Manchester needs Berlin, Madrid and Warsaw services; Prague market down 50% in two years but should grow in 2010

Image: Manchester Airport secures awards
January 18 2010: Manchester secures the Business Travel Awards’ “Best UK Airport”…and then the very next day “Best UK Regional Airport” in the Travel Weekly Globe Awards. Andrew Cornish, Manchester Airport’s managing director, confident that he’d be photographed accepting both awards, packed two different bow ties. Airlines take note: What Manchester’s business community could really do with right now is a Berlin and Madrid service. Photos: Business Travel Awards and Travel Weekly.

Outside of London, the UK’s busiest airport is in Manchester, which last year handled 18.6 million passengers, down almost 12% from the 21 million that passed through the airport in 2008. As such, it would be expected that the airport is well-connected to most of Europe’s major cities. This week’s route analysis looks back at annual scheduled data for the last 12 years to see which city markets are the busiest, which have seen traffic grow, and which have seen traffic fall to the extent that the route is no longer served. Across a basket of 22 major European city destinations, traffic to and from Manchester has grown by less than 1% in 11 years, holding steady at 3.2 million. Across all routes, traffic at the airport during the same period grew 8% from 17.2 to 18.6 million. During the same period, passenger numbers at nearby Liverpool grew more than fivefold from 870,000 to 4.9 million.

Dublin holds firm as leading international city route

Examining data for cities in Northern Europe reveals that Dublin has maintained its lead over Amsterdam and Paris throughout the period, though at various times both airports have come close to catching the Irish destination.

Chart: Manchester - Major EU cities (North) - Annual passengers 1998-2009
Source: UK CAA

Traffic to Brussels fell dramatically when Sabena went bust in 2001 and was overtaken by Frankfurt (in 2002) and Copenhagen (since 2004). Berlin and Warsaw, which were both served throughout the period 1998 to 2007, are no longer served. However, both of these destinations are served from nearby Liverpool. easyJet has operated daily Liverpool to Berlin Schönefeld since May 2004 while Wizz Air has been connecting Liverpool to Warsaw since December 2004. Of these 11 northern cities, traffic has grown by more than 10% (in 11 years) only to Stockholm (+102%), Oslo (+38%) and Frankfurt (+20%).

Athens and Budapest added; Madrid and Vienna lost

Looking at destinations in the southern part of Europe reveals more volatility in demand, as a result of greater volatility on the supply side. Athens and Budapest were not served by scheduled flights in 1998 but were in 2009, while Madrid and Vienna which were served 12 years ago have both lost their scheduled flights in recent years.

Chart: Manchester - Major EU cities (South) - Annual passengers 1998-2009
Source: UK CAA

Demand for Prague services exploded in 2004 thanks to low-cost bmibaby taking on CSA Czech Airlines. However, after peaking in 2005, traffic has fallen in three of the last four years on the route. The good news for passengers is that competition will increase once more this summer with the return of both CSA and services. CSA seems to have downgraded the route to a seasonal summer-only service while last served the route during the summer of 2007.

The Madrid route is a curiosity. Served by both British Airways and Iberia in 2004 when passenger numbers reached 100,000, attempts by bmibaby (summer 2008) and Monarch (2005/06) to operate the route have failed to keep the connection alive. Again, it should be noted that easyJet has been operating daily flights from Liverpool to Madrid since 1999.

This summer sees the launch of easyJet services to Zurich (five times weekly from the end of April) to provid competition for Swiss. Two new ‘city’ routes were announced this week. airBaltic will start serving both of its bases in Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania) with twice-weekly flights from the beginning of the summer season.


  1. Timo Jarvela says:

    Data on Manchester – Helsinki route is lacking. MAN – HEL route had 77 000 passengers in 2009 and expecting strong growth with new easyJet service starting next week.

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