At the start of the winter 2017/2018 season Eurowings launched a new weekly A330 service from Cologne/Bonn to Cape Town. This is now only the second route from Cologne/Bonn to mainland sub-Saharan Africa, following Eurowings' launch of a service to Windhoek in Namibia in Jul-2017.
North Africa accounts for approximately two thirds of all airline seats between Europe and Africa. The Cologne/Bonn launches illustrate how new airline business models may be starting to shift the balance towards sub-Saharan Africa and, outside the narrowbody dominated leisure markets of North Africa, helping to open routes between secondary airports.
This winter's addition of two destinations in Southern Africa to the network operated out of Cologne/Bonn is a sign of how new airline models are helping to change the Europe-Africa markets. New generation aircraft technology should accelerate these processes even further, to the benefit of airport connectivity.
Cologne/Bonn has 10 destinations in Africa; Eurowings and TUIfly leading the network additions
According to data from OAG, there are connections between Cologne/Bonn and 10 cities in Africa, of which seven are in mainland Africa.
North Africa is the most important sub-region, accounting for five routes. Most of these (Nador, Hurghada, Marrakech, and Tunis) have been served from Cologne/Bonn for a number of years, while Agadir has only been served over the past year. SunExpress Germany launched Cologne/Bonn-Agadir in Nov-2016, ceasing in Jan-2017, and Air Arabia Maroc began to operate the route in Oct-2017.
Direct flights from Cologne/Bonn to mainland sub-Saharan Africa only began with Eurowings' Jul-2017 launch of its service to Windhoek. This is a year round operation, although the frequency drops from twice weekly in the summer to once weekly in the winter.
Cape Town is also a weekly service, and both destinations are served by Eurowings with 310-seat all economy class A330-200 aircraft wet leased from SunExpress Germany.
Cologne/Bonn also has links to three offshore sub-Saharan African destinations.
Since 2014, TUIfly has operated a 737-800 service to Boa Vista and then to Sal Amílcar (both are in Cape Verde) in a triangular route, with the return flight starting from Sal Amílcar.
Eurowings launched a weekly service to Mauritius in May-2016, increasing the frequency to twice weekly in Dec-2016 and then reducing it to weekly once more in Oct-2017.
Cologne/Bonn's two new sub-Saharan Africa routes this year are an illustration of the positive impact on the direct connectivity of secondary airports of airlines with new business models. Eurowings has adopted a version of the long haul low cost model, while TUIfly is a cross between a charter and a low cost airline. Between them, these two airlines are responsible for all of Cologne/Bonn's African routes outside the well established North African market.
Europe-Africa seats up by more than a quarter over five years
More generally, the new routes also illustrate the growth in direct air links between Europe and Africa.
In the five years from the end of winter 2012/2013 to the end of winter 2017/2018, OAG data show that weekly seat numbers between the two continents will have increased by more than a quarter, from broadly 500,000 to 630,000.
Europe to Africa: weekly seats, Sep-2011 to Apr-2018
North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa growth rates from Europe have been similar over five years
Smoothing out the strong seasonal pattern in capacity between Europe and Africa in order to reveal the underlying trends as between destinations in North Africa versus sub-Saharan Africa, the following chart shows rolling 52-week capacity between Sep-2013 and Apr-2018 (based on weekly data from OAG).
From the end of the winter 2012/2013 season to the end of winter 2017/2018, the total market from Europe to Africa (based on rolling 52-week seat numbers) will have grown by 27%, with North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa both broadly matching this growth.
Europe to Africa: rolling 52-week seat numbers, Sep-2012 to Apr-2018
Europe-North Africa has recovered from its slump, but may ease back in early summer 2018
North Africa suffered a 12-month slump in seat capacity from the start of winter 2015/2016, during which period rolling 52-week seat numbers from Europe to North Africa fell by 12%. Europe to sub-Saharan Africa grew by 1% during this period, limiting the decline in Europe to all Africa to 7%.
Since Nov-2016, Europe-North Africa will have grown by 19% by the end of the current winter season, faster than the 9% increase in rolling 52-week seat numbers between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
However, this superior growth to North Africa has been the result of its bounce back from the slump in reaction to geopolitical events.
Moreover, early indications from OAG for the start of summer 2018 are that Europe-North Africa capacity will fall by 11% in the first four weeks of the season, in contrast to a 7% increase in Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. The total Europe-Africa market is currently set to fall by 5% in the first four weeks of summer 2018 due to the weight of North Africa.
Eastern Africa is fastest growing African sub-region from Europe, by seats
Regardless of whether or not capacity from Europe to North Africa is outgrowing Europe to the rest of the continent, there has been consistent growth in capacity from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa for the past five years.
Among the sub-regions of sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Africa has enjoyed the fastest growth in seat numbers from Europe over the past five years, albeit from a small starting point (it is the smallest sub-region by seats from Europe).
From the end of the winter 2012/2013 season to the end of winter 2017/2018, rolling 52-week seat numbers on Europe-Eastern Africa will have grown by 48% – much faster than the 27% growth in the total Europe-Africa market.
Central/Western Africa has also had strong growth, with an increase of 33% over the same period. Southern Africa has been the laggard, having had only an 11% increase in seats from Europe. In summer 2013 Central/Western Africa overtook Southern Africa in the number of seats from Europe over 52 weeks.
Europe to regions of sub-Saharan Africa: rolling 52-week seat numbers, Sep-2012 to Apr-2018
North Africa has not recovered its peak share of Europe-Africa seats
North Africa has always been the biggest African sub-region for seats from Europe. It accounts for approximately two thirds of all seats between the two continents, with the percentage varying from 67.5%, before the slump at the start of winter 2015/2016, to 64.5% in Jan-2016.
By the end of winter 2017/2018 it will have increased to 66.4%, still more than 1ppt below its peak, before turning down again (according to OAG data for the start of summer 2018).
Europe-North Africa's share of all Europe-Africa seats (rolling 52-weeks): Sep-2012 to Apr-2018
New airline models are helping to change Europe-Africa markets
Europe to North Africa is largely a leisure market, operated by narrowbodies to a wide range of destinations from a range of airports in Europe. Europe to sub-Saharan Africa is a smaller, but more complex market, operated mainly by widebodies and typically between primary airports.
This winter's addition of two destinations in Southern Africa to the network operated out of Cologne/Bonn is a sign of how new airline models are helping to change the Europe-Africa markets in two ways.
Firstly, the Europe-Africa balance is starting to spread away from North Africa into the other sub-regions. Secondly, there is an increase in the number of routes involving secondary airports.
New generation aircraft technology should accelerate both of these processes even further, to the benefit of airport connectivity.