Ethiopian Airlines set to serve more country markets than MEB3 in S19, Ryanair still tops route table

There’s only one month to go until the summer schedules kick in and has been busy studying the data to discover which airlines will be offering the most routes, and serving the most airports and country markets. There are some familiar faces at the top of the charts, but one of the most interesting stories is the rise of Ethiopian Airlines , which, courtesy of new routes from its mainline and regional partner operations, will serve more country markets than the MEB3 in S19.

The Northern Hemisphere’s summer season (S19) is scheduled to start on 31 March and run until 26 October. has sifted through the data for a peak week in July, to reveal that Ryanair will, once again, operate the most airport pairs, Turkish Airlines will serve the most countries and American Airlines will fly from the largest number of airports. Ryanair and Turkish Airlines top the same categories they led in S18, while American Airlines has overtaken its USB3 rival United Airlines to take the honour for most airports served. A detailed breakdown of the results can be found in the charts below.

The following analysis does not account for all flights scheduled for the entire summer season, but is based on a typical week in the peak period, in this case the week commencing 23 July 2019. At the time of writing, some airlines will not have have filed their entire summer schedules, but taking this peak week as an example should give a good snapshot of what is to come. The obvious caveat is that more routes may yet be added. The S19 data is compared to the week commencing 24 July 2018. The results are organised by published carrier, so some flights will be operated by partner operators or subsidiaries. It should also be noted that the data used in this analysis applies to direct scheduled services. In some cases airlines may not have traffic rights for all of the airport pairs listed in the schedules, some of which may form part of a multi-stop itinerary.

Ryanair extends lead 

It has almost become the accepted rule that Ryanair will sit on top of the rankings for most routes served. The Irish ULCC will operate 145 more airport pairs in peak S19 than it offered during the equivalent week of S18, representing an 8.6% increase in its network. It has extended its lead over second placed American Airlines by an additional 90 airports pairs, and now holds a 725-route advantage over the US giant. One significant addition to Ryanair’s schedule this summer includes the opening of a new three-aircraft base at London Southend. The top 15 airlines, in terms of routes served, consists of the same carriers as last summer, but there has been some movement in ranking positions. The top three airlines remain unchanged from S18, but easyJet has overtaken Delta Air Lines to claim fourth spot. Another notable jump has come from Allegiant Air which has overhauled Norwegian and Eurowings to move up from 15th position to 13th place. Seven of the top-ranked carriers can be classified as European operators (highlighted in blue), with five based in the US (highlighted in red) and the remaining three in China (highlighted in green).

S19 most routes

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.  Data is for w/c 23 July 2019 v w/c 24 July 2018.

Seven of the top 15 airlines are LCCs or ULCCs, seven are full-service carriers, and one is a leisure operator. The biggest increase in routes among the top 15 comes from Ryanair, followed by easyJet and Wizz Air (58 additional routes each compared to S18). The full-service carrier with the biggest increase in airport pairs among the top-ranked operators is American Airlines (55 more routes than S18). Six carriers are currently scheduled to offer fewer routes this summer compared to last summer’s peak. The biggest decline comes from China Eastern Airlines which is currently due to offer 88 fewer airport pairs. However, it is likely that this large drop is because the airline has not yet finalised its summer schedule. When published a similar preview for S18 this time last year, China Eastern only had 533 routes scheduled, but OAG data shows that it ended up operating 736 during a typical peak week last July. It is possible that China Southern Airlines also has more flights to add, since it is currently set to operate 35 fewer routes in S19 versus its total for S18.

Ryanair, London Southend

In June 2018, Warwick Brady, CEO of Stobart Group, owners of London Southend Airport and David O’Brien, CCO, Ryanair, celebrated the ULCC’s announcement that it will base three aircraft at the facility from April 2019. Ryanair will once again serve more airport pairs than any other carrier in peak summer. It is scheduled to offer 725 more routes than second place American Airlines, based on current filed schedules.

