easyJet cuts routes, frequencies as Berlin competition intensifies

Image: Route launch
easyJet launched services from Berlin Schönefeld to Ibiza and Heraklion in June.

easyJet’s first attempts to establish a significant presence in the German market revolved around the idea of absorbing ‘for sale’ dba (formerly Deutsche BA) in 2002. This would have given it a major presence in the German domestic market and major bases in Berlin Tegel and Munich. However, the project was abandoned for various reasons and instead the airline set about growing organically in Germany by establishing bases at Berlin Schönefeld (in April 2004) and Dortmund (in July 2004).

Of these the Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) base has proved the more viable and having started with 13 routes four summers ago, this year easyJet was flying to 31 destinations from the airport located in the former East Germany. Thanks primarily to easyJet passenger numbers at SXF have risen dramatically from 1.75 million in 2003 to 6.33 million in 2007.

Belfast, Lyon, Riga and Tallinn dropped this winter

Following the airline’s decision to no longer base aircraft at Dortmund from this winter, there have also been significant capacity cuts in Berlin. Although the airline will still have eight A319s based at the airport this winter, compared with last winter seat capacity has been cut by over 15% and the number of destinations served has fallen from 27 to 24. Four routes will be abandoned at the end of the summer season (Belfast, Lyon, Riga and Tallinn) while one (Thessaloniki) has been added. Summer-only routes to Heraklion, Ibiza and Pisa should re-appear next summer.

Half of the season-on-season capacity reduction has come from the dropped routes but frequencies have been trimmed on many other routes, notably Glasgow, Lisbon and London Luton. However, Basel flights have been increased from three per day to four per day.

Other destinations that have been tried (and subsequently rejected) by easyJet since opening the base in 2004 include Bratislava, Krakow, Ljubljana, Maastricht/Aachen, Newcastle and Valencia. The Bratislava route, started in November 2004, was originally planned as double-daily but frequencies rapidly melted away and the route was chopped after just five months to be replaced by Maastricht/Aachen which had a near identical sector length. This route fared slightly better but was still axed in January 2007 after less than two years. With this winter’s changes it means that easyJet has served a total of 37 destinations so far from SXF of which 10 have apparently been abandoned.

Image: easyJet fleet

Basel is busiest route; Liverpool and Paris have fullest flights

Analysis of easyJet’s flights and passenger numbers by route and month for 2008 at SXF reveals which routes have achieved the highest and lowest load factors from January to July. These figures also show that easyJet’s busiest routes from SXF are Basel (174,381 passengers), Paris Orly (141,777) and London Luton (120,894) followed by Barcelona, Madrid and Milan Malpensa. In the first seven months of 2008 easyJet carried around 1.9 million passengers on routes to and from SXF.

“Best” routes Load factor “Worst” routes Load factor
Liverpool 84.8% London Luton 66.6%*
Paris Orly 84.8% Lyon 67.2%
Lisbon 84.2% Belfast International 67.5%
Malaga 82.2% Copenhagen 69.0%
Athens 82.1% Olbia 69.5%
Glasgow 82.0% Brussels 71.8%
Nice 81.9% Riga 72.3%
Geneva 81.6% Tallinn 77.3%
* Luton load factor may be as high as 69.7% if 149-seat 737s were used on all flights rather than 156-seat A319s.
Source: Derived from destatis data

All four routes dropped for this winter have among the lowest load factors in 2008, while Luton’s poor performance helps explain why it is losing a daily frequency this winter.

UK is biggest country market; no domestic routes as yet

The United Kingdom (with five routes this winter), Italy (also with five routes), Switzerland and Spain are the leading country markets for easyJet from SXF. The airline does not offer any domestic routes at present.

Competition at the airport is growing with Germanwings having established a base there in June 2005 and serving 16 destinations this summer. Ryanair, which operated just four routes from SXF last winter (Dublin, East Midlands, London Stansted and Stockholm Skavsta) will, this winter, also offer international flights to Edinburgh, Milan Bergamo and Shannon as well as new domestic routes to Dűsseldorf Weeze and Frankfurt Hahn.


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