How European LCC network are fundamentally different from LCCs elsewhere in the world
A recent study by anna.aero confirmed that the networks of Europe’s major LCCs continue to be fundamentally different to most other major LCCs in other parts of the world. Analysis of eight major European LCCs and nine LCCs from the rest of the world looked at what proportion of their flights were operated on routes with certain levels of weekly frequency. The lowest category was just one or two flights per week, with the highest category equating to seven (or more) daily flights. The range of possible weekly frequencies was split into a total of seven categories.
Most major non-European LCCs operate few flights less than daily
The analysis of the OAG schedule data for the beginning of September showed that eight of the nine non-European LCCs operated at least 5% of their weekly flights on routes with a frequency of at least seven daily flights.
Over 25% of Southwest’s flights are operating on routes served at least seven times per day. Southwest only operates two routes at less than daily frequency, and even these are served six times per week. The only non-European LCC to buck this trend is the reasonably well established (and profitable) Air Arabia which operates no routes with three or more daily flights and has over 30% of its flights being operated on routes where the frequency is less than daily.
European LCCs embrace lower frequency route concept
The same analysis for eight of Europe’s biggest LCCs show a significantly different pattern with a much higher percentage of flights being allocated to routes with less than daily flights.
Only Norwegian (some domestic routes from Oslo, plus Oslo – Stockholm) and Vueling (Barcelona – Paris Orly, and Barcelona – Ibiza in summer) operate any routes with at least seven daily flights. Ryanair’s top route is Dublin to London Stansted which is currently served by 47 weekly flights. The second busiest route (Dublin – London Gatwick) has 31 weekly flights. Ryanair’s 13% of flights which are operated with just one or two weekly flights represents an astonishing 360 routes.
Average weekly frequency is still declining
During the last 12 months the average weekly frequency of new routes started by Jet2.com, Ryanair and Wizz Air has been less than three flights per week, with germanwings only marginally above this figure. For easyJet and Norwegian the figure is closer to four weekly flights. For bmibaby the relatively high figure of over seven flights per week is heavily influenced by the carrier’s focus on new double-daily domestic routes from its new base at Belfast City airport.
Another significant point is that Ryanair started more new routes during the last 12 months than the other seven European LCCs combined, although the Irish carrier also dropped more than 100 routes during the last year as well, creating opportunities for other carriers (such as bmibaby at Belfast City).
European leisure market drives difference
In Europe a combination of more non-work days (annual leave and national holidays), ‘cheap’ secondary airports, and a liberalised market enabling cheaper international flights all combine with a historic tendency for travel and adventure, to make all-leisure routes economically viable for low-cost carriers. Elsewhere in the world most LCCs rely, at least to some degree, on the business travel market on all of their routes, which typically requires a minimum of at least a daily flight.