Iberia-British Airways merger creates third European mega-legacy carrier; each has different global network focus

With British Airways and Iberia having apparently finalised the terms of their merger, anna.aero was curious to see how the global networks of the now three major European airlines with global networks compare. In terms of passenger numbers in 2009, British Airways (32.3 million) and Iberia (20.5 million) transported a total of 52.8 million people. This is still significantly fewer than the 70.2 million for Air France (47.9m)/KLM (22.3m) and 87.4 million for Lufthansa (53.2m) and its subsidiaries Austrian (8.5m), bmi (7.4m), Brussels Airlines (4.7m) and Swiss (13.6m).

However, in terms of ASKs (available seat kilometres) in 2009, the figures for the three airlines are much closer with Air France/KLM leading the way with 250.5 billion, followed by 235.9 billion for Lufthansa Group, and 205.5 billion for British Airways/Iberia. (Source: AEA) This is only for scheduled traffic operated by the main airlines and does not include low-cost subsidiaries, such as bmibaby, germanwings and Transavia.com, or airlines in which the airlines have a major share, such as Vueling in Iberia’s case.

All three airlines serve over 90 non-European destinations

Ignoring European destinations, according to OAG schedule data for April, Air France/KLM has the greatest global network reach, serving 118 airports across the rest of the world. This compares with 105 for Lufthansa Group and 99 for British Airways/Iberia.

Chart: Europe's global mega-carriers Destinations served on each non-European continent

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 April 2010

Despite serving the most non-EU airports, Air France/KLM is the leading carrier in only one of the five geographic regions analysed; Africa. British Airways/Iberia is top for Latin America (mostly Iberia) and North America (mostly British Airways), while Lufthansa Group has the widest choice in Asia and the Middle East.

Lufthansa’s “weakness” in Latin America (serving just Buenos Aires, Caracas, Mexico City and Sao Paulo) can be explained by looking at the alliances they belong to. Star Alliance used to have both Mexicana and Varig as members in Latin America, but the former left in 2004 and the latter in 2007. However, the Brazilian carrier TAM is expected to join Star next month. Lufthansa’s “strength” appears to be in Asia where it serves 30 destinations, eight more than either of the other airlines. Most of these are served non-stop from either Austria, Germany or Switzerland, but some are served as one-stop flights, such as Kuala Lumpur (via Bangkok) and Jakarta (via Singapore).

Only British Airways makes it all the way to Australia

If weekly flights from the airports in the region are analysed, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various carriers remain mostly unchanged.

Region Air France
British Airways
/ Iberia
Lufthansa et al
Africa 350 163 251
Asia 249 128 296
Latin America 250 263 39
Middle East 130 101 264
North America 253 343 318
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 April 2010

Lufthansa now has twice as many flights to the Middle East as its rivals with Tel Aviv (53 weekly departures) and Dubai (35 weekly departures) the two busiest airports. British Airways/Iberia under-performs in Asia with Iberia not operating any service to the region. However, BA aircraft do at least make it all the way to Australia (Sydney via Bangkok and Singapore) unlike any of the other carriers here who rely on their alliance partners to take European passengers ‘down under’.

New York JFK leading North American airport for all three airlines

Summarising the top three airports in each region for each carrier highlights the importance of New York in North America, Sao Paulo in Latin America, Bangkok in Asia, and Dubai and Tel Aviv in the Middle East. The table below shows the number of weekly departures for each carrier at their top three airports in each region.

Region Air France
British Airways*
/ Iberia
Lufthansa et al
Africa Tunis (52)
Algiers (35)
Casablanca (28)
Johannesburg (23)
Casablanca (19)
Tripoli (13)
Cairo (39)
Dakar (14)
Johannesburg (14)
Asia Bangkok (28)
Tokyo Narita (27)
Shanghai Pudong (25)
Singapore (19)
Bangkok (14)
Hong Kong (14)
Bangkok (28)
Tokyo Narita (28)
Delhi (25)
Latin America Fort de France (34)
Pointe-A-Pitre (31)
Sao Paulo (19)
Sao Paulo (27)
Buenos Aires (21)
Mexico City (21)
Sao Paulo (19)
Caracas (7)
Mexico City (7)
Middle East Dubai (25)
Tel Aviv (21)
Beirut (10)
Tel Aviv (28)
Abu Dhabi (14)
Dubai (14)
Tel Aviv (53)
Dubai (35)
Riyadh (26)
North America New York JFK (45)
Los Angeles (29)
Montreal (27)
New York JFK (67)
Miami (26)
Boston (25)
New York JFK (49)
Chicago O’Hare (33)
Boston (27)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 April 2010
* Does not include BA’s franchise operation with Comair in South Africa as BA does not own Comair

The appearance of Tripoli at number three in BA/Iberia’s African destinations may come as a surprise to those who recall the many years of political animosity between the UK and Libya. However, BA now serves the Libyan capital with twice-daily flights from London Heathrow.

Aficionados of alliances will have fun spotting the links to important bases of alliance partner airlines such as Cairo (Egyptair/Star), Chicago O’Hare (United/Star), Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific/oneworld), Miami (American/oneworld) and Shanghai (China Eastern/joining SkyTeam in 2011).

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  1. Simon says:

    Isn’t it a bit misleading to give Air France/KLM a low rating for routes to the US and Canada, since it excludes their joint venture with Delta. Arguably routes like Amsterdam-Newark and Paris-Pittsburgh exist purely as part of their KLM or Air France network, operated by Delta simply because they have the most suitable aircraft for the route. The joint venture means all costs and revenue are shared so it does not matter whether Delta, Air France or KLM operate a route. Overall between the three airlines, there is a very comprehensive transtlantic network, that is probably more comprehensive in terms of routes served than what Oneworld offer.

  2. ab says:

    the IB/BA has only one dominant direction Latin America, all other directions has very tough competition.
    even more weak IB/BA is in Europe by covering fewer airports and considerably less passengers and their hubs are located on side of Europe which doesn’t allow dramatically increase passenger turnover on European routes.

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