Thomson Airways planning over 20 new routes for S16; growing 787 fleet serving new long-haul markets; Croatia growing, Tunisia on hold

Thomson Airways Glasgow

Thomson Airways is very proud that it became the first UK airline to operate the 787 back in 2013. In July 2013 the airline launched its first 787 flights from Glasgow Airport to Cancún in Mexico. There to celebrate the event were: Amanda McMillan, MD, Glasgow Airport; Chris Browne, MD, Thomson Airways; and then Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

According to UK CAA statistics, Thomson Airways transported almost 10.4 million passengers in 2014 (at an impressive 93% load factor), beaten among UK airlines only by easyJet (54.1 million at 88.8% load factor) and British Airways (39.6 million at 81.1% load factor). Part of the TUI Group, Thomson Airways was formed in late 2008 from the merger of Thomsonfly (formerly Britannia Airways) and First Choice Airways, after the merger in 2007 of TUI AG and First Choice Holidays plc to form TUI Travel.

UK CAA statistics also reveal that at the end of 2014 Thomson Airways had a fleet of 61 aircraft, comprising 35 737-800s, 15 757s, five 767s and six 787-8s. Daily aircraft utilisation across the whole fleet was 10.8 hours, but the 787s were achieving 16.0 hours. For comparison British Airways’ eight 787-8s were averaging 13.5 hours per day in 2014. Annual passenger numbers have been declining modestly in the last five years, having peaked at 12.2 million in 2008 after the merger. Since 2005 the annual average load factor has been between 87% and 93%.

Chart - Thomson Airways 2005-2014 Annual passengers (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: UK CAA.

Seasonality profile remains virtually unchanged in recent years

Looking at monthly passengers the remarkable consistency of demand in recent years can clearly be seen. As a leisure airline demand peaks during the main summer holiday period in the UK (July and August). Compared with the August peak of almost 1.5 million passengers, in the off-peak winter months the airline carries around one-third of that figure.

Chart - Thomson Airways seasonality Monthly passengers 2012-2015

Source: UK CAA.

London Gatwick and Manchester are leading UK bases

Analysis of OAG schedule data for the first week in August shows that the airline’s two biggest UK airports in terms of weekly departures are London Gatwick and Manchester. Both of these airports have more than twice as many weekly departures as the next busiest airport for the airline, Birmingham.

Chart - Thomson Airways top 15 bases Weekly departures in August 2015

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 3 August 2015.

Palma de Mallorca and Dalaman in Turkey are top summer destinations

In terms of leading destinations (as measured by weekly departures) Palma de Mallorca is the clear winner with almost twice as many flights as the next airport, Dalaman in Turkey. Spanish destinations (shown in bright green) fill five of the top 10 places in this chart, while Greek destinations account for five of the top 15. Still listed in the top 15 based on OAG data is Enfidha in Tunisia. However, the airline is currently not operating any flights to the country and recently announced in a press release that it has extended the cancellation of all outbound flights to Tunisia up to and including 22 March 2016.

Chart - Thomson Airways top 15 destinations Weekly departures in August 2015

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 3 August 2015.

In terms of country markets Spain (311 weekly departures) leads Greece (165), Turkey (79), Cyprus (46) and Egypt (36). Compared with last summer the biggest growth has come on routes to Croatia, which has seen a near doubling of flights and the launch of several new routes to Dubrovnik, Pula and Split.

24 new routes already announced for summer 2016

Back in April it was announced that Thomson Airways’ summer 2016 programme would see the launch of 24 new routes. These include the airline’s first long-haul flights from London Stansted (to Cancún and Orlando Sanford), five new routes from Birmingham (to Agadir, Alghero, Izmir, Punta Cana and Split), three new routes from Bristol (to Catania, Hurghada and Sal), and two new routes from Doncaster Sheffield (to Heraklion and Larnaca).

On 29 May 2015 Thomson Airways welcomed its ninth 787 to the fleet, this one arriving at London Stansted Airport, straight from the Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina. Celebrating the event in the cockpit of the factory-fresh aircraft were Stuart Gruber, Director of Flight Operations, Thomson Airways and Andrew Harrison, MD, London Stansted Airport. Thomson Airways will use the aircraft to launch flights in May 2016 from London Stansted to Cancún in Mexico and Orlando in Florida.


  1. David Sharpe says:

    Palma actually passed 100 departures per week in August. Following the suspension of flights to Enfidha the airline opened up replacement flights to a number of destinations in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Bulgaria, including 5 extra departures per week to Palma (on top of these 102 departures the Thomson Holidays group also offered a further 18 x weekly departures to Palma on other airlines such as Air Europa, British Airways City Flyer, Europe Air Post, Germania, Norwegian and Volotea)

    It is also worth noting that Gatwick remained the top departure base despite contracting out some of it’s flying to Norwegian, they are operating 15 x weekly IT services from Gatwick in the Summer 2015 timetable

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