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Blue Air: a new Liverpool base signals growing emphasis as a pan-European LCC model

According to data from OAG, Romanian LCC Blue Air's total seat numbers will grow by 64% year-on-year in the summer 2017 schedule – faster than for any other European airline group in the top 30 by seats. Blue Air, which launched operations in 2004, is now larger than Romania's flag carrier TAROM by annual passenger numbers and fleet size. Its growth has been prompted by the aggressive expansion of Wizz Air, which is number one in Romania, and of fourth ranked Ryanair.

Although Romania is still at the core of its network, Blue Air has embraced the pan European LCC model with a more geographically expansive strategy. Its second largest base, after the Romanian capital Bucharest, is in the Italian city of Turin, and Larnaca in Cyprus is also an important base.

At the start of the summer 2017 schedule, Blue Air added a third non Romanian base at Liverpool, helping the northwest England airport to 7% passenger growth in Apr-2017. In all three of its foreign bases Blue Air operates to destinations outside Romania. It is still small on a Europe wide scale, but in launching a UK base Blue Air is taking the fight to LCCs such as Ryanair and easyJet in one of their strongest markets.

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Blue Air adopted a customised Liverpool livery

Blue Air has adopted a customised livery for its Liverpool based Boeing 737-800, after running a competition for local people to submit their designs.

The final choice was an amalgam of three designs, as Blue Air wanted to include aspects of all three. The design tries to embrace Liverpool's musical heritage, its hospitality and its skyline, while incorporating both the red and the blue of the city's two football teams.

Although aesthetically lacking in focus, this combination demonstrates Blue Air's desire to be seen as a local airline in its new base –something that may be helped by its non ethnic and non national name. This approach may also be of value if it chooses to expand to more bases across Europe outside its home country.

Blue Air Boeing 737-800 in its Liverpool livery

Blue Air is now number two in Romania

Wizz Air is the biggest airline by seats operating in Romania, with a 35% share of seats in the week of 8-May-2017 (source: OAG). Blue Air is now the number two airline in Romania, and the largest home grown airline in the country. It has a seat share of 18%, ahead of the flag carrier TAROM, on 13%, and Ryanair, which has 11% of seats.

Blue Air's six Romanian bases are at Bucharest Otopeni, Bacău, Iași, Cluj Napoca, Constanța and Sibiu.

Wizz Air has seven bases in Romania: Bucharest Otopeni, Cluj Napoca, Tirgu Mures, Iași, Sibiu, Craiova, and Timișoara. According to OAG, it also operates routes to/from Suceava Salcea, Satu Mare and Constanța.

Romania: airlines by share of total seat capacity, week of 8-May-2017

The chart below illustrates how Blue Air's rapid growth has taken it above TAROM in the ranking of airlines by seats in Romania.

It shows the development of weekly seat numbers on international routes between Romania and Europe. Since 92% of Romania's seat capacity is international and 95% of international capacity is to Europe (source: OAG, week of 8-May-2017), this closely reflects the development of total capacity to/from/in Romania.

Blue Air has overtaken TAROM, but Wizz Air's rapid growth has kept it in the lead in Romania. Ryanair's rapid growth is bringing it close to TAROM's level of seat capacity this summer.

Romania: one way international weekly seat capacity to Europe by airline, 19-Sep-2011 to 9-Oct-2017