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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island spans an archipelago including Great Britain, the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many small islands. Aviation is a major UK industry, carrying over 180 million passengers a year and over 2.1 million tonnes of freight. England’s domestic airlines include British Airways (the nation’s flag carrier), Virgin Atlantic, BMI Regional, Flybe, EasyJet and Ryanair. The British capital, London is a global transport hub. In recent years, the massive growth of LCCs has increased the number of routes and reduced the fares between the UK and continental Europe. London’s main airports for international flights are Heathrow and Gatwick. Luton and Stansted airports deal largely with charter and budget European flights, and London City Airport specialises in business flights.
The Civil Aviation Authority is the UK's independent specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include economic regulation, airspace policy, safety regulation and consumer protection. Unlike many countries, there is no direct Government funding of the CAA - its costs are met entirely from charges levied on those whom it regulates. Under the EU’s Single European Sky initiative the design, management and regulation of airspace will be coordinated throughout the European Union with the aim of using air traffic management that is more closely based on desired flight patterns leading to greater safety, efficiency and capacity.
Airports in United Kingdom
194 total articles
Norwegian plans to add US routes to its Edinburgh base, a development considered in part 1 of this report, adding to its growing list of European long haul bases. However, its Edinburgh-US routes will use new Boeing 737MAX-8 aircraft – its first deployment of narrowbodies for long haul. It has also ordered 30 Airbus A321neoLRs for long haul use. Narrowbodies open up new possibilities for routes between the UK (or other European markets) and the US east coast.
Norwegian also plans to add non-US destinations to its UK long haul network, with details expected during the course of 2017. Norwegian's flexibility to develop its long haul operations from the UK would be improved by the grant of a US foreign carrier permit to its UK-registered subsidiary, Norwegian Air UK.
Norwegian has had to surmount many obstacles to build and grow its global network – which may also include Latin America in 2017, when it will accelerate long haul ASK growth to 60%. However its rapid expansion, currently driven mainly by long haul growth, has led to a rapid increase in debt, and is likely to weigh on unit revenue. Norwegian's undoubted strategic innovation can only be sustained if it is financially successful.
Norwegian's plans to add Edinburgh to its long haul bases are a further indication of its constantly evolving strategic development. Driven mainly by long haul, Norwegian returned to strong growth in 2016 after a respite in 2015. Norwegian's 2017 expansion plans will make the LCC Scandinavia's largest airline by passenger numbers, ahead of the legacy airline rival SAS.
The UK is Norwegian's biggest European long haul market outside Scandinavia. This has so far been based entirely on its network at London Gatwick, where its weekly seat capacity to the US now equals that of the market leader Virgin Atlantic. However, Norwegian is looking beyond Gatwick and will add trans-Atlantic routes from Edinburgh in 2017, for the first time deploying a narrowbody (Boeing 737MAX-8) on its long haul network. It has yet to announce the US destinations from the Scottish capital, and also plans to fly to the US from other UK cities.
This report considers Norwegian's Edinburgh long haul plans in the context of its existing UK operations. Part 2 looks at Norwegian's use of narrowbodies for long haul and the application by its UK subsidiary for a US permit. Part 2 also touches on the financial impact of Norwegian's rapid growth.
IAG has detailed plans to start long haul low cost airline flights from Barcelona to the US, Latin America and Asia in Jun-2017. The project involves two Airbus A330s and will create up to 250 new jobs. Tickets for the first destinations are expected to be on sale by Feb-2017 or Mar-2017.
One of the key outstanding issues is which IAG airline brand will operate the flights. In an interview published on 22-Dec-2016 by La Vanguardia, the widely read and respected Barcelona newspaper, CEO Willie Walsh said that IAG may create a new brand for the project. British Airways, Iberia or even Aer Lingus – which has the lowest unit cost among IAG's long haul airlines – are also possibilities. However, Vueling "will continue in its strategy of European flights".
Among Europe's big three legacy airline groups, IAG is the only one not to have announced long haul low cost plans previously, although its LCC strategy has been the most successful in short/medium haul. Plans by the LCC Norwegian to launch long haul routes from Barcelona in 2017 may have had a catalytic effect on IAG's thinking. In the past IAG has been proactive in creating new platforms, while this move appears a little more reactive.
On 20-Dec-2016 Flybe announced its first ever routes from London Heathrow and the appointment of a new chief executive. Europe's largest regional airline will launch Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh at the start of summer 2017. Former CityJet head, Christine Ourmieres-Widener, will become CEO of Flybe from 16-Jan-2017, replacing Saad Hammad, who left on 26-Oct-2016.
Flybe already operates to the two Scottish cities from London City in competition with British Airways. Its Heathrow turboprop services will compete directly with BA's narrowbody jets, and there is also competition from Ryanair and easyJet from other London airports on the city pairs. Flybe has previously baulked at Heathrow's high charges, but has now changed its mind.
Flybe's new Heathrow services will use slots previously used by Virgin Atlantic's Little Red on the same routes. Little Red failed to fill its aircraft and ceased operating after two years. Flybe will be hoping that its smaller aircraft and lower frequencies will be easier to fill. Extending its codeshare agreements with its long haul partners to include Heathrow routes would help. It will also do Flybe no harm that it already participates in the Avios loyalty scheme owned by IAG, the parent of Heathrow's largest airline British Airways.
A vote on 14-Dec-2016 by British Airways 'mixed fleet' cabin crew raises the real threat of strike action - and, as is often the case, in the lead up to a peak holiday period. This would be the first serious industrial action since strikes by cabin crew protesting at the 2010 introduction of mixed fleet crew. BA, and its parent IAG, have been praised by many observers (including CAPA) for their resolve in driving through important restructuring programmes in legacy airlines, while their European peers have fallen behind the field. A crucial part of this has been to generate labour productivity improvements, often in the face of union resistance.
British Airways has a good track record in improving the efficiency of its workforce, as measured by ASKs per employee. In 2015 it made its highest-ever operating profit margin, beating Europe's other major legacy airlines, and it looks likely to improve on this once again in 2016. However, it does not have a great record of lowering unit labour cost.
Moreover, BA is currently experiencing falling unit revenue. With help from lower fuel prices receding, cutting ex fuel unit cost will be vital if BA is to fight off the margin squeeze resulting from unit revenue weakness. Labour is a key element of ex fuel cost, so the cabin crew dispute is a test of BA's resolve.
In early Dec-2016 the Irish regional airline CityJet ended talks with Stobart Group about the possible acquisition of the airline Stobart Air. This deal could have accelerated CityJet's growth in the area of regional airline contract flying, where Stobart Air is positioned with contracts for Aer Lingus and Flybe. Nevertheless, while this is a setback to CityJet's ambitions, the airline continues to pursue an aggressive growth strategy.
CityJet had also preliminarily agreed to launch new routes at Stobart Group's London Southend Airport, but will not now do so. Instead, Stobart Group has taken control of Stobart Air by acquiring shares from minority investors, and will use its in-house airline to grow the Southend network. This should help the airport in reaching its own growth targets, as set by the Stobart Group.
CityJet may seek an alternative acquisition in order to fulfil its goal of becoming the largest regional wet lease provider in Europe. It will almost certainly convert all or some of the 16 options it holds over Sukhoi Superjets, in addition to its firm order for 15 (three have already been delivered). CityJet has undergone significant change since leaving the Air France-KLM group in 2014, and its losses are narrowing.