Analysis for Europe
10-Apr-2013 11:00 PM
Armavia suspended operations on 01-Apr-2013 after filing for bankruptcy amid mounting debts. The Armenian national carrier was, until then, the largest carrier operating from Armenia with services across Eastern and Central Europe and into the Middle East.
The loss of Armavia has resulted in capacity to/from the country reducing by about 23%, according to CAPA and Innovata data. But already three carriers from Western Europe have agreed to increase capacity to Yerevan in the wake of Armavia’s suspension of operations. A number of Eastern carriers also plan to launch services to the country as part of their summer 2013 programmes.
Armavia’s financial issues were apparent in late 2012 with Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport temporarily suspending the servicing of the airline’s aircraft twice within one week in late Oct-2012 due to unpaid debts of USD3.3 million. This was above the agreed debt level of USD1 million.
9-Apr-2013 10:02 PM
This analysis updates CAPA's previous study of European airlines’ labour productivity ("European airlines’ labour productivity. Oxymoron for some, Vueling and Ryanair excel on costs") to reflect the most recent financial results and adds four carriers not included in the original article (Wizz Air, Aegean Airlines and the two IAG subsidiaries British Airways and Iberia).
The contrasting performance of LCCs and legacy carriers is clear, although there are some notable exceptions to the pattern. BA and Iberia’s different labour cost productivity is significant, while Air France-KLM and SAS are weak performers.
We introduce an overall CAPA European airline labour productivity ranking, revealing the carrier with Europe’s most productive workforce, based on six measures.
6-Apr-2013 7:09 PM
Recently reported comments from Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann draw attention to transitional IT issues and its costs relative to competitors. This highlights the challenges in scaling up its operations and redefining its product and pricing in order to become Lufthansa’s vehicle for all non-hub European traffic.
Lufthansa has gained several years of experience in owning a low-cost carrier, even if it was run fairly autonomously for much of that time, and aims to combine this with its expertise in premium travel to return its non-hub short/medium-haul business to profit. But will it have the right combination of product/service quality and low costs?
Our analysis suggests that, while Germanwings’ unit costs are well below those of Lufthansa, the cost gap to other LCCs is even greater. In addition, its unit revenues are further below those of Lufthansa than are its unit costs. It also faces a significant operational challenge in growing from 7-8 million passengers to its 20 million target in 2015, while improving Lufthansa’s short/medium-haul earnings by EUR200 million.
5-Apr-2013 3:08 PM
Aegean Airlines seems to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, challenged both by a very weak domestic market and by an increasingly competitive international market where it has neither cost leadership nor a global network. If approved by the EU this year, will its planned acquisition of Olympic Air provide a route to safety?
Aegean reported its third successive loss in 2012, albeit a narrower one than in 2011, as passenger numbers fell by 6%. Aegean managed to reduce costs at a similar rate and to limit the revenue fall to 2% by cutting domestic traffic and international traffic from Athens while growing international traffic from provincial Greek cities. Double digit passenger growth from 2003 to 2009 has been followed by domestic-led decline, with Athens (Aegean’s main hub, where it is the biggest carrier) a falling market. Although it has leading positions at its other Greek bases, LCCs are increasingly making their presence felt there.
4-Apr-2013 5:52 PM
The market for non-scheduled (charter) passengers in the UK and across Europe is in structural decline and this appears to be confirmed by recent data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The main beneficiaries have been the low-cost carriers as holiday-makers have developed the habit of assembling their own self-made package of flights, hotels, car hire and other services. Nevertheless, there is still a role for integrated tour operators, particularly for specialist, long-haul and other niche holidays. This is illustrated by TUI Travel’s recently reported expectation of a 10% increase in profit for FY2013.
However, neither TUI Travel nor Europe’s other major listed tour operator, Thomas Cook, has any plans to expand its fleet and Thomas Cook has even indicated that it is considering an asset light model, making more use of third party capacity. The Thomas Cook group continues to focus on its restructuring, an important element of which is its recent decision to integrate its four airlines into one. This could also be a precursor to selling its airline eventually as the travel companies focus on their distribution and destination management skills.
3-Apr-2013 4:46 PM
The fast-growing Wizz Air Group, privately owned and not subject to the same financial and traffic reporting requirements as publicly listed companies, has remained a mystery when it comes to its cost structure and profitability. CAPA has obtained and analysed detailed financial and operating data and the results are presented in this article. The group’s cost base is certainly low – it has the second lowest unit costs among European carriers, with CASK more than one third lower than easyJet’s, and a track record of cutting ex fuel unit costs. This cost structure, built mainly on Europe's most productive and low-cost labour force, has helped Wizz Air to a strong market position in Central and Eastern Europe, where it was the leading LCC in the 12 months to Mar-2013.
Its last reported financial year (to Mar-2012) saw a healthy EBIT margin of 5.8%, after seeing net losses in six of the previous seven years, suggesting that the business may be maturing. Wizz's closest competitor, with overlap on around one quarter of its routes, is Ryanair, whose unit costs are 14% lower than Wizz Air’s. Ryanair is growing strongly in the region and this could threaten Wizz Air’s goal to become its largest carrier over the next decade unless it can continue to lower unit costs.
1-Apr-2013 12:48 PM
With Lufthansa looking to revamp services to India and Southeast Asia, which can be unprofitable, CAPA in part 1 of this report looked at Lufthansa's disadvantaged cost base to European, Asian and Middle Eastern peers as well as the carrier's challenge in maintaining an effective presence in Asia.
Part 2 considers the necessity of amassing scale for whatever Lufthansa does: whether that is to launch its own long-haul low-cost carrier or enter a partnership with an existing LCC. Lufthansa may be worried about the number of destinations Middle East network carriers serve, but a local LCC will have a far wider network.
This presents a partnership opportunity for Lufthansa – and any airline – but also a threat in that Lufthansa's competitors have realised the strength and opportunity of Asia's LCCs.
29-Mar-2013 3:50 PM
TAM will soon defect from Star to join its sister carrier LAN in oneworld. TAP Portugal’s future alliance membership is surrounded by uncertainty until its likely renewed privatisation process is complete. These developments throw the spotlight on the strategic importance of routes from Europe to Latin America to European carriers, who dominate this market, in particular the Big Three, but TAP Portugal, Alitalia and Air Europa also have noticeable positions. The South Atlantic market is only around one fifth of the size of the North Atlantic market by RPKs. So why should Latin America matter to European airlines?
In addition to forecast passenger traffic growth rates that, while not spectacular, are still very respectable and superior to those in Europe and on the North Atlantic, Latin America is a fascinating strategic battleground for Europe’s carriers, both directly and through alliances.
It is a territory of changing alliances and emerging players and, for those that are successful, market share gains can provide significantly higher growth then the underlying market.