Swedish seats soar by 64% over past 10 years; foreign flights lead growth, Germany is top international destination in S18

SAS, Malaga

Two-way capacity on all flights serving Sweden increased by 64% from 2009 to 2018, with 51.22 million seats currently scheduled for this year. SAS remains the largest operator in the country, accounting for 30% of all seats in 2018. The full-service carrier introduced a new link from Skelleftea to Malaga on 16 June. Spain is Sweden’s second largest international country market.

Sweden is the most populous of the Nordic nations, with the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (Median Variant, 2017), estimating that it will be home to 9.98 million inhabitants in 2018, compared to 5.75 million in Denmark, 5.54 million in Finland and 5.20 million in Norway. The country has witnessed a 7.2% increase in its population over the past 10 years, a period during which Sweden also enjoyed consistent growth in capacity on commercial flights. 

Capacity growth continues in 2018

In 2009 there were 31.19 million two-way seats available on all flights serving Swedish airports. So far in 2018, 51.22 million seats have been scheduled – the equivalent of a 64% increase in capacity in the space of 10 years. From 2009-2018 there were no year-on-year declines in available seats across the Swedish market. The largest single annual increase in capacity over the period was experienced in 2011, when seat numbers received a 15% boost. The average year-on-year growth rate over the past 10 years was 5.7%. This year, capacity has grown at the slowest rate since 2015. This could be because some carriers have not yet filed their complete schedules for the W18/19 season. The introduction of a new Swedish aviation tax in early 2018 may also be a factor in this year’s slowdown in growth.

Sweden capacity

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

International seats account for the majority of the capacity serving Swedish airports, and foreign flights have increased their market share over the past 10 years. In 2009 there were 22.51 million two-way seats available on international services. In 2018 this has grown to 39.46 million seats, representing a rise of 75%. In contrast, domestic capacity increased by 35% over the same period, from 8.68 million seats in 2009 to 11.76 million this year. The proportion of Swedish seats flying on international services has subsequently climbed from 72% to 77% over the past 10 years.

Another notable trend in Sweden has been the considerable increase in average capacity per departing flight. Over the past 10 years alone this has grown from 106 to 141 seats, a rise of 33%. The average capacity on domestic services grew from 75 seats to 103 from 2009 to 2018, while international flights witnessed an increase from 126 seats to 158 over the same period, indicating the wider use of larger aircraft across the board.

Scandinavian carriers top airline rankings

OAG data shows that 60 different airlines will offer scheduled services from Swedish airports during the week commencing 4 September. The top three carriers, and five of the top 12 are Nordic-based operators. The top 12 includes six full-service carriers, three LCCs, two leisure airlines and one regional operator.  SAS and Norwegian are the most significant carriers in the Swedish market, currently accounting for 50% of the country’s total weekly capacity between them. SAS remains Sweden’s premier airline, and, despite the growth of Norwegian, the full-service carrier has actually increased it’s market share in the country over the past 10 years. It grew its share of total capacity from 29% in 2008 to 30% in 2018. SAS is the largest provider of both domestic and international seats in Sweden. The highest ranked airline based outside of the Nordic region in S18 is Ryanair. The Irish ULCC serves five Swedish airports this summer but has significantly reduced its capacity since the turn of the decade. Ryanair offered 4.29 million two-way seats on Swedish services in 2010 but by 2015 this had fallen to 2.39 million seats. The carrier has moderately increased capacity again for 2018, with 2.58 million seats currently scheduled to serve Sweden.

Sweden airlines

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Data is for week commencing 4 September.

Most of the top 12 airlines have expanded their weekly capacity in the Swedish market this year, compared to the equivalent period in S17. The strongest growth has been deployed by Finnair, which has increased its weekly seats by 21%, through adding capacity across all of the five routes it offers between Sweden and its home market. Only one published carrier reduced its capacity this year, with British Airways (highlighted in red) cutting seat numbers by 7.4%. The BA figures include seats operated by its Scandinavian franchise partner SUN-AIR. The capacity cuts came mostly on BA’s own mainline services between London Heathrow and Stockholm Arlanda, and from Heathrow to Gothenburg. TUI Airways features as a new entrant in the top 12 despite not offering scheduled services to Sweden. This suggests the carrier is operating capacity on behalf of its sister airline TUIfly Nordic. If the capacity of these two airlines is combined, they would offer 24,360 seats in the Swedish market during the week commencing 4 September, making this the ninth largest operation in the country. Their combined capacity is 10% down on the seats flown by TUIfly Nordic during the equivalent week last year.

