Europe low cost airline fleets: not all LCCs are equal

Premium Analysis

The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been met in different ways by different airlines in Europe. Broadly speaking, airlines with long haul and business class products have suffered more than those with a short/medium haul and more leisure-focused network.

This has meant that Europe's low cost airlines have not suffered quite as badly as full service legacy airlines.

However, not all LCCs are the same, with some hit harder than others by the COVID crisis. Focusing on Europe's four leading independent LCCs and how their fleet sizes have changed highlights differences in their fortunes, whether due to COVID or other factors.

Norwegian has been in contraction mode since before the pandemic, whereas easyJet's fleet has now stabilised, after a small reduction during the crisis.

Ryanair's growth was interrupted by Boeing's 737 MAX suspension, but the Irish ultra-LCC has now resumed growth, thanks to the 737 MAX's resumption. Wizz Air, almost oblivious to the pandemic, has continued its rapid fleet growth virtually uninterrupted.

Both for this year and into the medium term, Wizz Air and Ryanair have the clearest fleet medium term growth ambitions among the four airlines.

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