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Where are the world's leading LCC airports?

9th September, 2011

LCCs now account for about a fifth of all flights globally, making it increasingly vital for airports and air traffic management providers to understand the sector and its drivers. Worldwide, of the top 20 airports for LCC aircraft movements, 12 are in the US, four are in Europe and the remainder are in the Asia Pacific region. (By seats, ten are in the US, and five each in Europe and Asia Pacific). As ever, though, the global LCC market is in flux. Airlines expand or contract their operations at airports in relation to their own growth trajectories and the changes in season.

Top 20 airports worldwide by LCC aircraft movements and seats per week

Airport

Movements
(week commencing)

%
chge

Mvmts
Rank

Mvtms
Rank
Chge

LCC seats
per week
05-Sep-11
LCC
Seats
rank

LCC share
of total
seats
(%)

05-Sep-11

06-Feb-12

Sep-11

Feb-12

Denver

4,307

4,192

-2.7%

1

1

-

566,734 1

45.7%

Las Vegas McCarran

4,045

3,925

-3.0%

2

2

-

561,716 2

59.0%

Chicago Midway

3,174

3,053

-10.0%

3

4

-1

430,011 8

93.9%

Baltimore/Washington

3,093

2,858

-8.5%

4

5

-1

411,023 9

73.7%

Atlanta  

2,867

2,829

-8.8%

5

6

-1

354,365 12

16.8%

Orlando International

2,735

2,614

11.6%

6

2

4

365,129 11

52.0%

Barcelona El Prat

2,637

2,508

-7.6%

7

9

-2

466,295 5

49.9%

Palma De Mallorca

2,602

2,487

-52.1%

8

23

-15

485,823 3

79.1%

London Stansted

2,597

2,437

-26.6%

9

16

-7

459,332 6

99.1%

London Gatwick

2,549

2,318

-23.1%

10

15

-5

436,216 7

58.6%

Phoenix Sky Harbor

2,540

2,313

-2.1%

11

8

+3

345,790 13

63.4%

Kuala Lumpur

2,460

2,154

2.0%

12

7

+5

472,784 4

46.0%

Los Angeles

2,417

1,991

-4.1%

13

10

+3

337,911 14

22.6%

New York JFK

2,220

1,971

-10.3%

14

13

+1

304,354 17

25.5%

Delhi Indira Gandhi

2,049

1,961

5.1%

15

11

+4

367,936 10

38.0%

Sydney

2,018

1,906

-2.3%

16

14

+2

315,064 15

35.3%

Fort Lauderdale

1,978

1,895

16.9%

17

11

+6

282,206 20

63.1%

Boston Logan

1,943

1,857

-2.5%

18

17

+1

246,168 25

34.3%

Houston Hobby

1,824

1,773

1.8%

19

18

+1

246,329 24

94.6%

Melbourne Tullamarine

1,809

1,768

-2.0%

20

19

+1

290,994 19

44.8%

Given that it has the world’s largest air travel market, it is unsurprising the US also has the world’s busiest airport by LCC aircraft movements and seats: Colorado’s Denver International Airport. Denver, home to Frontier and a focus city for Southwest Airlines, is expected to handle over 11,000 commercial aircraft movements this week, of which around 4300 will be operated by LCCs, making it the largest LCC airport globally by some 6% from second placed Las Vegas McCarran.

Just over 45% of Denver’s seat capacity is currently held by LCCs. While United Airlines is the dominant carrier at the airport, the combined capacity of Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines now outweighs that of United.

Six of the ten largest LCC airports globally are located in the US (by movements). Apart from Denver and Las Vegas McCarran there is Chicago Midway, Baltimore/Washington, Atlanta Hartsfield and Orlando. With the exception of Atlanta, these airports have the majority of their traffic handled by LCCs. Chicago Midway is dominated by Southwest Airlines.

Trailing them, another six US airports sit between 10th and 20th slots by LCC movements: Phoenix Sky Harbour, Los Angeles International, New York JFK, Ft Lauderdale, Boston Logan and Houston Hobby.

