last summer.
easyJet: Hamburg and Paris see key route cuts
easyJet’s route churn is impressively low given the size of its network. Only 14 of the airline’s 750 routes operated last summer are not in the schedule this August. In fact, three of the 14 routes, though not operating in August will return either in September (London Gatwick to Tel Aviv, and Naples to Brussels) or October (Belfast International to Reykjavik/Keflavik). Of the 11 remaining dropped routes six were served with at least four weekly flights last summer:
- London Luton to Copenhagen (19 weekly flights in S16): Launched in November 2014 easyJet was joined on the route in March 2015 by Ryanair. With British Airways, Norwegian and SAS also serving the city pair there were some great deals to be had on this route. easyJet continues to serve Copenhagen from London Gatwick, while Ryanair will now also begin service from London Stansted to Copenhagen with the start of the S17 season.
- Berlin Schönefeld to Brussels (7): Launched in October 2007 the route became more competitive when Ryanair started the same airport pair in October 2015. easyJet is suspending service at the start of the S17 season.
- Hamburg to Amsterdam (7): First served in November 2014, easyJet stopped this route at the end of the S16 season. It is still served by Eurowings and KLM.
- Paris CDG to Naples (7): Launched in October 2013 to complement easyJet’s existing Paris Orly to Naples service which began in 2004. Will cease operating at end of W16/17. Paris to Naples market is also served by Air France, Transavia and Vueling.
- Paris Orly to Hamburg (6): Started at the beginning of the S15 season. Paris to Hamburg market is also served by Air France and Eurowings.
- Milan Malpensa to Brussels (4): Has been operated by easyJet since June 2008. Ryanair launched the same route last October with double-daily flights joining Brussels Airlines. Alitalia and Brussels Airlines also connect Milan Linate with Brussels.
The other five dropped routes are: Belfast International to Lanzarote, Bristol to Nantes (which ends somewhat curiously on 24 June), London Southend to Venice Marco Polo, Lyon to Pisa, and Toulouse to Pula.
Norwegian: five London Gatwick routes axed including three capital cities
Norwegian has discontinued 24 routes for this summer, not including two temporary route suspensions involving Vilnius. Just six of the dropped routes were served with at least three weekly flights last summer:
- London Gatwick to Berlin Schönefeld (12 weekly flights in S16): Launched in September 2014 and competing directly with easyJet.
- London Gatwick to Rome Fiumicino (6): Launched in September 2013 and competing directly with easyJet.
- Copenhagen to Trondheim (6): Launched in October 2011. Route also served by SAS.
- London Gatwick to Warsaw Chopin (4): Launched in September 2014. No direct competition but British Airways and LOT Polish Airlines both operate London Heathrow to Warsaw Chopin, Wizz Air serves London Luton from Warsaw Chopin and Ryanair connects Warsaw Modlin with London Stansted.
- Barcelona to Berlin Schönefeld (3): Launched in April 2014. Suspended service last October. Competed directly with easyJet and Ryanair, and indirectly (to Berlin Tegel) with Eurowings and Vueling.
- Madrid to Birmingham (3): Not long ago no airlines served this market. Then Norwegian entered the market in March 2015, followed by Iberia Express (March 2016), Ryanair (April 2016) and Monarch (June 2016). Norwegian abandoned the route at the end of last October. So much for first-mover advantage.
The other 18 routes were all served with just one or two flights per week last summer, including a couple of long-haul services; Bergen to New York JFK, Stockholm Arlanda to Las Vegas, and Copenhagen to Las Vegas. The two Las Vegas routes appear to end on 25 March according to the airline’s on-line booking tool. Trondheim has seen six S16 routes axed for this summer, while London Gatwick has lost five. Meanwhile, Berlin Schönefeld and Copenhagen have each said farewell this summer to three Norwegian services.
Vueling: dropped 21 routes from Barcelona since last summer; 68 in all
The Barcelona-based LCC had some well documented operational issues last summer which seem to have resulted in the airline’s management taking a more cautious approach to its network this summer. As a result, according to OAG data the airline will actually see its route count fall from 391 non-stop routes last August to 345 this August.
Of the 68 routes served last August but not this August, seven were served with at least five weekly frequencies:
- Rome Fiumicino to Athens (9 weekly flights in S17): Launched in June 2014. Also served by Aegean Airlines and Alitalia. Ryanair started flights from Rome Ciampino to Athens in October 2014. easyJet also served the route between October 2009 and March 2015.
- Barcelona to Frankfurt (8): Launched in March 2013. Competed directly with Lufthansa. Ryanair will start route this winter.
- Barcelona to London Heathrow (7): Launched December 2015. Competed directly with fellow IAG airline British Airways. However, lots of LCC competition from other London airports and Heathrow slot probably more valuable for other services.
- Brussels to Lisbon (7): Launched May 2014. Competed directly with Brussels Airlines, Ryanair and TAP Portugal.
- Rome Fiumicino to Malta (7): Seasonal service launched in June 2014. Ryanair began service in March 2016. Air Malta and Alitalia also operate the route to Malta.
- London Luton to Zurich (6): Launched 1 August 2016. Competed directly with easyJet between Luton and Zurich and indirectly (to other London airports) with British Airways, easyJet and SWISS.
- Brussels to Porto (5): Launched May 2014. Competed directly with Brussels Airlines and Ryanair. Ryanair launched the Porto route in February 2014 even though Vueling announced the route first.
The 68 dropped routes involve 136 airports (one at each end of the route). The airports involved in the most droppings are: Barcelona (21); Rome Fiumicino (seven); Brussels, Catania and Florence (five each); Bilbao, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca (four each). In total, 73 airports have lost at least one Vueling route this August compared with the same month last year, based on analysis of currently available OAG data.
Wizz Air: just 14 routes dropped of which five from Sofia
With passenger numbers up 19% to 22.8 million in 2016, Wizz Air is the fastest-growing of the PELOCO5 in terms of percentage growth. It also has the best add-to-droppings ratio of almost 10:1 starting 130 new routes but suspending just 14. Five of the routes ended involved Sofia, two featured Poznan (to Glasgow and Milan Bergamo), while Bucharest (to Milan Malpensa), Budapest (to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen), Cluj-Napoca (to Geneva), Debrecen (to Brussels Charleroi), Gdansk (to Malta), Prague (to Rome Ciampino) and Warsaw Chopin (to Dortmund) each lost a single Wizz Air service. Wizz Air’s Sofia to Frankfurt Hahn link will be replaced later this summer by its new Frankfurt route. Similarly the Rome Ciampino service has been replaced by a Rome Fiumicino service. On four of the routes dropped, Ryanair was competing head-to-head.