|The editor of anna.aero, Ralph Anker, was Head of Network Planning at Go when the East Midlands base was opened and later taken over by easyJet. The evaluation process to identify a new base had focused on seven UK airports which were given codenames, inspired by Snow White’s dwarves. East Midlands’ codename was “Bashful”. For the sake of confidentiality he declines to disclose the potentially explosive identities of Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey or for that matter Happy.|
Last week easyJet announced proposals to close its East Midlands base and redeploy the three aircraft elsewhere on its network, probably in continental Europe. However, it gave no timescale for the closure and the airline’s website booking tool is currently still allowing bookings to be made as far ahead as next June. The airline appears to be guaranteeing services at least until the New Year but says cryptically “Passengers travelling after this period will be informed well in advance if and how their travel might be affected.”
easyJet inherited operations at East Midlands airport (near Nottingham) when it acquired Go in 2002. Go had started flights at the airport in March 2002, its third UK base after London Stansted and Bristol. Coincidentally (or not) bmi created its own low-cost airline, bmibaby, and started flights at the airport the same month.
Since then easyJet’s base has remained little changed with three aircraft and virtually no increase in the number of destinations served. Domestic flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow were ceded to bmibaby while international services to Cologne/Bonn and Rome Ciampino were both started in June 2004 but both routes were axed in early 2008. Barcelona, which was first served from March 2002 to June 2004 was revived in December 2007. In seven years a total of just 14 routes were flown at various times.
|Source: anna.aero database derived from websites and OAG data|
In 2001 East Midlands airport handled a total of 2.4 million passengers. By 2008 this had increased to 5.6 million to make it the UK’s tenth busiest airport in terms of passengers. After starting flights to the airport in April 2004 (from Dublin, Girona and Murcia) Ryanair made East Midlands its 16th base in March 2006.
It rapidly developed a network of over 30 destinations, but at mostly relatively low weekly frequencies. This September Ryanair is operating 144 weekly departures from the airport compared with 103 for bmibaby and just 58 for easyJet. easyJet’s routes account for around 700,000 annual passengers at the airport.
Alternatives to easyJet
Assuming that easyJet does close the base at some point in 2010 what alternatives do passengers have? Out of the 10 destinations seven are already served by other carriers while Ryanair offers flights to Girona (and Reus) instead of Barcelona. Only Geneva and Venice look as though they might be lost as destinations.
|Route||S09 WF||Alternatives (WF)|
|Alicante (ALC)||7||bmibaby (7), Thomson (2)|
|Barcelona (BCN)||7||Ryanair (7) [to Girona]|
|Faro (FAO)||8||bmibaby (2), Thomson (1)|
|Ibiza (IBZ)||1||Thomson (3)|
|Malaga (AGP)||7||bmibaby (8), Thomson (2)|
|Nice (NCE)||3||bmibaby (3)|
|Palma (PMI)||7||bmibaby (8), Thomson (8)|
|Prague (PRG)||4||Ryanair (4)|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 September 2009 WF: Weekly Frequency|
Jet2.com’s recent revelation that it plans to create an East Midlands ‘base’ in 2010 with seven new routes (generating just nine weekly departures) provides no alternative to passengers keen to visit Geneva or Venice. One obvious possibility is that Ryanair will start a service to Venice Treviso while bmibaby which currently operates to Geneva just in winter may operate the route year-round.
*Since writing the first version of this story bmibaby has announced that it will now operate its Geneva service on a year-round basis and will start flights from East Midlands to Venice from 12 February (just in time for Valentine’s Day).