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Europe's aviation strike spike could signal a cyclical peak - with downturn to follow
One swallow does not make a spring and nor does a rash of aviation strike news guarantee a turning point for the aviation industry. But the signs are ominous. In the month of Jun-2016 (to 20-Jun-2016), there have been 136 articles on CAPA's website mentioning the word 'strike'. This compares with 81 for the first 20 days of Jun-2015. For 2016 so far (1-Jan-2016 to 20-Jun-2016), the 's' word has occurred in 594 articles – about 20% more than in the same period in each of the past two years. If this rate continues, 2016 could be the biggest year for strike-related articles since before the global financial crisis.
The vast majority of the Jun-2016 articles – 80% – relate to Europe. A significant source is air traffic control disputes, particularly French ATC. There have also been strikes and/or strike threats involving airport workers and ground handlers. Among European airlines, Air France has generated the most coverage for its ongoing dispute with its pilots, and it may also face a cabin crew strike. Lufthansa has not yet faced a strike by its employees this year, but has not yet reached new agreements with pilots or cabin crew after industrial action last year.
History tells us that labour's demands grow as profits rise. The apparent increase in industrial action this year could be a signal of an approaching peak in the airline profit cycle. There are other causes of unrest, such as impending French labour legislation, but the correlation reflects some history.
Berlin Schoenefeld: growth driven by Ryanair, while business at neighbouring Tegel falls away
Among airports in Germany's Top 10 by passenger numbers, Berlin Schoenefeld was the fastest-growing in 2015. After declining between 2010 and 2013, its traffic then grew by 27% over two years. In the first three months of 2016 passenger numbers have grown by a further 43% year- on-year.
Berlin Schoenefeld is the smaller of the two airports in the Berlin system, yet its growth vastly outpaces the low single-digit rate of Berlin Tegel. Already an important base for easyJet in Germany, Schoenefeld has experienced recent rapid growth that has been mainly the result of expansion by Ryanair. Wizz Air has also entered Schoenefeld in 2016. Although easyJet's growth is much slower, it has announced that it will increase the number of aircraft based at the airport from nine to 10.
At the same time airberlin, based at neighbouring Tegel, is losing market share in the Berlin airport system. Although Germanwings is gaining share, this is merely substituting for its parent Lufthansa. By the situation at Schoenefeld, Berlin is a good illustration of how LCCs continue to take share from legacy airlines on intra-Europe routes.