Low Cost Carriers (LCCs)
A key structural change in aviation over the past decade has been the proliferation of low-cost carriers (LCCs). The low-cost model has overwhelmingly been the favoured mode of airline start-up over the period, and their spread around the world, into both short- and long-haul markets, has caused a fundamental shift in the competitive dynamic of the industry.
'Classic' characteristics of the low-cost model include:
- High seating density;
- High aircraft utilisation;
- Single aircraft type;
- Low fares, including very low promotional fares;
- Single class configuration;
- Point-to-point services;
- No (free) frills;
- Predominantly short- to medium-haul route structures;
- Frequent use of second-tier airports;
- Rapid turnaround time at airports.
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LCCs now account for more than one in four airline seats worldwide, whereas within Southeast Asia close to three in every five seats are now produced by LCCs. In virtually every region worldwide, LCCs are the growth engine within the airline business. But the airports they serve were often built in a very different era. As a result, there is commonly a mismatch between airport infrastructure, technology and services and the contemporary needs of LCCs.
Airport managers and government regulators can also lack insight into the drivers of the LCC business model. Meanwhile, there are different types of LCCs, as many adopt the features of their full service counterparts and ‘hybridise’.
This essential one-day CAPA Summit in Bangkok aims to help bridge the gaps in awareness that exist between the stakeholders - to help create the conditions for a win-win in Asian aviation and beyond.
The CAPA Summit will be held at the Shangri-La, Bangkok on 15 September, with a welcome reception, hosted by AirAsia, on the evening on 14 September.
In 2Q2015, Pegasus Airlines' operating result fell into loss in what is usually a profitable quarter for the Turkish LCC. Foreign currency movements served to inflate both revenue and costs, with a net negative impact on profitability.
However, the negative result was largely driven by the weakness of unit revenue (RASK), which was dragged down both by poor yields and falling load factors. It seems that the competitive landscape at Sabiha Gokcen, Pegasus' main base, remains highly competitive thanks to Turkish Airlines' expansion and the LCCs own strong capacity growth.
If it is to meet its FY2015 profitability target, Pegasus will have to perform more strongly in 2H2015, in particular in 3Q (which typically accounts for the vast bulk of annual profit).
Part 1 of this report on Greece reviewed the status of these key industries, which account together for over a fifth of the country's GDP and in many ways represent one of the key areas of hope for Greek employment and economic growth.
The other part of the equation is the ownership of the country's airports, still mostly in government ownership.
On 11-Jul-2015, the European Union delivered a new bailout offer to the Greek government; this included a requirement to sell down a range of government owned infrastructure, including its airports. This offer is still subject to ratification on both sides, but if finally agreed should stimulate considerable interest from investors.
As Part 1 described, passenger growth at several of these airports has been impressive over the past two years, generating some hopes for strong valuations. The Greek air travel market comprised 38.6 million passengers in 2014, an increase of 15% over 2013, as new airline capacity was added, largely by Aegean and Ryanair.
Greece aviation and tourism - Part 1: potentially major forces in supporting economic re-development
Greece has long been a tourism magnet for sun-hungry northern Europeans, quite aside from its remarkable historic attractions. Now, as the country's tottering economy seeks to recover from its near-Grexit experience - and to help stave off the almost inevitable next round of brinkmanship in a few months - aviation and tourism are core to employment and wider economic prospects.
In 2014, travel and tourism was expected to account for one in every five jobs in Greece, as well as accounting for 20% of the country's GDP. Clearly the health of this industry is a vital ingredient in any recovery. Moreover, around 15% of inward investment is in this sector.
The apparent inability of Greece to repay either its debts - or the debts it took on to service its original debts - makes predictions difficult. One substantial fear is that social unrest might upset the stability necessary for essential investment and the tourist trade.
Ryanair's customer refocus delivers 1Q load factor and 25% profit rises; Germany the next big target
Ryanair has continued its impressive growth with a 25% increase in net profit and a 15% increase in passenger numbers in 1Q of its FY2016. This is more evidence of the success of its 'Always Getting Better' customer service initiatives. Profit growth was helped by lower fuel prices, although the benefit was limited by fuel hedging at last year's higher prices driven in part by another jump in load factor. More significantly, a jump in load factor more than offset lower average fares to drive up revenue per seat.
With 35 aircraft deliveries in FY2016 and 50 in FY2017, Ryanair continues to add to its network. The coming winter will see it open bases in Berlin Schoenefeld and Gothenburg. It is also in talks with many other airports across Europe that are interested in the traffic growth that Ryanair can bring. The strength of its network is such that it can happily continue to serve former bases by serving them from other airports, as demonstrated by its recent decision to close its Copenhagen base.
All is not well in Air France-KLM. The group has reported another decline in quarterly profits. Its 2Q2015 operating result was down by 2% and insufficient to bring 1H2014 into positive territory after an operating loss in 1Q2015. Currency movements, specifically the weaker EUR versus USD, had the effect of inflating both revenue and costs, but the net impact accounted for the deterioration in the operating result.
Nevertheless, this should not detract from Air France-KLM's very weak unit revenues, which appear immune to attempts at improving the product and may only respond to capacity cuts. Either way, unit cost reduction will remain crucial if the group is to return to a sustainable profit path. Long haul routes in particular are under threat.
The development of its medium haul low cost airline, Transavia, continues to be rapid in France, but the scale and profitability of this operation are weak compared with Europe's leading LCCs. However, the establishment of Transavia Europe, with bases beyond France and the Netherlands, could be back on the agenda after a change in leadership at the French pilot union.