ANALYSIS: ‘G’ stands for growth in Europe’s forthcoming winter flight programme

As we prepare to enter the winter schedules, ‘G’ most definitely stands for growth in Europe with Gibraltar and Georgia leading the year-on-year capacity increases for the season, Germany seeing the largest addition of seats versus last year and Greece being fastest rising top 20 country market across the Continent. Overall, pre-season departure capacity for Winter 2018/2019 from Europe’s nations is predicted to be up +11.7% versus Winter 2017/2018, based on current published schedules.


Summary:

  • Departure capacity for Winter 2018/2019 from Europe’s nations is predicted to be up +11.7% versus winter 2017/2018, based on current published schedules.
  • Gibraltar and Georgia lead the year-on-year capacity increases for the forthcoming season;
  • Germany is expected to witness the largest increase in departure seats with more than 8.4 million available seats versus Winter 2017/2018
  • Among Europe’s top 20 country markets, Greece is expected to see the largest year-on-year capacity rise with departure seats up almost a fifth.

Departure capacity is scheduled to be up by more than a third this coming winter from Gibraltar (+37.8%) and Georgia (+37.0%). For the former this is mainly due to the impact of the collapse of Monarch Airlines shortly ahead of last year’s winter 2017/2018 schedule and the loss of air connectivity during that schedule period.

The UK carrier was the largest operator at Gibraltar International Airport or North Front Airport as it is also known, and its collapse left a notable void. While this winter’s programme represents a significant lift on last year thanks mainly to expanded British Airways and easyJet operations, it does not actually cover the decline recorded in winter 2017/2018 when seat levels fell -42.4%.

CHART – Gibraltar International Airport had witnessed strong capacity growth in winter 2015/2016 and winter 2016/2017, but was hit hard by the collapse of Monarch Airlines last yearSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

In the case of Georgia, the increase continues a recent trend as a more liberal approach to air services has enhanced its connectivity. Winter 2018/2019 will be its third successive double-digit annual rise in winter capacity and the sixth in total this decade. The ahead of season growth rate of +37.0% is up on last year’s +30.7% increase and the +22.3% rise seen in Winter 2016/2017.

Since the start of the decade, winter air capacity from Georgia has more than trebled from just over 350,000 departure seats in 2010 to over 1.25 million scheduled for the coming season. This will see it overtake Belarus, Luxembourg and Croatia in terms of market size this winter.

It is the United Kingdom that remains top of the European capacity rankings for the winter with a healthy +8.1% year-on-year growth anticipated, but that pace is almost half that expected at the second ranked Germany, which is expected to grow +15.9% this winter, and below third ranked Spain (+12.0%) and France (+10.1%). If these rates of growth are sustained this could actually see Germany overtake the UK as the largest European winter market in Winter 2019/2020 schedules, which will be the UK’s first winter schedule post Brexit.

CHART – United Kingdom remains the largest European market this winter based on departure capacity, but its closest rivals are all expected to grow at a faster rate over the coming schedule seasonSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

Like Gibraltar, Germany was impacted in Winter 2017/2018 by the collapse of a major airline, in its case airberlin. However, with a more mature market it was able to more quickly recover the lost capacity mainly via Lufthansa – both directly and through its Group members, especially Eurowings – and via LCCs such as easyJet and Ryanair. This winter, airlines are due to offer an additional 8.4 million seats out of Germany: that is over 40% more than any other European country with Spain, Italy and Russia the closest with between five and six million seats each.

Among Europe’s 20 largest country markets this coming winter it is Greece that is expected to see the largest year-on-year capacity rise with departure seats up almost a fifth (+19.9%). It is one of 14 countries among the top 20 where a double-digit rise in departure seats is expected versus Winter 2017/2018.