LCCs driving route growth, especially in Poland and Spain; Frankfurt still #1 for destinations

Image: Wizz Air Poznan new air route
Poznan has enjoyed spectacular growth, with the number of destinations increasing from nine to 25. Of the 16 new routes, Wizz Air is responsible for six.

This week’s meeting of airline network planners and airport marketing folk at Routes Europe in Porto will be looking to generate plenty of additional new routes for carriers in the coming year. This week takes a look back at how airports in the EU have developed their networks during the last 12 months. Comparing information for the third week of April in 2008 with the corresponding week in 2007, shows that airports in the EU have increased the number of scheduled routes on offer by 5.9% with the net addition of over 500 new routes. In terms of the biggest net gain in total routes served by scheduled airlines the biggest winners among EU airports are:

New routes* Airport (Destinations served by scheduled airlines in April 2008)
27 Brussels (154)
21 Bristol (72)
19 Alicante (85)
18 Girona (62)
16 Poznan (25)
15 Gdansk (36), Weeze (21), Stockholm Skavsta (32)
14 Barcelona (134), Dortmund (38), Valencia (63)
13 Stockholm Arlanda (111), Rome Fiumicino (164), London Luton (69)
12 Dublin (149), East Midlands (63), Katowice (33), London Gatwick (172), Madrid (168), Paris Orly (128)
11 Paris CDG (237), Palma (93), Riga (63),
10 Frankfurt (246)
9 Bucharest Baneasa (31), Bremen (38), Edinburgh (67), Hamburg (94), Oporto (43), Berlin Tegel (74).
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 23 April 07 and 21 April 08
* Difference between the number of destinations served this summer and last summer. Actual number of new destinations may be higher as some destinations may have been dropped.

The top 30 EU airports in terms of most new routes fall broadly into two categories. The first category consists of major airports, such as Frankfurt, London Gatwick, Madrid and Paris CDG where a few new destinations represent a relatively small amount of additional traffic. The second category comprises smaller regional airports which have attracted one or more major LCCs to base themselves there.

Given the number of new routes that Ryanair alone has launched in the last six months (over 180) its bases feature prominently in the above listings. Alicante, Bremen, Bristol, Dublin, East Midlands, Girona, Stockholm Skavsta, Valencia and Weeze all owe their growth in network scope during the last 12 months primarily to Ryanair.

Image: Brussels Airport CEO Wilfried Van Assche celebrates the launch of Jet Airways services from the airport.
Brussels Airport CEO Wilfried Van Assche (pictured left) celebrates the launch of Jet Airways services from the airport.

Frankfurt maintains lead among hub airports

Frankfurt has maintained its lead over Paris CDG as the European airport offering the highest number of non-stop destinations, though Paris CDG has been gradually closing the gap in recent years.

Chart: Top 15 EU airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 23 April 07 and 21 April 08

Measured by the number of destinations offered by scheduled airlines, the EU’s top 15 airports features only one ‘new entry’ with Barcelona (new in at number 13) replacing Milan Malpensa which was ranked 10th last year but has fallen to 17th as a result of Alitalia dropping half of its destinations as part of its survival strategy.

Maybe surprisingly London airports Gatwick and Heathrow have swopped places in the rankings with Gatwick now offering more scheduled destinations than its more illustrious near neighbour. Madrid continues its impressive climb up the rankings advancing two places to sixth. London Stansted has dropped four places as a number of low-cost destinations have been axed or become more seasonal, with flights focused more during peak periods.

The biggest climber is Brussels which has increased its range of destinations by 27 to 154. However, most of this can be attributed to the 30-plus destinations served by jetairfly (the Belgium subsidiary of TUIfly) now being considered as scheduled services.

The number of destinations served can go down as well as up

Of course, some airlines have lost routes and the poorest performers in this regard are Cologne/Bonn (down 10), Heathrow and Milan Malpensa (both down 11), Rome Ciampino (down 12), London Stansted (down 13) and Leipzig/Halle (down 14). Some of these, like Cologne/Bonn, Stansted and Ciampino, have experienced rapid LCC generated growth, but airlines are now being more brutal in axing routes that do not generate a sufficient financial return.

Ciampino’s case is rather different as a threat of a movement limit has encouraged Wizz Air to move its flights to Rome’s Fiumicino airport, while easyJet axed several less profitable routes. Leipzig’s poor showing can be explained by the decision of TUIfly to considerably reduce its flying programme, and hence the number of routes on offer from the airport.

Central European airports growing fast

Polish airports are well represented in these rankings. Gdansk, Katowice and Poznan all generated at least a dozen new routes with Poznan’s growth particularly spectacular as the number of destinations almost tripled from nine to 25. Of the 16 new routes started Wizz Air is responsible for six of them highlighting its growing influence in the Polish market.

Two other Central European airports have made this list for the second successive year. The rapid growth of Air Baltic has helped generate plenty of new destinations from Riga, while Bucharest’s second airport at Baneasa is favoured by low-cost airlines and has been helped by the rapid growth of local LCC Blue Air. Incredibly 10 of the 31 destinations available from the airport are served by two or more carriers, a situation that is unlikely to remain viable for very long.

German airports follow different growth strategies

Dortmund Airport’s net gain of 14 routes is particularly impressive as it lost four destinations (Berlin Tempelhof, Leipzig/Halle, Milan Malpensa and Nice) during the year. Given that easyJet has a major base there it is surprising that only two of the new routes (Edinburgh and Thessaloniki) were generated by them with the rest coming from a mix of Air Berlin (one), Centralwings (one), Germanwings (seven), Hamburg International (one), OLT (one), Sterling (two) and Wizz Air (three).

While fellow German airports Bremen and Weeze have been reliant on Ryanair for their rapid growth in the last 12 months, Berlin Tegel and Hamburg have achieved their growth through a broader portfolio of new carriers. Although Berlin Tegel’s net gain is just nine routes this disguises the fact that several mostly low-frequency routes have been lost while gaining a total of 16 new routes spread across several airlines, including Air Berlin, Cimber Air, LTU, Lufthansa, Luxair, Meridiana, SunExpress and TUIfly.

Image: easyJet launches new route from Bristol to Biarritz
easyJet celebrates its new route from Bristol to Biarritz. Pictured are Richard Pardo, easyJet; Katie Walsh, the first passenger; Shaun Browne, head of route development, Bristol International Airport; and Rachel Feltham, easyJet.

Growth spread right across Europe

Twelve different countries are represented among the top 30 fastest growing EU airports, covering the four corners of the EU from Portugal to Ireland to Latvia and Romania. Germany and Spain lead the way with six airports each followed by the UK with five and Poland with three. Italy (with only Rome FCO) and France (with only the two main Paris airports) would appear to be under-represented this year.

The “Routes” effect?

Last year’s host of Routes (Stockholm) has both Arlanda and Skavsta represented in the top 30 and this year’s venue for Routes Europe (Porto) also makes it thanks to a net gain of nine new routes. Despite losing services to Nice a total of ten new destinations have been added provided by easyJet (Basel), Ryanair (Bristol, Brussels Charleroi, Milan Bergamo, Pisa, Stockholm Skavsta and Valencia) and TAP Portugal (Bologna, Rome FCO, San Salvador). See this week’s Porto airport profile for more information.

Recent announcements indicate that airlines across Europe are continuing to look for opportunities for profitable growth. With the likes of easyJet and Ryanair receiving several new aircraft every month, airport marketing executives should take heart that although the rate of network growth across Europe may be slowing there remain many airlines on the lookout for viable new route opportunities.


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