UK LCC celebrates 10th birthday; Manchester closing in on Leeds/Bradford as airline’s #1 base

To mark its tenth anniversary, recreated the very first flight it offered.

To mark its tenth anniversary, recreated the very first flight it offered. Aircraft, crew and even some of the passengers were gathered together once again and flown from Leeds/Bradford to Amsterdam. recently celebrated its tenth birthday, a significant milestone for the UK-based LCC which operates from eight bases in the north of the country. The carrier has outlasted many other UK LCCs such as bmibaby, buzz, EUjet, flyglobespan and go, and has carried over 28 million passengers since its first flight on 12 February 2003 between Leeds/Bradford (its home base) and Amsterdam. After growing rapidly in its first five years, the airline retrenched in 2008 and 2009, before growing again in 2010 (by 9.3%), 2011 (by 30.2%) and 2012 (by an estimated 13%). Average load factors in recent years have been well above 85% for the whole year. With capacity growing once again this summer, the airline could be on track to carry five million passengers in a single year for the first time. Most of the airline’s traffic is between the UK and mainland Europe, but for the last few years it has carried between 100,000 and 200,000 passengers annually on domestic routes, primarily between Belfast International and Leeds/Bradford. - the first 10 years Annual scheduled passengers (millions) and load factors

Source: UK CAA

Owned by the Dart Group, the airline’s business model is a little different from a typical LCC, with a heavy focus on Mediterranean leisure destinations operated in the peak summer months. Last year, carried over seven times as many passengers in the peak July and August months as it did in January. variation in demand Monthly passengers 2008-2012

Source: UK CAA

This extreme seasonality is made possible by the fact that the majority of the airline’s fleet of 42 aircraft are relatively mature 737-300s (27 aircraft) and 757-200s (11 aircraft), whose ownership costs are relatively low and are therefore only flown when the airline feels there is sufficient, profitable demand.

Manchester gaining on Leeds/Bradford as #1 base

Since the summer of 2011, has operated from eight bases across the UK, Belfast International, Blackpool, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle. Scheduled seat capacity this summer (first week in August) is up almost 30% compared with summer 2011, as the airline continues to expand its network's top 15 airports Weekly departures in summer 2013 v summer 2011

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 August 2011 and w/c 5 August 2013

Palma de Mallorca is the airline’s leading summer destination, ahead of Alicante, Malaga and Faro. Alicante has been the fastest-growing, with the number of weekly flights growing by 80% in the last two years. Malaga frequencies have increased by 50% during the same period. Over 40 destinations are served in mainland Europe, plus Tel Aviv in Israel. Apart from seaside destinations around the Mediterranean, the airline also serves some ‘city-break’ destinations such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Cork, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Krakow, Nice, Paris, Prague, Rome, Toulouse and Venice. The airline does not currently operate any flights to Scandinavia, though it did link Newcastle with Bergen between April 2006 and March 2008.

Over 20 new regular routes this summer plus ‘exotic’ weekend breaks

At present, the airline is on track to launch 22 new regular routes this summer, bringing the total for the airline to around 170. Croatia, Greece and the Spanish islands all benefit from multiple new routes this summer. The demise of bmibaby has encouraged to launch six new summer routes from East Midlands, while Glasgow benefits with five new services. Only the airline’s Edinburgh base does not gain any new regular services this summer.

Base New destinations for summer 2013
Belfast International (BFS) Reus (REU)
Blackpool (BLK) Dalaman (DLM), Ibiza (IBZ), Lanzarote (ACE)
East Midlands (EMA) Dubrovnik (DBV), Gran Canaria (LPA), Ibiza (IBZ), Larnaca (LCA), Mahon (MAH), Nice (NCE)
Edinburgh (EDI)
Glasgow (GLA) Bodrum (BJV), Gran Canaria (LPA), Mahon (MAH), Murcia (MJV), Pula (PUY)
Leeds/Bradford (LBA) Pula (PUY), Split (SPU), Zakynthos (ZTH)
Manchester (MAN) Corfu (CFU), Mahon (MAH), Zakynthos (ZTH)
Newcastle (NCL) Pula (PUY)
Source:, new route database

In addition to these routes, has also announced a number of special weekend breaks from Edinburgh, Leeds/Bradford and Newcastle available in late April and May. Long weekend breaks (usually Friday to Monday) are bookable to Iceland and St. Petersburg (Russia) from all three airports, while Marrakech (Morocco) can be booked from Leeds/Bradford and Newcastle.


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