According to data from OAG, Romanian LCC Blue Air’s total seat numbers will grow by 64% year-on-year in the summer 2017 schedule – faster than for any other European airline group in the top 30 by seats. Blue Air, which launched operations in 2004, is now larger than Romania’s flag carrier TAROM by annual passenger numbers and fleet size. Its growth has been prompted by the aggressive expansion of Wizz Air, which is number one in Romania, and of fourth ranked Ryanair.
Although Romania is still at the core of its network, Blue Air has embraced the pan European LCC model with a more geographically expansive strategy. Its second largest base, after the Romanian capital Bucharest, is in the Italian city of Turin, and Larnaca in Cyprus is also an important base.
At the start of the summer 2017 schedule, Blue Air added a third non Romanian base at Liverpool, helping the northwest England airport to 7% passenger growth in April 2017. In all three of its foreign bases Blue Air operates to destinations outside Romania. It is still small on a Europe wide scale, but in launching a UK base Blue Air is taking the fight to LCCs such as Ryanair and easyJet in one of their strongest markets.
From the start of summer 2017, Blue Air has based one Boeing 737-800 at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. It has served Liverpool since 2014 and has routes there from its Romanian bases at Bucharest, Bacău and Cluj (there are no other airlines operating these three routes, according to OAG).
This is its third base outside Romania and its first in the UK. In addition to the Liverpool-Romania routes already operated, it has launched four new routes to destinations outside both Romania and the UK – namely Rome FCO, Milan Bergamo, Hamburg and Alicante. In June 2017 Blue Air will add Larnaca to its Liverpool network. Liverpool to Rome FCO, Milan Bergamo and Hamburg are all monopoly routes for Blue Air, according to OAG. However, on Liverpool-Alicante, Blue Air is competing head to head with Europe’s two biggest LCCs: Ryanair and easyJet. Blue Air will also compete with easyJet on Liverpool-Larnaca.
Blue Air’s rise has been significant over recent years – its seat capacity increased by 75% in 2016, to 3.8 million seats, after growing in 2015 by 118%, to 2.2 million seats, according to OAG data. As recently as 2014, Blue Air’s annual capacity was only 1.0 million seats. The airline’s strategy of establishing bases outside its home country, with routes that do not fly back to Romania or even to its home region of Eastern/Central Europe, is a bold one and marks it out among European LCCs.