Earlier this month the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Low Cost Long Haul Global Summit in Seville, the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain, brought together industry experts to discuss the latest emerging airline market.
New aircraft technologies, evolving passenger preferences and stable fuel prices are pushing LCCs (and restructuring full service airlines) to consider new growth opportunities. High fare long haul markets are ripe for disruption and airports/destinations are aggressively courting new routes. New city pairs are emerging, and secondary airports are featuring regularly in the long haul low cost networks.
Here, in the second part of our video review of the event, we highlight the rest of the panel sessions…
- Networking long haul operations: combining with short haul partners at each end
Low cost long haul operators are establishing partnerships with short haul low cost airlines as a means of expanding their network breadth and supporting their growth aspirations, as recently demonstrated by Norwegian’s tie up with easyJet. For long haul operators, connecting traffic is critical in scaling sustainably, especially as very few long haul destinations generate enough demand to justify year round capacity, while their partners benefit from additional traffic growth in short haul markets. Legacy carriers, who have long ceded competitive ground to short haul LCCs, could see history repeating itself as long haul-short haul LCC partnerships gain more momentum and disrupt full service carriers’ long haul networks.
- Don’t beat them, join them: LCC alliances, long haul and short haul LCC and LCC-FSC partnerships
As full service airline groups rapidly expand into the long haul low cost sector, questions on whether to include LCC subsidiaries in intercontinental JVs naturally emerge. Including an LCC subsidiary in a JV is still rare, but becoming more common. For example, Air Canada LCC subsidiary rouge and IAG’s new long haul low cost subsidiary LEVEL are now included under their respective transatlantic JVs. Asia-Pacific JVs are yet to include any LCCs, although the addition of Scoot to the Lufthansa-Singapore Airlines JV is in the works, which would simplify the Singapore flag’s current separate partnerships with both Lufthansa and Scoot.
While joining a parent’s existing JV seems like a natural strategic evolution for low cost subsidiaries, independent LCCs need to consider other options if they want to expand their market presence, whether that be forming codeshares with fellow LCCs or with full service carriers, or as famously demonstrated in 2016 by the Value and U-Fly alliances, forging their own groupings to sell joint itineraries and generate cross-bookings.
Meanwhile, other creative regulatory solutions exist. In Asia, the cross border JV model has allowed the region’s major LCC groups – AirAsia, Jetstar, Lion Air, and to a lesser extent VietJet – to accommodate foreign ownership restrictions by taking branded minority stakes in local airlines. Similar strategies are being pursued in the Middle East with Air Arabia, in Latin America, through the Viva group and in Africa with fastjet/Fly540.With an array of different partnership mechanisms available, airlines need to consider whether they are prepared to create additional complexity and cost before embarking on this road.
- Aircraft, engines and operations – enabling new generations of Low Cost Long Haul services
Change is now in the wind as low cost long haul operators continue to capitalise on the capabilities of new narrowbody aircraft and increasing liberalisation to stimulate competition on markets traditionally dominated by the full service carriers. As a prime example, LCCs, led by Norwegian, have been encroaching on the tightly controlled trans-Atlantic route over the past five years. Their presence continues to grow here and elsewhere, thanks to the development of new, more cost efficient aircraft types such as the 787, and narrowbodies such as the Boeing 737 MAX and A321neo. The better fuel efficiency of the MAX and the A321neo and, in particular, the additional range of the A321neoLR enable new smaller city pairs that are not big enough to sustain widebody operations to become economically viable. Legacy airlines are also taking advantage of new narrowbody equipment to open up or defend existing routes.
- The evolving airport-airline relationship: what do airports and LCCs need from each other?
Whilst geographic position plays a large part in an airline’s decision whether or not to fly to a particular destination, the airport also holds an influential role in the decision making process. LCCs and low cost long haul LCCs in particular have unique requirements compared with their FSC counterparts; so it follows that those airports that are able to offer the right facilities and services for their airline customers stand to gain. But additionally, there is huge untapped potential for airports to share data and co-operate commercially with airlines for mutual benefit; this could prove a key factor in attracting and retaining carriers assessing the viability of a new route.
- Can Low Cost Long Haul airlines cater to corporate and business travellers?
As business customers and corporate buyers increasingly seek value for money, especially for short-haul travel, and a new generation blends work and leisure when travelling, the distinction between travelling for business or personal reasons has become less relevant. This has provided LCCs with the opportunity to compete for ‘corporate’ business that may previously have not been considered a real revenue opportunity.