Despite the collapse of Thomas Cook, and the failure this year of Adria Airways, Flybmi, Jet Airways and Wow Air, the number of available seats for European travellers this winter is set to increase by nearly 4 per cent compared with a year ago.
The Anker Report has analysed the latest schedules from Cirium Data and Analytics to identify the fastest-growing carrier as Wizz Air – a Hungarian budget carrier that has an expanding UK operation. It plans to grow by 23 per cent.
But two other major airlines with big British operations, Flybe and Norwegian, are showing the deepest cuts in capacity.
Flybe, which has been taken over by a consortium involving Virgin Atlantic, will offer 16 per cent fewer seats while Norwegian is down 18 per cent across its network.
Flybe, which was heavily loss-making, is expected to be rebranded as Virgin Connect. It has cut many unprofitable routes for the winter – though the new owners say there are “plans to grow Flybe’s regional network”.
Norwegian has been suffering long-term financial problems, and has been hit by the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and some of its Boeing 787 aircraft.
While the total number of flights from European airports on all airlines is set to rise by 2.5 per cent this winter, seat capacity will increase by 3.7 per cent due to an increase in the average size of planes – for example with Airbus A321 aircraft seating 220 passengers replacing A320 with 180 seats.
“Available seat kilometres” have increased even faster, due to a rise in the average length of flights.
Wizz Air has now taken a clear third place in the budget airline league behind Ryanair and easyJet, and ahead of Vueling of Spain. This month it has launched flights from its main UK base, Luton, to both Moscow and St Petersburg.
Turkish Airlines is the second fastest-growing carrier, with a 6 per cent rise expected – taking advantage of the extra capacity at the new Istanbul airport.
Ryanair is anticipating a 4 per cent growth in seat capacity, despite not having any of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft it ordered in a special 197-passenger capacity.
But easyJet is growing only across its eight non-European airports in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Morocco.
Two non-European airlines make the top 30 in terms of the number of seats to and from Europe: Emirates is 23rd, while Qatar Airways is 30th.
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