Nice finds balance between LCCs and legacy airlines

Image: Ryanair flying over Carlton Hotel
Another cheap Ryanair destination: Previously the airline has shown no interest in Nice to serve the Riviera, preferring to operate to nearby Toulon from London Stansted. But from November Ryanair starts competing with Aer Lingus on the Dublin route.

Nice Cote D’Azur airport in the south of France is the country’s third busiest airport and the largest outside of Paris. In 2006 nearly 10 million passengers passed through the airport representing modest two percent growth over the previous year.

Chart: Nice Airport traffic 1997 - 2006
Source: Aéroport Nice

This year should see the airport finally break through the 10 million barrier as traffic in the first seven months is up 3.6% on last year. The airport suffers from considerable seasonality as seen below where monthly traffic over the last two and a half years is shown.

Chart: Nice Airport Monthly Traffic 2005-2007
Source: Aéroport Nice

Demand during the winter months is just half that of the peak summer month of July. A range of activities along the coast during the summer help to attract many visitors especially from the UK. These events include the high-profile Monaco Grand Prix and Cannes Film Festival.

Image: easyJet airline
Air France’s dominant position as the airport’s leading airline has gradually come under attack from easyJet. Although Nice is not an official base for easyJet it operates 14 routes to the airport.

easyJet pushing Air France as leading airline

Air France’s dominant position as the airport’s leading airline has gradually come under attack from easyJet. Although Nice is not an official base for easyJet it operates 14 routes to the airport, including three to various London airports and serves both Paris Orly and Paris CDG. Of the remaining nine routes, four are to the UK (Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle) two are to Germany (Dortmund and Berlin) and the remainder are to Brussels (starting in November), Geneva and Basel.

Chart: Nice Airport Top Airlines 2006
Source: Aéroport Nice

Other LCCs to have a significant presence are Sterling, Virgin Express (now part of Brussels Airlines) and Transavia. Dba’s routes to Germany have been absorbed by Air Berlin as part of their takeover. Until recently Ryanair had shown no interest in the airport preferring to operate to nearby Toulon from London Stansted. However, from November the airline will start competing with Aer Lingus on the Dublin to Nice route.

Currently around one-third of traffic is with Air France, another third with LCCs and the remainder with other legacy and charter carriers.

Paris and London are preferred destinations

Paris and London airports share five of the top six places among the busiest routes.

Chart: Nice Airport Top Routes 2006
Source: Aéroport Nice

The rest of the top routes are mostly major European cities. Liverpool owes its inclusion in the Top 15 to its easyJet flights. The UK market is by far the largest international market with over 1.7 million passengers in 2006, more than double that of Germany, the second biggest market. Tunisia is the largest non-European market and ranks 11th amongst all countries with the US ranking 14th. Spain is ranked only 12th in country destinations but this is likely to improve when Vueling start services to both Barcelona and Madrid this autumn.

Passenger mix

The airport’s own survey of its passengers shows that:

  • 40% of traffic is locally originating and 60% are inbound tourists, including from other parts of France
  • 40% of traffic is for leisure, 30% is for business and 30% is “personal”
  • 30% of the business traffic is to attend conventions or seminars in the region. Skyscaper

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