Ryanair shock! More routes dropped this summer than added as focus shifts to major airports – bad news for secondary airports

Ryanair shock! More routes dropped this summer

For the first time ever Ryanair has cut the number of routes operated – by a net 84 to 1,312. Although it started 138 new routes, Ryanair’s axe still fell on 222 other services. Big airports were the big winners; the losers were secondary/regional airports which had done so well since 2000. Purist EU regulators, who have acted on European regional airport subsidies to airlines like Ryanair, might be left wondering if this was really the market change they had intended.

If further proof were needed that Ryanair is truly changing, here’s a fact that might shock you. This summer the airline will be operating fewer routes than it did last summer. The number of flights (and hence seat capacity) will be up, but not by much (by less than 1% according anna.aero’s analysis of schedule data for the first week of August). Meanwhile, the number of routes operated will have fallen by a net 84, from 1,396 last August to 1,312 this August. Yes, Ryanair has still started 138 new routes that it was not operating last summer, but it has dropped a massive 222 routes. One consequence of this is that, for possibly the first time ever, the airline has seen its average weekly frequency grow on a year-by-year basis (that’s another anna.aero analysis coming soon).

Major secondary airports hit hardest

A closer look at the data by airport reveals at which airports Ryanair has swung its route-chopping axe the hardest. Warsaw Chopin is misleading as the airport only transferred routes from Warsaw Modlin to Warsaw Chopin while the secondary airport sorted out a number of runway maintenance issues. All of these routes have now been relocated back to Modlin. However, Ryanair’s secondary airports serving such major cities as Barcelona, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Milan, Oslo and Stockholm have seen the biggest number of net route droppings (which takes into account new routes as well as dropped routes).

Chart - Ryanair's network (r)evolution Airports with biggest NET loss of routes August 2014 v August 2013

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 11 August 2014.

If instead of analysing the number of destinations served, we examine the change in the number of weekly departures, a similar pattern emerges of secondary airport losers, but with one notable addition: Brussels Charleroi now ranks third, as a result of the airline relocating some of its Brussels capacity at the EU capital’s main airport.

Chart - Ryanair's network evolution Airports with biggest decrease in weekly departures  August 2014 v August 2013

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 11 August 2014.

Overall our analysis indicates that Ryanair has withdrawn summer service from a total of 10 airports since last summer. These are: Angelholm, (AGH), Constanta (CND), Doncaster/Sheffield (DSA), Jonkoping (JKG), Kalmar (KLR), Klagenfurt (KLU), Karlstad (KSD), Magdeburg/Cochstedt (CSO), Targu Mures (TGM) and Warsaw Chopin (WAW) – remember, Ryanair only planned to be at Warsaw Chopin temporarily so it doesn’t really count.

A look at the airports with the biggest increase in weekly departures, clearly confirms the fact that Ryanair’s new approach to network planning embraces operating from bigger airports with proven demand where the airline can grab passengers from existing airlines (as well as growing the market with cheaper fares).

Chart - CHT FR S14 WF plus

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 11 August 2014.

Top of the list is Rome’s Fiumicino airport which has seen major growth as well as the transfer of some capacity from Rome Ciampino. The main airports serving Athens, Barcelona, Brussels and Lisbon, all feature prominently as do two of the airline’s biggest bases at Dublin and London Stansted. Three Greek airports make the top 10, which may come as a surprise, but confirms the robustness of the holiday market to Greece. In terms of net gain of routes, Warsaw Modlin (26) beats London Stansted (11), Brussels (10), Lisbon (10) and Shannon (eight).

A total of 10 airports have been added (or in some cases returned) to the airline’s network since last summer. These are Athens (ATH), Brussels (BRU), Bucharest (OTP), Linz (LNZ), Lisbon (LIS), Osijek (OSI), Prague (PRG), Rennes (RNS), Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and Warsaw Modlin (WMI), which messes up our findings again for reasons explained.

More like the easyJet model?

It’s all very well to change the image of Ryanair with sensitive TV adverts, and customer service improvements so it becomes more family-friendly and trusted like Colgate-Palmolive, or Starbucks. But these changes to the route network are real and substantial evidence of the recent conversion. It’s quite likely that the reaction to Ryanair’s route cutting will be negative – it is certainly not good news for the secondary/regional airports concerned. But, were it a pharmaceuticals conglomerate rather than an airline, Ryanair would receive commentator praise for cutting less profitable products before they became seriously problematic, and for simultaneously avoiding job losses and parking planes by shifting capacity to newer, higher frequency services at bigger airports (you wouldn’t want to be in Alitalia’s shoes right now). And, let’s face it, Ryanair is still expecting a net 100 new aircraft to be delivered by 2018. So, with all this new capacity, there’s nothing to stop the ever-clever operator suddenly returning to all these axed routes; it’s done that sort of thing before after all.

Downloadable spread sheet: Ryanair’s 222 axed routes

This spread sheet shows the 222 Ryanair axed routes according to anna.aero’s analysis of Innovata schedule data for the first week of August. We include both ends of the route,  a-to-b and b-to-a, so it is 444 lines long. Remember that with 138 new route launches the net loss is 84 routes.


  1. Steen says:

    Well Well Well……now they have sucked the money out of the secondary airports then his business case tells him to find new sources of money despite the costs for employees and the airports that go bankrupt……..how can politcians not see what is going on…..and for what reason does shareholders support this kind of down socialising experiments……..wake up, and smell the coffee

  2. evaluator says:

    What’s to blame on Ryanair? They just play the roles layed out by the legislators: Free market.
    Change the roles and FR will change their play. Its as simple as that.

  3. Michal says:

    Ryanair just moved from Warsaw to Warszaw/Modlin. First graphs show like it’s a Warsaw disaster there, but it isnt. The’ve actually developing Modlin network very nicely.

  4. Jürgen says:

    Question: Do you use Ryanair or does Ryanair use you? While Ryanair puts the airports on the map, they are known to be first-in/first-out and having no loyalties whatsoever. So if you have/get Ryanair you better start already for planning “beyond” and how to recover from loosing them. Airport strategy. Incoming. Catchment area. Tourism. Industry. Just some keywords. And if you are small or if your loads are, you better start these thoughts today!

    • Jon says:

      “you better start already for planning “beyond” and how to recover from loosing them.”

      and what better place to start than to measure the “Profitability” of the routes they operate to show other airlines once Ryanair pull out……!

  5. Paul says:

    Definitely seems as though times are changing for Ryanair and a new strategy which will change things for those of us stuck near to small airports. I was really hoping to see Ryanair come to Cardiff and make it a hub but it looks bleak given the news regards them dropping routes. We need more routes in Cardiff, Wales.

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