UK – Spain most profitable for Euro LCCs last year with est. €395m, RDC’s Apex platform shows

UK - Spain most profitable for Euro LCCs last year with est. €395m, RDC’s Apex platform shows (2)

The top-20 most profitable European country-pairs for the continent’s 11 largest LCCs – including easyJet, Ryanair, and Wizz Air – generated an estimated EBIT of €2.3 billion last year, according to RDC. 

The UK features eight times in the top-20, including with the highest profit-per-seat on Turkey – UK, with an estimated €44. This is from a high average fare from being very summer-seasonal.

While €2.3 billion was pre-coronavirus, and indicating another consequence of the pandemic, it clearly shows what it could be again and where effort should perhaps most strongly be put. 

Despite current problems, including greatly depressed demand and quarantines, performance could be even stronger in the future.

This is especially the case given the persistent concern of overcapacity in recent years, with the normal downward pressure on fares.  

Crucially, it provides a further reminder of the importance of the TRASK, CASK, and load factor balance that’s key for strong performance.

UK - Spain most profitable for Euro LCCs last year with est. €395m, RDC’s Apex platform shows

Source: RDC’s Apex.

Spain – UK leads with LCC profits but hit further by the UK quarantine

With an approximate EBIT of €395 million, Spain – UK achieved the highest profitability for LCCs last year.

The impact of the UK government’s quarantine – whereby those returning from Spain must stay at home for 14 days – undermines an already tough situation for airlines, airports, tour operators, and others.

Despite a high base, UK – Spain has grown strongly since 2015, with 13.2 million additional LCC seats and a strong CAGR of 9.4%.

In 2019, seven LCCs operated between the countries, with RDC’s Apex platform possessing data for them all.  These LCCs offered 36.5 million two-way seats across 131 airport-pairs. 

Ryanair was the dominant airline, with 37% of seats, while London Gatwick – Barcelona was the top route

RDC shows that the profitability of UK – Spain was from both high passenger volume and above-average seat load factor (an estimated 92.9%), offsetting below-average profit-per-seat (~€10.80) across the year.

Five domestic markets in the top-20

Domestic Norway is the third-highest market for estimated profitability, which explains why troubled Norwegian has barely touched its core during its rationalisation.

Spain – UK profitability was followed closely by that of domestic Spain, with an estimated EBIT of €354 million. 

LCCs operated 156 routes domestically in Spain last year, including to and from the Canary Islands. 

Not surprisingly, Vueling was by far the number-one operator with 64% of Spanish domestic LCC seats.  While Barcelona is obviously by far Vueling’s number-one airport, the carrier had over one million domestic seats alone at 11 Spanish airports, including Bilbao, Ibiza, Mahon, Seville, and Tenerife North.

Across all LCCs, Spain’s top domestic route was Barcelona – Palma, with 2.1 million seats.   

UK - Spain most profitable for Euro LCCs last year with est. €395m, RDC’s Apex platform shows

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Germany conspicuous by its absence in top-20 table

LCCs have grown quickly in Germany, with seats almost doubling to 104 million since 2015, OAG data shows. 

But that does not automatically mean performance has been strong, with another recent article indicating that Germany was easyJet’s worst-performing market with an estimated loss of £84 million. This had led to major cuts.

LCCs had a 36% share of Germany’s seats last year.

airberlin’s end enabled faster growth, especially at Berlin Tegel: LCC capacity there increased from 2.5 million seats in 2017 to 8.2 million in 2019.  This was a key reason for easyJet’s financial struggles.

Despite this – or perhaps because of it with excessive discounting and relatively high costs – Germany does not feature once in RDC’s top-20 country-pairs for LCC profitability.

The top-performing country-pair involving Germany was Germany – Kosovo, RDC estimates, which achieved the highest EBIT of €29.9 million, followed closely by Germany – Greece with €28.7 million. 

Kosovo, served through Pristina, had 11 routes to/from Germany across Eurowings, Wizz Air, and easyJet.  Stuttgart – Pristina was number-one by capacity.

RDC shows that Kosovo’s strong performance was primarily from relatively high average fares, which enables high profit-per-seat and offset lower passenger volume.  

RDC provides world-leading aviation data through its online apps, data services, and APIs. Its Apex platform delivers airline route performance data (fares, profit, schedules, costs, CO2) while AirportCharges has detailed tariff data for over 3,000 airports as well as global en-route navigation fees and government taxes. Over 250 companies subscribe to RDC’s services; visit their website,, to find more information and contact details.


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