|Ryanair discovered Spain later than its competitors, but has now won the country over; in particular at its first base in Girona (near the Salvador Dalí museum)|
As the number one international leisure destination for UK holidaymakers travelling by air, it may come as a surprise to realise that Ryanair only entered the Spanish market in December 2002. Its low cost rivals in the UK at that time, easyJet and Go, had already been serving destinations on the Spanish mainland for some time while there was also a huge charter market aimed at package tour holiday makers.
Ryanair’s first Spanish route was from Frankfurt Hahn to Girona (near Barcelona) and the Catalan airport was soon served from several bases such as Brussels Charleroi, Dublin, Glasgow Prestwick, London Stansted and Milan Bergamo. In February 2004, Girona became a designated base with aircraft and crews based at the airport.
|Source: anna.aero database|
Between mid-2004 and early 2007, the number of destinations served increased modestly from 16 to 23, before the next major surge of growth occurred in March 2007. The number of destinations increased to 40 during the summer of 2007 as the airline responded to the decision by Iberia to hand over much of its Barcelona network to the new low-cost carrier clickair, in which it was a major shareholder. By the end of 2007, Ryanair was serving over 50 destinations from Girona.
Over five million passengers in 2008
|With a 91% share of Girona’s passengers, Ryanair hugely dominates the airport. In addition to functioning as a secondary airport for Barcelona, the Costa Brava is a popular tourist destination in itself.|
In 2008, Girona handled 5.5 million passengers, of which just over 91% were travelling on Ryanair flights. According to data from Aena, the most popular routes on the Ryanair network from Girona in 2008 were London (Stansted), Paris (Beauvais), Milan (Bergamo) and Rome (Ciampino).
A further 16 destinations also served more than 100,000 annual passengers, of which five were in the UK. During the peak summer period, a total of 58 destinations were served by Ryanair, including seasonal services to Aarhus, Altenburg, Graz and Perugia.
In the first 10 months of 2009, passenger numbers at Girona are down just 4.1%, despite the rapid growth of Ryanair’s other Barcelona base at Reus, to the south of the city.
Load factors vary significantly by route and month
Analysis of monthly load factors for the top 20 Ryanair routes at Girona in 2008 reveals that during the second half of the year, the Düsseldorf Weeze service consistently achieved the highest load factors. Average load factors peaked in August at around 88%.
|Source: Derived from Aena data|
During the first half of 2008, the route with the lowest load factor was Granada, which had only begun in November 2007. During the first two months of 2008, Frankfurt Hahn flights had the most empty seats, while load factors on flights to Liverpool were thirty percentage points higher.
As with all bases, there have been some ‘failures’ along the way. Destinations no longer served include Basel, Blackpool, Brescia, Brno, Forli, Fuerteventura, Malmo and Newquay. Several other destinations which used to be served year-round now appear to be served only during the peak summer season.
In the last few weeks, new services have begun to Edinburgh, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Oslo Rygge. The only new route announced so far for 2010 is to Brindisi, starting on 7 February.