Europe’s airports ‘lose’ 40 daily routes; big opportunities for other airlines to snap up!

STOP PRESS: TWIN JET announces it will take over the Lyon-Stuttgart service abandoned by HOP! just one day (1 May) after we reveal it as one of the “lost 40” routes of Europe – also see comments below this article.

Inviting to attend your route launch has had mixed results. Some services have been a great success (easyJet London-Moscow, Icelandair Reykjavik-Denver). But others have fared less well.’s active support for Minoan Air’s daily London Oxford-Edinburgh service in 2013 (both Ralph Anker and Marc Watkins were on the inaugural flight) sadly failed to save it from being terminated before year-end.

While loves to celebrate the achievements of airlines who have the foresight, imagination, conviction (and sometimes financial support) to start new routes, it is also well known that airlines also drop routes for a variety of reasons. This week has undertaken a detailed analysis at Western European airports of which airport-pairs that were served with at least daily flights in June 2013, are no longer operated in June 2014. The criteria of only analysing routes that were served at least daily in the summer of 2013 means that the number of airport-pairs involved is a manageable 40. These routes could be classified in a variety of different ways but we have decided to group the routes by the type of airline marketing (and operating) the route last year.

Air France drops routes from London City and Paris airports

Amongst Europe’s flag-carriers Air France has been the most active at terminating high frequency routes, dropping three routes from London City (operated by its partner airlines), two from Paris CDG (both operated by its partner HOP!), and its Paris Orly to Istanbul service. Air France still serves Istanbul from Paris CDG. Many of the routes dropped, though marketed by a major airline, were actually operated by partner airlines, often using smaller aircraft which were more suitable for the market.

Marketing airline Route WF km Operating airline* Last operated
Air France London (LCY) – Dundee (DND) 13 583 CityJet 29 Mar 14
Air France London (LCY) – Münster/Osnabrück (FMO) 7 539 CityJet 28 Mar 14
Air France London (LCY) – Nuremberg (NUE) 11 821 CityJet 28 Mar 14
Air France Paris (CDG) – Cologne Bonn (CGN) 7 389 HOP! 29 Mar 14
Air France Paris (CDG) – Pisa (PSA) 13 845 HOP! 29 Mar 14
Air France Paris (ORY) – Istanbul (IST) 7 2248 29 Mar 14
British Airways Billund (BLL) – Stockholm (BMA) 11 661 SUN-AIR 20 Dec 13
British Airways London (LCY) – Barcelona (BCN) 7 1147 BA CityFlyer 24 Jul 13
CSA Czech Airlines Prague (PRG) – Stuttgart (STR) 10 399 31 Aug 13
KLM Amsterdam (AMS) – Manston (MSE) 14 259 Cityhopper 9 Apr 14
LOT Polish Airlines Katowice (KTW) – Munich (MUC) 11 579 25 Oct 13
Lufthansa Düsseldorf (DUS) – Bologna (BLQ) 7 824 eurowings 26 Oct 13
Lufthansa Frankfurt (FRA) – London (LGW) 7 632 26 Oct 13
Lufthansa Frankfurt (FRA) – Tripoli (TIP) 7 1967 13 Apr 14
SAS Stockholm (ARN) – Kokkola (KOK) 12 529 Braathens Regional 6 Sep 13
TAP Portugal Lisbon (LIS) – Milan (LIN) 7 1688 26 Oct 13
United Airlines Istanbul (IST) – Newark (EWR) 7 8093 26 Oct 13
Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for June 2013 and June 2014.
*If different from marketing airline (in June 2013).

The only non-European carrier to drop a daily service from a Western European airport was United Airlines. The Star Alliance member decided to terminate its daily flights from Istanbul Atatürk to its home hub of Newark at the end of the summer 2013 season.

bmi regional and Minoan Air drop routes from UK airports

Regional airlines operating their own routes (rather than on behalf of another airline) continue to find the European market challenging. Two carriers, bmi regional and Minoan Air, each pulled off three routes on which they were the only carriers, and were operating daily flights. bmi regional became an independent airline at the start of the winter 2013 season and started many new routes aimed at the business market. It is no surprise that a number of them failed to deliver the financial performance hoped for.

