Ryanair cutting flights in nine countries this summer; 270 routes launched but 130 dropped as flights increase by 7%

After years of being highly critical of London Stansted, and slashing a total of 40 routes from its biggest base over the last 10 years, Ryanair appears to be suddenly staging something of a Stansted comeback, adding 11 new routes and dropping just three.

After years of being highly critical of London Stansted, and slashing a total of 40 routes from its biggest base over the last 10 years, Ryanair appears to be suddenly staging something of a Stansted comeback, adding 11 new routes this summer and dropping just three. However, analysis of Innovata data shows the number of flights is virtually identical to last year, so the net gain of eight routes (from 106 to 114) is achieved by reducing frequencies on some existing routes.

Following our recent analysis of easyJet’s network developments for this summer, anna.aero this week does a similar analysis on Ryanair, which measured by passenger numbers is Europe’s biggest airline. After grounding a significant portion of its fleet over the winter period, resulting in a rare decline in passenger numbers, the airline is back with a bang this summer having launched new bases in Billund (Denmark), Budapest (Hungary), Karlsruhe-Baden (Germany), Palma de Mallorca (Spain) and Paphos (Cyprus) all in time for the summer season. This has resulted in the launch of over 150 new routes in recent weeks.

A comparison of weekly departures by country for this August compared with last August reveals that the number of flights operated is up around 7% to almost 11,700. The number of routes being operated has increased by almost 12% to just over 1,300, resulting in the average weekly frequency across all routes dropping 4% from 4.7 to 4.5 departures per week. So which country markets are benefiting most from this growth?

Ryanair's network changes Change in weekly departures August 2012 v 2011

Source: SRS Analyser for August 2011 and August 2012

Of the 28 country markets served by the airline (up one since last summer as a result of the new base at Budapest in Hungary), 17 will see more Ryanair flights this summer, 9 will see fewer and two will see no change. The biggest increase in absolute terms will be in Spain followed by Hungary and Italy, each of which will see more than 100 additional weekly departures compared with last summer. The biggest declines are in Morocco, Ireland and the UK.

Spain, Italy and UK are top three markets

Despite the reduction in UK flights (equivalent to just over 1%), the UK remains Ryanair’s third biggest market with over 2,000 weekly departures, behind Italy (2,217), and Spain (2,830). France, Germany and Ireland are all way behind vying for fourth place.

Ryanair's network summer 2012 Weekly departures by country

Source: SRS Analyser for August 2011 and August 2012

Despite concerns about the Spanish economy,  the country remains extremely appealing as a leisure destination for northern Europeans. The behaviour of Iberia’s strike-prone pilots is also playing into Ryanair’s hands, although the growth of Vueling, the creation of Iberia Express (the cause of the Iberia pilots’ concerns), and the launch of Volotea will create further competition and choices for passengers.

130 routes dropped since last summer

Closer inspection of schedule data reveals that despite launching a total of 269 new routes between August 2011 and August 2012, Ryanair has also dropped 130, leaving a net gain of 139. This analysis ignores the fact that last summer Ryanair temporarily moved its Venice Treviso flights to Venice Marco Polo due to runway works, and that Berlin flights will be moving from Schönefeld to the new Brandenburg airport from the start of June.

Number of dropped routes Airport (code)
18 Alicante (ALC)
14 Reus (REU)
9 Marrakech (RAK)
8 Seville (SVQ)
7 Girona (GRO), Liverpool (LPL), Rome Ciampino (CIA)
6 Dublin (DUB), Stockholm Skavsta (NYO), Zaragoza (ZAZ)
5 Bologna (BLQ), East Midlands (EMA), Madrid (MAD), Milan Bergamo (BGY), Oslo Rygge (RYG), Trapani (TPS)
4 Bremen (BRE), Edinburgh (EDI), Gran Canaria (LPA), Ibiza (IBZ), Malaga (AGP), Paris Beauvais (BVA), Pisa (PSA), Riga (RIX)
Source: Derived from SRS Analyser for August 2011 and August 2012

Spanish airports occupy three of the top four places for airports that lost the most destinations since last August. Ryanair’s track record of cutting flights and routes when it feels it is not getting the deal it expects from airports, can result in quite dramatic and sudden changes at airports. The latest example of this is the airline’s decision to axe eight routes from its Edinburgh base for this winter, as a result of its favourable five-year deal at the airport expiring at the end of October.

A total of 91 airports have lost at least one Ryanair route in the last 12 months. Clearly most of these airports have also gained new routes from Ryanair, and with 20 new aircraft having been delivered since the beginning of December (taking the fleet to close to 300 189-seat 737-800s) there would appear to be further opportunities for growth this summer.

Based on analysis of the available data the airports with the most new routes this summer compared to last summer are Budapest (30), Palma de Mallorca (24), Manchester (21), Girona (20), Barcelona  and Paphos (15 each), Milan Bergamo (14), Chania and Oslo Rygge (13 each), Rome Ciampino (12) and London Stansted (11).

The last figure may come as a surprise given Ryanair’s repeated criticism of its biggest base, but the fact is that between August 2011 and August 2012 Ryanair will have added new routes from Stansted to Araxos/Patras (27 March), Barcelona (1 December), Budapest (17 February), Chania (27 March), Kos (27 March), Leipzig (3 November), Malmö (1 November), Malta (25 March), Paphos (2 May), Turku (3 April) and Warsaw Modlin (16 July). During the same period it has dropped just three destinations from the airport; Agadir, Hamburg Lübeck and Glasgow Prestwick, the latter a route it once served with as many as 10 daily (yes, daily) flights.


  1. Simonas says:

    I think your analysis took a week in August when Bremen airport will be closed (6 August – 11 August 2012), so generally other week then this numbers will be bigger as BRE is relatively big Ryanair base with 21 routes.

  2. Liam says:

    What routes have been cut from Dublin?

  3. Alex says:

    Bremen is amongst Ryanair’s smallest bases. Bit surprised to see the UK is down this summer with the new base at Manchester that wasn’t open in August 2011. Where are all the cuts elsewhere then, I think its mainly Liverpool who lost quite a few recently and was going to be smaller than last year anyway which would make sense due to its proximity to Manchester. Edinburgh as we know lost a few also and London-Stansted may have lost a few aswell but a few flights lost each week barely scratches the surface there with the amount they have.

    Remember most importantly that just because an airport has more routes than another doesn’t mean it has more flights. For instance Manchester has around 6, 7 or 8 less routes than East Midlands but infact has more flights a week as each route is flown more frequently. So just because London-Stansted has gained 11 routes, doesn’t mean they’ve increased capacity, especially as alot of the new routes fly only a couple of times a week when the 3 lost were more regular running and they have probably cut the frequency of alot of existing routes from last summer.

  4. rachel wheatley says:

    There is now not a single flight linking Scotland with the capital of Italy! The world is shrinking for Scottish residents and travel to Rome becomes twice as expensive as we are forced to fly to England first….as are Italians from Rome wishing to visit Scotland. What will this do for Edinburgh’s tourism industry? No European in their right mind would do a weekend city break in Edinburgh if they had to make four flights to achieve it! Surely someone must want to take on this route that has been stopped because of Ryanair’s bust-up with Edinburgh airport?

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