easyJet launches Winter 2009-10 schedule: 22 new routes
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London airports and a new runway: Heathrow the business champion but the biggest growth is elsewhere
As the British government approaches a final decision on the construction of an additional runway in southeast England it is pertinent to look at how passenger traffic is developing at the two main airports that are in contention – Heathrow and Gatwick, and at the next two largest London area airports, Stansted and Luton.
While Luton stepped back from the runway debate (its ‘proposal’ was submitted by a third party), the management at Stansted Airport (M.A.G), having been knocked back by the Airport Commission’s report, has found renewed vigour as the scope of the objections to both Heathrow and Gatwick expansion became clear. Indeed, the suggestion that the government might decide to let airports compete, rather than itself funnel resources into one location, has inspired M.A.G. to revisit its own ambitions for Stansted.
That is assuming of course that a decision is ever reached, as, unbelievably, it has been postponed yet again while the Prime Minister, Mrs May, ensures that a Cabinet transport sub-committee that is known to be divided on the issue has a good debate about it. Then, having made a recommendation, MPs - also divided - will have another year to argue over it and - perhaps - fail to reach a consensus.
TUIfly, easyJet, airberlin, NIKI, Eurowings eye partners in Germany's aviation market upheaval
Ryanair's expansion and Brexit are among factors which may have prompted reports about possible consolidation and other forms of co-operation involving Germany's leading airlines. These include - apparently false - speculation that easyJet has considered buying a stake in TUIFly (possibly to ensure that it has access to EU traffic rights post Brexit) and that TUIFly, a charter airline with growing seat-only sales, may be integrated with airberlin subsidiary NIKI and the TUIFly aircraft currently operating airberlin routes under wet lease.
An expanded TUIFly operation could, perhaps, better withstand fast-growing competition from Ryanair in Germany, although these stories have been denied. A more definitive development, announced by both parties, is that up to 40 of airberlin's narrow body fleet will be wet-leased to Lufthansa Group for its LCC Eurowings and Austrian Airlines. Airberlin will also put its leisure operations into a separate unit. These moves should partly alleviate airberlin's overcapacity problems, while accelerating the growth of Eurowings (further boosted by the possible integration of Brussels Airlines into the LCC).
Even if the other stories prove mere speculative, the frequency of such reports highlights the need for consolidation in Europe, whose centre is Germany. Moreover, they throw light on the rapid pace of change in business models in what has historically been a very conservative aviation market.