Low-cost Airline Segment Keeps Driving European Growth

 - April 2, 2019, 1:36 PM

The number of European flights increased by 2.9 percent in February compared with the same month last year, thanks mainly to the low-cost airline segment, which recorded an above industry average year-on-year growth of 4.9 percent. The traditional scheduled segment remained stable and increased 3 percent while the charter segment decelerated from a 5 percent growth rate in January to a 1.2 percent growth rate in February, according to data released by Eurocontrol. Data covers the 44 member countries of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). The all-cargo and business aviation segments decreased by 5.7 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

Low-cost carriers added on average 353 flights per day; Ryanair and EasyJet UK contributed three-quarters of that growth. Ryanair added the most flights to the European network on a daily basis compared with February 2018 with an increase of 145 flights, followed by EasyJet UK (+116 flights), Lufthansa (+56 flights), LOT, Aeroflot, and embattled Alitalia (+40 flights each). With an average of 1,811 flights per day, Ryanair ranks first among the top five airlines operating the most daily flights, ahead of Lufthansa (1,335 flights), EasyJet UK (1,321 flights), Turkish Airlines (1,100 flights), and SAS (769 flights). The Dublin-headquartered airline also outperformed its low-cost and legacy peers in terms of passenger growth and load factor, Eurocontrol’s Industry Monitor revealed. Ryanair—including its Austrian subsidiary Laudamotion—recorded 13 percent year-over-year passenger growth in February while Wizz Air recorded 9 percent growth, IAG Group 6 percent, Air France KLM Group 3 percent, and Lufthansa Group 2 percent. Ryanair’s seat load factor reached 96 percent in February, well above the 87 percent of Air France-KLM, which posted the highest load factor of the legacy groups and airlines included in the Eurocontrol report.

In terms of main countries contributing to flight growth in Europe in February, Germany took the top spot as it added 246 daily flights due to its domestic flow and its traffic to and from Spain, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, and Austria. Another six countries added more than 50 flights per day to European local traffic growth, not including overflights; Spain (excluding the Canary Islands), Italy, France, Austria, the UK, and Poland added 54 flights per day. At the other extreme, Sweden saw 55 fewer flights per day mainly due to its weak internal flow (-36 flights per day). 

The U.S. remains the country with the most daily flights to and from Europe (791 flights), though the number of flights rose only one percent compared with February last year. The Russian Federation (674 flights), the United Arab Emirates (346 flights), Egypt (256 flights), and Qatar (206 flights) followed the U.S.

Eurocontrol’s Industry Monitor also provides figures for the Boeing 737 Max and revealed that the type completed an average of 220 flights per day, accounting for 0.8 percent of the total flights over Europe before the EASA grounding on March 12. Overall in March, 254 Max aircraft flew in service, of which 71 units operated in Europe. In 2018 Boeing delivered 256 Max jets, representing 32 percent of the manufacturer’s total deliveries last year.