When easyJet began operating domestic flights in November 1995 for ‘the price of a pair of jeans’ (£29 – then about $40) most industry experts probably thought that they would become the latest in a long list of scheduled airlines that had tried and failed to make a success of operating from London’s Luton airport. But of course easyJet was different and mould-breaking. 12 and a bit years later easyJet is now one of Europe’s largest intra-European airlines and carries almost 40 million passengers annually.
|Big Orange – easyJet’s corporate HQ has remained at Luton moving from a “Portacabin” into a large hangar that formerly belonged to Britannia Airways. Its success has gone hand in hand with that of Luton Airport which has seen traffic rise from 1.8 million passengers in 1995 to over 10 million in the last 12 months.|
Luton no longer biggest base
London Luton, which previously specialised primarily in charter services, has now become a magnet for LCCs with Monarch, Ryanair, SkyEurope, Thomsonfly and Wizz Air all having a significant presence.
But although easyJet will operate to some 34 destinations this summer it is no longer the airline’s biggest base. London Gatwick claimed that honour well before easyJet acquired Gatwick-based GB Airways.
|Source: Derived from airline website timetables|
This is because while the number of destinations served has doubled in the last five years (from 17 to 34) the number of daily departures has increased rather less dramatically from around 57 in 2003 to around 70 this summer. This means that the average daily frequency on Luton routes has fallen from over three flights per day to just over two.
And compared with summer 2006, while the net number of routes has increased by two, this masks the fact that year-round routes to Bratislava and Bremen have been dropped (as well as seasonal routes to Rijeka and Rimini). Good news comes in the form of the new destinations of Hamburg, Ibiza, Jersey, Pisa, Vienna and the return after a two and half year absence of Zurich. For this winter the airline’s routes and frequencies are summarised below:
|>13 per week||Amsterdam (27), Barcelona (21), Belfast International (25), Berlin SXF (19), Budapest (14), Dortmund (16), Edinburgh (31), Geneva (36), Glasgow (32), Lisbon (14), Madrid (14), Malaga (15), Nice (19), Paris CDG (25)|
|7-13 per week||Aberdeen, Alicante, Athens, Basel, Faro, Inverness, Istanbul, Krakow, Turin, Vienna, Warsaw, Zurich|
|5-6 per week||Bordeaux, Hamburg, Palma de Mallorca|
|3-4 per week||Cagliari|
|1-2 per week||Grenoble|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 25 February 2008|
Once summer starts Ibiza will return and Jersey and Pisa will be new destinations starting from mid-March. Pisa is an interesting choice as it is a Ryanair base served from nearby London Stansted. To see how fares compare on current destinations see this week’s farewatch.
Bratislava, Bremen – only major failures
Apart from Zurich (which has now returned to the flying programme) only two year-round routes have been tried and then dumped by easyJet from Luton. Bratislava services began in December 2004 when the only competition was SkyEurope flying to London Stansted. However, when Ryanair also began serving the route from Stansted in October 2005 things got much more competitive and easyJet departed the route at the end of the summer 2006 season. Having previously abandoned a route from Berlin to Bratislava after just five months easyJet no longer has a presence in Slovakia.
The other year-round route to be dropped was Bremen. Flights began at the end of October 2005 but when Ryanair decided to make the airport a base in April 2007, it began double-daily flights from London Stansted and within months easyJet had again pulled the plug.
Seasonal routes to Rijeka and Rimini which both operated during the last two summers are not currently on sale suggesting that these destinations have also been dropped from Luton’s schedule.
Capacity down on domestic routes
In the summer of 2002, despite the additional security measures imposed post ‘9/11’ easyJet operated seven daily flights from Luton to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and six to Belfast. This summer each of these domestic destinations will have two less daily frequencies probably reflecting the general lethargy in the UK domestic market as a result of increased airport hassle, improving rail services and media pressure making people feel guilty about flying on short-haul trips.
Ryanair, Wizz Air: avoiding direct competition
Ryanair currently operates 12 routes from Luton but there is minimal overlap with easyJet. Four of the routes are to Ireland which easyJet does not serve while the remaining destinations are Girona, Malta, Marrakech, Milan Bergamo, Murcia, Nimes, Reus and Rome Ciampino. Of these Marrakech and Rome are the biggest destinations which easyJet serves from other airports.
Wizz Air operates to five Polish airports from Luton and competes head-to-head with easyJet on flights to Warsaw as well as to Budapest in Hungary. Monarch competes directly with easyJet on the perennially popular Alicante, Faro and Malaga routes.