The rise and fall of the UK – Valencia market; from two routes to 11 and back to just four

Image: Ryanair & easyJet
The surge in demand for services from the UK to Valencia in 2004 coincided with increased awareness of the then almost complete City of the Arts and Sciences complex designed by the ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava. This summer there are just four airports in the UK with scheduled flights to Valencia, all operated by Ryanair and easyJet.

This week anna.aero introduces a new, regular feature where we take a closer look at a particular market and how it has developed over time. We start with an examination of traffic development during the last decade between the UK and Spain’s third largest city, Valencia. Maybe surprisingly, up until early 2004 the only UK airports with non-stop scheduled flights to Valencia were London Heathrow and London Gatwick.

Normally the first non-London airport to be able to support non-stop flights to an international destination is Manchester, followed usually by Birmingham. The first non-London airport to offer scheduled flights to Valencia was Coventry (when Thomsonfly began flights from its new base there at the end of March 2004), followed by Bristol.

Chart: UK - Valencia traffic 1998-2008 (Annual passengers)
Source: UK CAA

After that the floodgates opened and by the end of 2008 a total of 13 UK airports had witnessed non-stop flights to Valencia. In just two years traffic quadrupled from under 200,000 annual passengers to almost 800,000. Several of the new services were short-lived (such as EUjet’s services from Manston). In 2008 seven airports offered scheduled services (down from 11 in 2007), but since then clickair has abandoned its Heathrow service (which it inherited from Iberia), Jet2.com has given up its Leeds/Bradford service (it had already abandoned Manchester and Newcastle services at the end of 2007) and Ryanair pulled the plug on its Liverpool service as part of its ‘decommissioning’ of its base at the Spanish airport.

The surge in demand in 2004 coincided with increased awareness of the then almost complete City of the Arts and Sciences complex designed by the ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava. This complex consists of an opera house, an IMAX centre and planetarium, a science museum and Europe’s most varied aquarium. In 2007 sailing’s biggest event, the America’s Cup, was based in the old port (as it will be again this summer) and last year saw the inaugural European Grand Prix on a street circuit laid out around the harbour area.

Just easyJet and Ryanair left in 2009 from four airports

This summer there are just four airports in the UK with scheduled flights to Valencia. In the summer peak easyJet flies twice-daily from London Gatwick and daily from Bristol, while Ryanair operates twice-daily from London Stansted and four times per week from East Midlands. Any UK business people wanting to attend events at the city’s impressive Lord Foster designed conference centre will have to travel ‘low-cost’, though once there can indulge in one of the growing number of up-market hotels.

Chart: UK - Valencia seasonality
Source: UK CAA

While passenger numbers from the UK declined by 12% in 2008 the reduced capacity this summer has seen demand in the first five months of 2009 fall by almost 60%. Traffic for 2009 is likely to be around the 300,000 mark, which may seem disappointing compared with the peak of almost 800,000 in 2005 but is still double the number transported between Valencia and the UK as recently as 2002.


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