Notably, Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest LCC, has dominant market positions at six of these airports - Las Vegas McCarran, Chicago Midway, Baltimore Washington, Orlando, Houston Hobby - and is the second largest carrier at Phoenix Sky Harbour and Ft Lauderdale. 

Outside of the US, the next largest LCC airport in the Americas is Mexico City Juarez, at 23rd spot, and then Sao Paulo Guarulhos, at 31st.

Breaking the run of US airports in the top ten by LCC movements per week are some of Europe's travel meccas. Spain, long one of the world’s strongest markets for low cost air travel, fills positions seven and eight with Barcelona El Prat and Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands.

Barcelona El Prat has strong year-round traffic, with Veuling, Ryanair, easyJet and other LCCs accounting for just under 50% of total capacity at the airport. See related report: Ryanair's presence makes Barcelona Europe’s fastest growing major airport

However, Palma de Mallorca is a highly seasonal destination. Forward analysis of airline schedules via CAPA’s Airport Rankings Tool indicates that Winter capacity at Palma will drop by more than 50%, with the airport sinking swiftly out of the top 20 ranking once the Winter schedule commences. Carriers such as NIKI, airberlin, Ryanair and Condor shunt capacity away from the island to other destinations and/or ground aircraft. (By seats this week, Palma clings to third place, as the summer fades, behind Denver and Las Vegas.)

Outside of Spain, London claims the next two spots, with Stansted and Gatwick handling close to the same amount of LCC aircraft movements. Around 59% of capacity at Gatwick is operated by LCCs, and the airport is home to easyJet, Europe’s second largest LCC.

Stansted is almost wholly LCC focused, being Ryanair’s major UK base as well as an important secondary airport for easyJet. 99% of total capacity at the airport is controlled by LCCs. Both Stansted and Gatwick suffer from seasonal drops in traffic as the Winter season commences. The CAPA Rankings tool shows that LCC aircraft movements at these airports will drop by almost 25% between Sep-2011 and Feb-2012.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is the 12th largest LCC airport by aircraft movements and the largest LCC airport in Asia. The home of the aggressively expanding AirAsia is in many ways ahead of the LCC curve. In 2005 it commenced construction of one of the region’s first dedicated low cost carrier terminals (LCCT). KLIA ranks fourth globally by seats, reflecting long-haul low cost carrier AirAsia X's influence and its high-density A330s.

That investment has paid dividends: 46% of seat capacity at the airport is handled by LCCs and the AirAsia group has now outstripped Malaysia Airlines in terms of seats offered and passengers flown at Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airports Holdings has recognised that the LCC model will continue to grow and is planning to construct a new LCCT with capacity for up to 30 million passengers p/a.

Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport is the second largest LCC airport by aircraft movements in the Asia Pacific (15th globally - or tenth globally by seats). The Indian market has seen phenomenal growth in the LCC segments, as India’s rising middle class begin to take to air travel, many flying for the first time. Just 38% of the airport’s capacity is controlled by LCCs. Indigo and SpiceJet each control around 15% of capacity at the airport, with GoAir and JetLite controlling the remainder.

Outside of India, Australia’s two main airports – Sydney and Melbourne Tullamarine – round out the Asia Pacific airports in the top 20. As of Jul-2011, 50% of the domestic capacity in Australia is controlled by LCCs, mostly through Jetstar and Virgin Australia, with a smaller market presence from Tiger Airways Australia. While the Australian population is relatively small, the country has a very high propensity for domestic and international travel. The low-cost long-haul airline has a particularly strong presence in the market. V Australia, Jetstar and AirAsia X all operate at long-haul services from Melbourne, and V Australia and Jetstar have strong long-haul networks from Sydney.

NB: CAPA Members can view the LCC market share right now for any of 4000 airports worldwide on the Schedules Analysis tab of each airport profile on the CAPA site. Use the CAPA Profiles search box near the top of this page.

CAPA employs a leading team of writers and analysts positioned around the world. Find out more about CAPA's regional and global analysts.
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