Exeter: Flybe helps Exeter join the “millionaires” club

Logo: Exeter City AirportExeter in the south-west of England is probably best known for its ancient cathedral and for being a major university town. And now thanks to Flybe it has joined the select list of places whose local airport caters for more than one million passengers annually.

Chart: Top 15 routes at Exeter airport
Source: UK CAA

Although traffic had doubled at the airport between 1995 and 2003 from 180,000 passengers to 380,000 it was the decision by Flybe, whose headquarters are at the airport, to dramatically increase their route network from the airport in the summer of 2004 that helped almost treble passenger numbers in the next four years.

Flybe’s major expansion in 2004

Image: Flybe European Routes
Click image to enlarge

Until 2004 only Jersey, Guernsey and Dublin were served by Flybe from the airport but seven new routes (to Alicante, Belfast City, Edinburgh, Faro, Glasgow, Malaga and Newcastle) were launched in 2004 while in 2005 Brest, Chambery, Geneva, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Murcia, Palma and Paris CDG were added.

The Liverpool and Murcia routes were short-lived but other destinations (notably Amsterdam, Bergerac, Manchester and Norwich) have been added so that this April the airline is operating to over 20 destinations, a combination of domestic, French and Mediterranean (plus Amsterdam and Dublin). New services to Brussels (six flights per week), Dubrovnik (weekly) and Inverness (daily) begin in May.

Flybe is the dominant airline at the airport operating a mix of four Q400 turboprops and two Embraer 195s this summer.

Demand peaks in August

Traffic peaks in August as UK holidaymakers head for France and the Mediterranean. The peak to off-peak ratio (August to January) was just over two in 2007.

Chart: Exeter airport seasonality
Source: UK CAA

So far in 2008 traffic is down slightly, even in February with its extra day. However, Flybe’s new routes starting in May should ensure that passenger demand continues to grow across the year as a whole.

Edinburgh, Paris and Malaga most popular routes

In 2007, despite an almost 20% reduction in demand, Edinburgh remained the top route to and from Exeter followed closely by Paris and Malaga.

Chart: Top 15 routes at Exeter airport
Source: UK CAA
Image: Exeter City football player
Flybe supports its big regional catchment by sponsoring Exeter City Football Club.

The Amsterdam route which began at the end of October 2006 showed the biggest increase in demand thanks to its first full year of operation. Apart from Flybe, various charter airlines such as First Choice and Thomsonfly operate from the airport to holiday destinations while Isles of Scilly Skybus operates daily to St Mary’s airport on the Isles of Scilly.

Catchment area overlaps with Bristol

The nearest major airport competitor to Exeter is Bristol which lies some 90 kilometres to the north-east along the M5 and from where both easyJet and Ryanair operate major bases. Exeter also substantially serves the major city of Plymouth (60 kilometres) to the west where the airport is substantially restricted by a short runway.

Image: Embraer 195
The beautiful Embraer 195.

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