Europe’s airlines are coming under increasing pressure to be environmentally responsible. As a result the need to operate extremely short sectors when alternative land (or sea) based options exist is being increasingly questioned.
|Europe’s shortest (not over water) air route is Plymouth-Newquay – 68km. One-way fares start from £24 from Plymouth to Newquay. However, the airline’s website does not allow passengers to book flights between Newquay and Plymouth!|
Many of Europe’s shortest air routes involve flights over water including the recognised shortest commercial air route in the world between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands operated by Loganair. This flight is all of three kilometres and has an average flying time of just two minutes. Many of Europe’s shortest air services are low capacity Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes linking remote island communities where alternative transport modes are either non-existent or very slow and irregular.
Channel Islands link short and competitive
If a threshold of 1,000 weekly one-way seats is used to eliminate the low-volume, low-frequency routes the top 10 shortest ‘major’ intra-European routes are now as follows:
|Route||Airline(s)||Distance (km)||Over water|
|Guernsey – Jersey||Aurigny, Blue Islands, Flybe||39||Yes|
|Madeira – Porto Santo||Sata Air Acores||58||Yes|
|Plymouth – Newquay||Air Southwest||68||No|
|Vienna – Graz||Austrian Airlines||86||No|
|Helsinki – Tallinn||Finncomm Airlines||101||Yes|
|Larnaca – Paphos||Cyprus Airways||105||No|
|Las Palmas – Tenerife North||Binter Canarias, Naysa||112||Yes|
|Las Palmas – Tenerife South||Binter Canarias||117||Yes|
|Belfast City – Glasgow Prestwick||Ryanair||128||Yes|
|Palma – Mahon||Iberia||132||Yes|
|Source: OAG MAX Online|
The major air route between the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey is not only the shortest by this criteria, but also extremely competitive with three carriers going head-to-head on the route. Seven of these top 10 routes are over water and all are domestic routes with the exception of the Helsinki to Tallinn service which links the capitals of Finland and Estonia.
The shortest route operated by a low-cost airline is the recently introduced Ryanair daily service between Belfast City and Glasgow Prestwick which is a distance of just 128 kilometres. Despite this, the scheduled flying time for the routes is 45 minutes. Presumably punctuality is extremely good.
|The 39km Guernsey-Jersey route is extremely competitive, with Aurigny, Blue Islands and Flybe going head-to-head.|
Finland and Germany prone to short flights
If flights over water are excluded from the analysis the shortest intra-European overland air routes are now:
|Plymouth – Newquay||Air Southwest||68|
|Vienna – Graz||Austrian Airlines||86|
|Larnaca – Paphos||Cyprus Airways||105|
|Munich – Nuremberg||Lufthansa||137|
|Helsinki – Tampere||Finncomm Airlines||142|
|Bergen – Floro||Danish Air Transport||144|
|Zurich – Stuttgart||Swiss||145|
|Helsinki – Turku||Finnair||150|
|Frankfurt – Stuttgart||Lufthansa||157|
|Amsterdam – Brussels||KLM||158|
|Source: OAG MAX Online|
This list contains eight domestic routes plus international flights between Zurich and Stuttgart and Amsterdam and Brussels. Some of these routes would appear to lend themselves to high-speed rail links given the distances involved. The top 10 contains two Finnish and two German domestic routes, while Stuttgart and Helsinki can share the dubious distinction of featuring twice each in the list.
As intra-European rail services continue to improve and additional environmental taxes appear likely to be levied on airlines, short air routes will be put under more pressure. An example of this is the 380 kilometre Paris to Strasbourg route where the opening of the TGV Est last summer has resulted in a 50% reduction in air travel demand.