UK-Spain is biggest intra-European airline market; how much have ‘foreign’ airlines invaded top country-pair markets?

As the start of the summer season moves ever closer, this week takes a look at which are the leading international air travel markets within Europe and how these are served. Using schedule data for the first week in August the top 15 country-pairs have been identified and ranked in terms of weekly departing seat capacity. It will come as no great surprise that the two largest international markets during the peak summer, holiday season both involve Spain, with the UK market over 50% bigger than the German market.

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2010

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2010

Germany – Italy and Germany – UK rank third and fourth, after which there is little to choose between five further country-pair markets, three of which involve the UK. Traffic between various combinations of the five major country markets (of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) account for 10 of the top 12 country-pair markets, the only exceptions being UK – Ireland, and Germany – Turkey.

Irish carriers have over 90% of UK-Ireland market

A closer look at these leading country-pair markets by nationality of airline reveals some interesting patterns. Since European liberalisation of the air travel market in the 1990s any European carrier can serve any airport-pair anywhere within Europe. As a result several country-pairs now have a significant share of their seat capacity provided by airlines that are not based in either country. Irish-based Ryanair and UK-based easyJet have pan-European networks featuring multiple bases outside of their home countries.

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2010

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2010

‘Foreign’ carriers have made the biggest impact in the Italy – Spain market, where Ryanair and easyJet between them now control almost 50% of available seat capacity, and between France and Italy where again, easyJet and Ryanair have helped ‘foreign’ carriers to grab almost 40% of the market.

Analysis of the data also reveals the following points of interest:

  • The UK – Ireland market is served almost exclusively by Irish carriers (Aer Arann, Aer Lingus, and Ryanair) with UK airlines having less than 10% of the market.
  • Apart from the UK – Ireland market the next most one-sided country pairs are Germany – Spain (German carriers have 81%), Germany – Italy (German carriers have 77%) and UK – Spain (UK carriers have 72%).
  • While UK airlines may only have 7% of the UK – Ireland market, Spanish airlines only have 4% of the UK – Spain market, and Italian carriers only have 4% of the Germany – Italy market.
  • In the four country-pairs involving Italy, Italian carriers consistently have a very low share of capacity; just 4% to Germany, 14% to the UK, 16% to Spain and 23% to France.
  • The German – Turkey market is only served by either German or Turkish carriers since Turkey is not a member of the EU.


  1. Aibidil says:

    I am surprised to see no intra-Scandinavia pairs in the list. Could they be omitted or do they fade in August?

    • Timur says:

      Population of Sweden is about 9 million. Denmark, Finland and Norway: about 5 million. Possible total population of country pair is less than 15 million. So it is not a big surprise. If comparing populations, the surprise is that the biggest country in Europe by population (Russia) is not in list.
      Russian tourists are not carried by scheduled services, but by Russian charters (mostly to Turkey). Russia prevents foreign airlines to carry Russian tourists. So scheduled services are very limited. Russians have no way to travel everywhere freely and cheaply.

      • Timur says:

        I found very interesting statistics. Number of travellers that visited Turkey in August 2010:
        Russia – 547.059 (%14,71)
        Germany – 533.185 (%14,34)
        UK – 451.868 (%12,15)
        Of course it is not only by air. But comparing with stats of Germany-Turkey pair it can say something.
        Only at Antalya Airport there was about 1,5 million international pax (one way) in August. (more than 3,5 million in all Turkey)

    • We double-checked the intra-Scandinavian markets, but they are all way down the list and simply not big enough to make the top list.

      Denmark – Norway: around 37,000 weekly seats (ws)
      Sweden – Denmark: around 26,000 ws
      Norway – Sweden: around 22,000 ws

      In the Scandinavian holiday month of July, capacity is down somewhat (although not as much as the domestic markets), but August is fairly representative for the year as a whole.

  2. Aibidil says:

    Thanks, I am surprised.

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