Turkish top for country connections

Turkish Airlines continues to serve more country markets than any other carrier. It will offer services to 121 different countries in peak S19 and has extended its advantage over second place Air France by a further two country markets this summer. The Turkish flag carrier has added service to Gambia and Zambia since S18. The scale of Turkish Airlines’ international connections is highlighted by the fact that it serves nearly twice as many countries as American and United, which themselves are joint ninth in the table for most countries served. Six of the top 15 airlines in this category are European (highlighted in blue), with four based in North America (highlighted in red). The remainder includes carriers from Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Six of the top 15 airlines are members of Star Alliance, four are part of oneworld, and three are members of SkyTeam. Emirates is the only top-ranked operator in this category that is not a member of any of the three mega alliances.

Source: Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Data is for w/c 23 July 2019 v w/c 24 July 2018.

Most of the airlines in this table have maintained their place in the top 15 from peak S18, although Etihad Airways has dropped out, to be replaced by Brussels Airlines. The top two remain unchanged but there has been some shuffling in ranking positions elsewhere. Ethiopian Airlines is the biggest mover, jumping from seventh to fourth, with the African carrier and its subsidiary or partner carriers scheduled to serve nine new country markets in S19 compared to last summer. This represents a 13% increase in the international markets welcoming scheduled Ethiopian Airlines services. New markets added to the African airline’s schedules since last summer include Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Russia, Sierra Leone and Turkey. Many of these new services are scheduled to be operated by regional partner carriers under the ET flight code. Only two of the top-ranked carriers are scheduled to serve fewer countries in S19 compared to S18, with KLM currently filing flights to three fewer markets and Delta reducing its country count by one.

Big domestic market sees USB3 serve most airports

Once again, the USB3 lead the table in terms of the number of airports served this summer. American Airlines heads the rankings, although it should be noted that it was also top of the table this time last year, only for its rival United to put more routes on sale closer to peak summer. When the historic data for last summer is analysed, it shows that United ended up beating American to first position by 351 airports to 349. The USB3 dominance in this category is largely linked to the fact that the US remains the largest domestic market in the world. A large proportion of the airports served by the US majors and their regional subsidiaries and partner carriers are subsequently in the US. OAG data for the week commencing 23 July 2019 shows that around two-thirds of the airports served by each of the USB3 carriers are located in their home country. In comparison, only 16% of the airports served by fourth placed Turkish Airlines are located in its home market, while only 6% of fifth placed BA’s airports are in the UK. In total, six of the top 15 airlines in this category are based in Europe (highlighted in blue), with a further four from North America (highlighted in red), three from China and one each from Russia and Qatar.

S19 most airports

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Direct flights only. Data is for w/c 23 July 2019 v w/c 24 July 2018.

Like last year, Ryanair is the only LCC to feature among the top 15 airlines for the number of airports served. The Irish carrier will offer services from seven more airport this summer than it scheduled for peak S18. It has added services to 18 new airports since last summer and discontinued flights from 11 others, although this includes the transfer of operations from the old Murcia Airport to the new facility at Corvera, officially known as Region of Murcia International Airport. London Southend and Kiev Boryspil are the new airports in the Ryanair network which will welcome the most weekly flights from the airline in peak S19, with 63 and 48 departures respectively. The largest overall increase in the number of airports served among the top 15 carriers comes from Aeroflot (14 additional airports versus S18) followed by American (12). Only four of the top-ranked airlines in this category are currently scheduled to serve fewer airports in S19. The biggest decline comes from China Eastern (15 fewer airports versus S18), although this is probably because it hasn’t finalised its summer schedule.

Keep looking here for the latest S19 announcements

The busy summer season might only be one month away, but not all airlines have finalised their schedules. is the best place to keep up-to-date with the latest new route announcements, so make sure to keep checking regularly to find out the latest industry news.

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