Birmingham welcomes Ryanair’s expansion;
10 million milestone in sight

Image: Ryanair’s Michael O’leary at Ryanair’s BHX base
Peter Vella, business development director, Birmingham International, Michael O’Leary, CEO, Ryanair and Joe Kelly, managing director, Birmingham International.

Once upon a time (well July 2001 to be precise) things looked very different at Birmingham International Airport (BHX). British Airways through its partners and subsidiaries (BA Regional, British Regional Airlines, Brymon Airways and Maersk Air Limited) carried 40% of the airport’s scheduled traffic through a specially built ‘Eurohub’ terminal, and low-cost airlines were limited to Ryanair’s route to Dublin. Flybe was still called British European and had almost 20% of the scheduled market at BHX and Aer Lingus was not an LCC.

Image: The first lucky passengers on Ryanair Birmingham-Marseille service in May
Ryanair started Birmingham-Marseille services in May. The first lucky passengers were presented with a pair of free flights and a bottle of champagne.

Fast-forward seven years and this week sees Ryanair base its second aircraft at the airport allowing it to now serve 22 destinations while the biggest airline in terms of seat capacity is bmibaby and in terms of flights, Flybe. British Airways no longer has any presence at the airport and ‘its’ Eurohub has merely become Terminal 2.

Although the withdrawal of BA services has been compensated for by the arrival of various LCCs and other carriers, traffic numbers are still to break through the 10 million mark, although this looks likely to finally happen in 2008. The airport remains the second busiest in the UK outside of London, after Manchester.

Chart: Birmingham Airport traffic 1998-2007
Source: UK CAA

 Image: Ryanair BHX banner

Competition between LCCs on domestic routes and Spanish beach destinations

bmibaby established its base at BHX as recently as January 2005 and is this summer operating to 24 destinations including five domestic ones. Flybe, while offering the most scheduled flights each week, flies to 23 destinations this summer including 10 in the UK. The two carriers compete on flights to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Jersey. Ryanair now serves 22 destinations all of which are international. The only route it operates at least daily is Dublin which is flown 24 times per week.

Chart: Top 12 scheduled airlines at BHX
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 July 2008

Due to its runway length (which will be increased soon), long-haul destinations are limited in range to the US Midwest and the Middle East. Currently Continental serves Newark daily while Emirates serves Dubai twice-daily making it the fourth busiest route at the airport. Air India operates from Amritsar and on to Toronto while PIA served Islamabad. One of the more unlikely routes is provided by Turkmenistan Airlines which operates four times weekly to Ashgabat. Birmingham and its surrounding area have a large ethnic population which helps to make these Asian routes sustainable.

Foreign LCCs are currently limited to Aer Lingus (to Dublin and Cork), SkyEurope (to Bratislava), Norwegian (to Warsaw) and centralwings (to Krakow). EasyJet’s presence at the airport is currently limited to daily flights to Geneva which started last December and seasonal ski flights to Grenoble.

Legacy carriers such as Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, SAS and Swiss operate to their main hubs but Alitalia and Iberia are not present. However, bmibaby flies to both Rome Fiumicino and Madrid.

Chart: BHX airport top 12 routes
Source: UK CAA

Traffic at nine of the airport’s top 12 routes was actually down in 2007 but Glasgow (+6.3%), Palma (+14.1%) and Dubai (+19.8%) all showed robust growth.

Image: Jennifer Dienst was one of the lucky passengers on the inaugural flight Birmingham-Hamburg services in May 2008
Lufthansa launched Birmingham-Hamburg services in May. Jennifer Dienst was one of the lucky passengers on the inaugural flight and was presented with champagne and tickets to anywhere on the Lufthansa network from Birmingham.

Carriers busy exploring new markets across Europe

Apart from Ryanair’s raft of new routes (see this week’s farewatch for details) new routes that have been started in the last 12 months include Bratislava (with SkyEurope), Dundee (with Flybe, operated by Loganair), Geneva and Grenoble (both with easyJet), Hamburg (with Lufthansa, competing against Flybe), Inverness (with Flybe), Krakow (with bmibaby, replacing SkyEurope), Lyon (with Brit Air), Madrid (with bmibaby), Milan Bergamo (with bmibaby), Newquay (with Flybe), Shannon (with Ryanair) and Warsaw (with bmibaby). Ryanair will start another 11 destinations at the end of October with its third based aircraft. These will be Alicante, Derry, Frankfurt Hahn, Fuerteventura, Kaunas, Katowice, Krakow, Malaga, Murcia, Palma de Mallorca and Prague.

Image: BHX International Pier extension to Terminal 1

Runway extension and additional terminal capacity

Work recently began on a new International Pier extension to Terminal 1 which will be able to accommodate even the largest jets. Plans for the runway extension have been submitted and it is hoped that if approved the extension can be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics. Plans for a second parallel runway have been scrapped.


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