Two significant carriers are missing from Sweden’s departure boards this summer. airberlin and NextJet, which were the 12th and 13th largest airlines in the market in S17, have both ceased operations since last summer.

Stockholm dominates airport demand

There will be scheduled flights available from 35 Swedish airports during the week commencing 4 September. The 12 largest airports, based on 2017 passenger numbers, include three that serve the capital city of Stockholm: Arlanda, Bromma and Skavsta. Arlanda is by the far the biggest hub in Sweden, having welcomed 26.62 million passengers last year. It had nearly four times as much traffic as Gothenburg, the country’s second largest airport. Arlanda is the biggest departure point for both domestic and international services. The second largest domestic airport is Bromma, while the next biggest international facility is Gothenburg. Arlanda accounts for 57% of scheduled departing seats from Sweden in 2018. During the week commencing 4 September it will serve 202 destinations, including 25 domestic links. Outside of the Stockholm airports, only four others in Sweden handled more than one million passengers last year. 

Sweden, airport passengers

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

Most of Sweden’s top 12 airports enjoyed an increase in passenger numbers in 2017. Five airports experienced double-digit year-on-year growth compared to 2016 traffic levels. The biggest single increase came at Skelleftea, where traffic was up by 40%. Skavtsa, Arlanda, Ostersund and Visby also saw strong growth with passengers numbers up by 18%, 15%, 14% and 14% respectively. The only facility to experience cuts was Angelholm, where traffic was down marginally by 1.2%.

The largest direct domestic route in Sweden, based on available weekly capacity in S18, is the link between Arlanda and Luleå. This airport pair is served by SAS and Norwegian, with the two carriers offering around 15,000 weekly seats combined across 93 departures. The second largest internal route is the connection between the country’s two biggest airports Arlanda and Gothenburg. 

Europe tops destination leader board 

There are scheduled flights available to 50 different international markets from Sweden during the week commencing 4 September. All of the top 12 markets are in Europe. Germany is the largest single international destination, with seven Swedish airports offering scheduled flights to 11 German locations combined. In total, Germany accounts for 11% off all weekly one-way international capacity. Along with Europe’s five biggest markets (UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy), the top 12 table for international services also includes Sweden’s Nordic neighbours Finland, Denmark and Norway. The largest market outside of Europe is the US, which takes 13th position. There are currently links to six American airports, all of which are served from Arlanda.

Sweden country markets

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Direct flights only. Data is for week commencing 4 September.

Seven of the top 12 international markets have seen more weekly departing seats this summer. The biggest increases have come on services to Turkey and Poland, with both countries witnessing a 22% increase in Swedish capacity. Five of the top-ranked destination countries (highlighted in red) have seen a decline in weekly seats. The biggest cuts have come on the largest market, with capacity to Germany down by 9% compared to the equivalent week last year, largely due to the demise of airberlin. Outside of the top 12 markets, one country that has seen a significant percentage increase in Swedish seats is China. Weekly capacity to the Asia Pacific nation was up by 41% this summer as a result of the introduction of four weekly flights between Arlanda and Shanghai Pudong by China Eastern Airlines.

The largest international routes from Sweden are the links from Arlanda to Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki, which support 24,700, 24,300 and 22,600 weekly one-way seats respectively. The largest international route that does not serve Arlanda is the connection between Gothenburg and Frankfurt, which offers 5,600 weekly one-way seats. The busiest international link from Sweden to a destination outside of Europe is the Arlanda – Doha airport pair, which is served twice-daily by Qatar Airways.

bmi regional, Gothenburg

International traffic represents the majority of capacity being flown from Swedish airports. The proportion of departing seats operating on foreign flights increased from 72% in 2009 to 77% in 2018. bmi regional added to Sweden’s international links when it introduced a new service between Bristol and Gothenburg on 22 January.


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