Russia rules European capacity growth in 2017; FLAPI airports all see traffic increase, Amsterdam fastest growing last year

Turkish Airlines has vastly increase the destinations available via its Istanbul Atatürk hub over the past 10 years. This resulted in Atatürk experiencing the strongest percentage increase in traffic among Europe’s five biggest airports from 2008 to 2017. In March 2018, Turkish Airlines added another spoke to its network with the introduction of services to Aqaba in Jordan.

With finalised capacity and passenger data available for 2017, decided to revisit, and provide a new take on an article we ran this time last year, which highlighted growth rates among 20 selected European countries. This analysis highlights the growth experienced in terms of the total departing capacity available from airports in each of these country markets, plus traffic trends across Europe’s five largest hubs, which we refer to as the FLAPI airports (Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris CDG and Istanbul Atatürk). Russia is included among the European nations reviewed here, although it should be noted that OAG classifies part of the country in Eastern Europe and part in Asia. Only the capacity departing from Russian airports in the European segment is considered in this analysis.

Four countries enjoy double digit growth

In addition to Russia and Turkey, the 20 European countries covered include the EU’s five largest air travel markets (UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy), the Nordic nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) and a selection of others from across the continent. The largest air market among them last year was the UK, with 173.93 million departing seats available from British airports. The smallest country to make the cut was Croatia, with 5.82 million seats. Russian airports witnessed the strongest network-wide growth in capacity in 2017 among the countries under consideration, with a 16% boost in seat numbers. Poland, Portugal and Croatia were next up with all three seeing a capacity boost of around 15%. The only qualifying country to see a drop off in capacity last year was Denmark, with departing seat numbers from Danish airports down by 1.0% compared to 2016. 

Turkey has witnessed the largest percentage increase in available capacity over the past 10 years with the number of departing seats at Turkish airports increasing from 32.98 million in 2008, to 117.77 last year. This represents a 229% increase in seats over the period. The only nation among the 20 analysed to experience a reduction in capacity from 2008 to 2017 was Ireland. There were 0.3% fewer departing seats available from Irish airports in 2017 than there had been in 2008.

Europe capacity

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Russia figures only include airports OAG classifies as Eastern European.

Where the five biggest EU markets were concerned, Spain saw the largest capacity growth in 2017, with an 8.1% boost in departing seats, while Germany experienced the most moderate increase at 2.8%. Over the past 10 years, Germany actually enjoyed the strongest percentage increase in capacity with departing seat numbers 18% higher last year than in 2008. The UK saw the weakest growth among the big five markets over this period, despite seeing a 14% increase in departing seats.

Heathrow heads big hub rankings

Heathrow maintained its position as the number one ranked FLAPI airport between 2008 and 2017, handling 78.01 million passengers, 8.5 million more than second placed CDG. The French facility retained it number two ranking over each of the last 10 years. There has been some jostling for position among the other three hubs. Frankfurt was the third largest airport in 2008 but was overtaken by Amsterdam in 2016, while Atatürk grew rapidly over the past 10 years to briefly claim third position in the FLAPI mini league in 2015. It subsequently dropped back to fifth in 2016 and 2017. The strongest growth among the five big hubs in 2017 came at Amsterdam, with the Dutch capital airport enjoying an 7.7% increase in departing seats. The slowest growth occurred at Heathrow with capacity at the London airport up by 3.0%.

Atatürk was by far the strongest growing FLAPI hub across the 10 year period 2008 to 2017. In 2008 it offered 28.55 million departing seats, but by 2017 this had risen by 123% to 63.73 million, as Turkish Airlines quickly developed its network. The weakest growth among Europe’s elite hubs occurred at CDG, despite departing capacity seeing an increase of 14% between 2008 and 2017.

FLAPI Airport traffic

Source: Various airports taken from European Airport Traffic Trends database.

Passenger statistics were available for all five FLAPI airports for the first five months of 2018. Compairng the traffic figures for January to May, to the same period for 2017, reveals that Atatürk has witnessed the strongest percentage growth over the first five months of the year. The Turkish hub saw passenger numbers increase by 15% compared to the period January – May 2017, while Frankfurt was the next fastest growing with a 8.7% increase in traffic. The smallest percentage growth was seen at Heathrow and CDG where comparative passenger numbers were up by 1.2% and 2.3% respectively. Amsterdam grew by 5.8% compared to the same period last year.

The outcome of these growth rates saw Heathrow remain the largest FLAPI hub over the first five months of the year. However, Amsterdam overtook CDG to claim second place during this period. The significant growth at Atatürk saw the Turkish Airlines hub overtake Frankfurt to claim fourth position in the FLAPI rankings, despite the German airport also seeing a strong increase in traffic.

Norwegian, AMS

Amsterdam enjoyed the strongest year-on-year passenger growth among Europe’s five main hubs last year. Based on data for the first five months of 2018, the Dutch airport is on course to overtake Paris CDG and become the second largest hub after London Heathrow. Norwegian commenced its first long-haul route from Amsterdam in May, starting a four times weekly service to New York JFK.


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