Canary Islands welcome surge in low-cost interest this winter; Ryanair leads way

Map: Canary Islands

Image: LogoLocated over 1,100 kilometres south of mainland Spain, and between 100 and 500 kilometres west of the Central Moroccan coastline, the Canary Islands have long been a popular destination for Northern European leisure travellers, especially those from the UK and Germany.

Passenger numbers at the five main airports serving the seven main islands have grown relatively slowly in recent years as the Islands’ distance from the main international travel markets has (until recently) been beyond the normal range of services operated by Europe’s major low-cost carriers, leaving the charter carriers free to dominate with their typically larger capacity aircraft.

03-08png.png
Source: AENA

Las Palmas airport on Gran Canaria is the busiest of the airports and has handled in excess of 10 million passengers in each of the last three years. Tenerife Sur is the next busiest with consistently between eight and nine million annual passengers.

Chart: Seasonlity
Source: AENA

These two airports share a very similar seasonality profile, with a main peak in March and secondary peaks in August and November. The other three airports have slightly less pronounced seasonality profiles.

Binter Canarias #1 at three of five airports

Image: Gran Canaria
Binter Canarias complements its ATR fleet by leasing in 737s, such as this colourful Canary-themed logojet.

Local carrier Binter Canarias was the busiest airline at three of the five airports in 2008 operating flights primarily between the islands using a fleet of some 20 ATR 72s (some of which are operated by NAYSA) complemented occasionally by leased 737s.

Airport #1 airline #2 airline #3 airline
Gran Canaria Binter Canarias
(1.597)
Spanair
(0.922)
Iberia
(0.797)
Tenerife Sur Thomas Cook
(0.591)
Spanair
(0.591)
Monarch
(0.596)
Lanzarote Air Europa
(0.582)
Binter Canarias
(0.555)
Thomas Cook
(0.414)
Fuerteventura Binter Canarias
(0.514)
TUIfly
(0.508)
airberlin
(0.406)
Tenerife Norte Binter Canarias
(1.264)
Air Europa
(0.735)
Iberia
(0.539)
Source: AENA
Figures are passenger numbers in 2008 (millions)

Tenerife’s two airports serve different markets. Tenerife Norte acts as an inter-island hub dominated by Spanish carriers and domestic routes. Tenerife Sur, which opened in 1978, is used mostly to serve international leisure passengers visiting the island. Less than 20% of the airport’s passengers are on domestic flights.

Chart: Markets
Source: AENA

While UK and German holiday makers are common at all four of the major tourist airports there are some interesting differences. Brits outnumber Germans at least 2:1 at Tenerife Sur and Lanzarote while Germans outnumber Brits by almost 2:1 on Fuerteventura. On Gran Canaria the numbers are roughly similar.

62 new routes this winter

Image: Germanwings
germanwings last week launched a route between Cologne/Bonn and Gran Canaria, one of many low cost routes starting this winter season from the European mainland to the Canary Islands.

This winter has seen a surge of interest from Europe’s low-cost carriers. Having cut capacity on many destinations due to insufficient off-peak demand they have decided to try operating longer sectors to destinations that people may want to visit in winter. The Canary Islands’ location so far south of the rest of Europe means that winter sunshine tends to be more reliable there than elsewhere in mainland Europe. Over 60 new routes have been started this winter by Europe’s major LCC, led by Ryanair with 43, Monarch with seven, Norwegian four and easyJet and Germanwings with three each.

Airport Airline (new routes)
Gran Canaria
(LPA)
Cimber Sterling (BLL)
germanwings (CGN)
Monarch (BHX, LGW, MAN)
Norwegian (AAL, CPH, SVG, TRD)
Ryanair (BHX, BOH, BRS, CRL, DUB, EDI, EMA, GRO, HHN, LPL, LTN, MAD, NRN, OPO, PIK, PSA, SNN, STN)
Tenerife Sur
(TFS)
Aer Lingus (LGW)
germanwings (CGN)
Ryanair (BHX, BOH, BRS, CRL, EDI, LTN, MAD, OPO)
Lanzarote
(ACE)
easyJet (LPL)
Ryanair (BHX, BOH, BRS, CRL, DUB, EDI, EMA, GRO, HHN, LGW, LPL, LTN, MAD, NRN, PIK, SNN, STN)
Fuerteventura
(FUE)
easyJet (LPL, STN)
germanwings (CGN)
Monarch (BHX, LGW, LTN, MAN)
Source: Airline press releases, anna.aero new route database

Most of these services will operate with between one and three weekly frequencies. These services will be warmly welcomed by all four airports as passenger numbers during the first 10 months of 2009 are down 11.8% at Gran Canaria, down 15.7% at Tenerife Sur, down 16.2% at Lanzarote and down 17.8% at Fuerteventura.


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