Airline Route WF km Comments
Air Dolomiti Milan (BGY) – Frankfurt (FRA) 12 492 Ended service 15 Sep 13
Avies Hagfors (HFS) – Torsby (TYF) 10 32 Ended service 16 Aug 13
Avies Smeg (EVG) – Mora (MXX) 11 116 Ended service 18 Aug 13
Belle Air Ancona (AOI) – Tirana (TIA) 7 576 Airline ceased operations (Nov 13)
bmi regional Edinburgh (EDI) – Zurich (ZRH) 7 1249 Ended service 26 Oct 13
bmi regional Glasgow (GLA) – Copenhagen (CPH) 7 1070 Ended service 30 Dec 13
bmi regional Manchester (MAN) – Antwerp (ANR) 11 518 Ended service 29 Nov 13
Danish Air Transport Bergen (BGO) – Oslo (RYG) 10 328 Ended service 22 Dec 13
Flybe Cardiff (CWL) – Paris (CDG) 7 497 Ended service 22 Feb 14
Flybe Nordic Stockholm (BMA) – Tallinn (TLL) 12 391 Ended service 21 Apr 14
Hex Air Lyon (LYS) – Rodez (RDZ) 9 251 Ended service 23 Jan 14
HOP! Lyon (LYS) – Stuttgart (STR) 11 454 Ended service 12 Nov 13
Krohn Air Trondheim (TRD) – Molde (MOL) 10 201 Ceased operation in February 2014
Minoan Air London (OXF) – Dublin (DUB) 7 386 Ended service 4 Aug 13
Minoan Air London (OXF) – Edinburgh (EDI) 10 486 Ended service 4 Aug 13
Minoan Air Rome (FCO) – Lugano (LUG) 7 538 Ended service 28 Jul 13
NextJet Copenhagen (CPH) – Jonkoping (JKG) 11 254 Ended service 28 Jun 13
Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for June 2013 and June 2014.

Minoan Air’s attempt to operate viable commercial services from London Oxford Airport sadly went the way of previous attempts by other carriers, though’s Chief Analyst (who lives close to the airport) is still hopeful that another carrier may succeed in the future.

LCCs drop surprisingly few “high-frequency” routes

Although Europe’s LCCs have a reputation for being ruthless when it comes to route-cutting, this usually applies to routes that operate at relatively low frequencies, and often on a seasonal basis. If an LCC has built the route up to daily operations it is relatively rare that the route would be dropped. However, our analysis has revealed six such routes, though in three cases the airline re-allocated the route to a nearby airport.

Airline Route WF km Comments
easyJet London (SEN) – Belfast (BFS) 9 576 Ended service on 5 Jan 14
Ryanair London (STN) – Warsaw (WAW) 21 1419 Moved to Warsaw WMI on 30 Sep 13
Ryanair Marseille (MRS) – Paris (BVA) 7 710 Ended service on 5 Nov 13
Ryanair Milan (BGY) – Rome (CIA) 19 489 Moved to Rome FCO on 29 Mar 14 Amsterdam (AMS) – Venice (TSF) 7 909 Moved to Venice VCE on 6 Nov 13
Vueling London (LHR) – Florence (FLR) 7 1218 Ended service on 29 Mar 14
Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for June 2013 and June 2014.

After becoming part of the IAG group of airlines, Vueling appears to have decided to do something else with its valuable Heathrow slots. easyJet’s London Southend to Belfast International service operated for less than two years, having launched in April 2012. Ryanair’s Marseille-Beauvais service started back in the summer of 2008 and has been dropped once before during 2011.

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  1. Jürgen says:

    Usually there’s more to a dropped route, so I see the analysis jumped short. Usual factors are “frequency” and “competition”, also from neighboring airports. Unattractive times can be a killer in itself. Seats available, booked and revenue (flight can be full and loose money). Connecting services can make a difference. It’s tough to sell business (higher yield) if you only have a daily flight and competition offers more and maybe same-day-return.
    I’ve seen routes that made sense being cut because other routes of the aircraft did not suffice, so when that aircraft rotation is killed, the one or other “good route” may become impossible to be served. Weakest link.

    It’s reason, why I believe we still have the same old food-chain in the market. Business Charter may open a route. Regional Airlines start a route with smaller aircraft and higher needed frequency. Low Cost is the first to highjack such routes, but they have to look just the same if the route makes sense to be operated as part of the aircrafts’ rotations. And not all routes that work on regional aviation work on low cost – if there is little passenger potential but higher frequency is needed, the typical LCC-jet may stay empty, causing it to retreat. Is the regional carrier then still there to pick up the route? Sometimes, better analysis (especially by the airport) and realistic expectations are the better strategy.
    And brand and “service” are some underestimated drivers.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Thanks for those thoughts Juergen. You’re quite right that the reason for airlines dropping routes is often complicated. The idea of a food-chain is also interesting, but, as you point out, there are always exceptions to rules.

      Incidentally, we noticed that one of our “lost 40” routes (Lyon-Stuttgart) is apparently going to be taken up by TWIN JET later this year, with smaller aircraft than HOP! were operating on the route.

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