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After Alitalia’s board approved the second phase of its business plan on 22-Dec-2016, CEO Cramer Ball stressed the importance of achieving the support of its workforce. He said, “Everyone has to pull in the same direction to make Alitalia a viable, sustainable success story and help the airline achieve its ambition of long-term growth and profitability”. Alitalia suffered strike action from some flight crew in 2016.
Full details of the plan, which has received the support of Italy's government, have not yet been made public. Alitalia's network strategy includes further long haul growth and a reworking of its short haul operation, with an emphasis on feeding long haul via Rome and Milan. Other elements of the plan include cost-cutting, reduced headcount and possible changes to joint venture agreements. Details are to be presented to Alitalia’s workforce in Jan-2017.
Also on 22-Dec-2016, Alitalia's shareholders approved short-term funding and gave management 60 days to begin negotiations with key stakeholders - lessors, suppliers and distribution companies, in addition to trade unions. Alitalia needs their support for deep cost reduction measures, in order to win the long-term financing needed to secure the airline's future.
The UTair Aviation Group includes both a rotary wing (helicopter) division and a fixed wing (passenger airline) division. UTair's strategic goals for its passenger transportation division include maintaining third position and a market share of at least 10% in the domestic market; and a fleet modernisation programme through the purchase of new short and medium haul aircraft.
The passenger airline UTair Aviation achieved a 19% increase in passenger numbers in the first 11 months of 2016, after a period of capacity and traffic reduction and financial restructuring. The airline carried 5.5 million passengers in 2015, making it Russia's third biggest airline after Aeroflot and S7 Airlines, while the group carried 8.8 million passengers. UTair has orders to replace a significant proportion of its ageing fleet of aircraft (average age 19 years), but delivery dates are currently fluid.
Moscow Vnukovo is UTair's biggest airport, from where it serves mainly the domestic market. It is the biggest single airline by seats at Vnukovo, but it is outranked by the combined capacity of the Aeroflot Group's three airlines at the airport, Aeroflot, Pobeda and Rossiya. It also faces competition from Aeroflot and/or Pobeda on almost all of its biggest routes from Moscow.
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.
When Lufthansa began to transfer point-to-point short haul routes to its LCC Germanwings in 2013 it specifically excluded routes to/from its two main hubs at Munich and Frankfurt. Although its two main hubs have been less penetrated by LCCs than many other major European airports, this is changing. Moreover, competitor LCCs are growing rapidly across Germany and in other Lufthansa Group home markets. Even Air France-KLM established a Munich base for its LCC Transavia in summer 2016 (but this is under review). More ominously, Ryanair is to enter Frankfurt in summer 2017.
Lufthansa first revealed in summer 2016 that it was considering opening a Munich base for its LCC operations, now grouped under the Eurowings brand. On 21-Dec-2016 it announced plans to base four A320 family aircraft at Munich for 32 Eurowings routes from summer 2017.
Perhaps it was always inevitable that Eurowings would eventually extend to selected routes from Frankfurt and Munich, but agreements with pilots were understood to have limited the group's flexibility. Confirmation that the operation of Eurowings routes at Munich will be outsourced to airberlin under wet lease appears to have loosened this restriction. Eurowings routes from Frankfurt are also being considered.
For Western Europe there is no bigger long haul market than North America. In terms of the number of airport pairs between the countries of Western Europe and long haul destination countries, connectivity to the United States dominates. There are more direct routes between Western Europe and the US than there are between Western Europe and the whole of Asia Pacific.
This report presents high level data on the numbers of airport pairs between each Western European country and the US and how these number have changed. EU-US liberalisation in 2008 has stimulated growth in the number of direct connections, although the global economic downturn impeded this for a while. However, the additional routes have not been spread evenly across Western European countries.
Since 2010, additional route numbers from Western Europe to the US have been greatest from the largest markets – the UK and the US – and from the smaller countries, particularly Ireland, Iceland and Norway. Countries in between, including France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, have hardly added any new US routes at all.