Airlines Launched More Than 3,000 New Services in 2015
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2015 was a year of growth and profit-making for airlines all around the world. According to the New Route Database maintained by Airline Network News and Analysis (anna.aero), 3,100 new services were added worldwide in 2015. That was over 500 more than the number of new services added in 2014.
This is truly a worldwide statistic. The 2015 total includes new services from more than 350 airlines operating in 173 countries.
Who grew the most in 2015?
The biggest expansions took place in Europe. The continent’s four main low-cost carriers led the way ,with all four adding more new services than any other airline in the world. Ryanair and easyJet each had 99 new services. Vueling, meanwhile, had 90 and Hungarian LCC Wizz Air added 85. U.S. carriers Southwest (77 new services) and Allegiant (69) were the next most active expanders.
Overall, the U.S. market saw the most growth last year. American carriers launched 827 new services. That was twice as many as the next most active countries. Russia, China, the U.K. and Spain all came in in the 300-400 range when it came to the number of new services.
Even more growth in 2016
It appears that the current trend will continue. According to anna.aero, 1,100 new services have already been announced for 2016. At this time last year, approximately 1,000 had been announced. There is a long way to go, but fuel prices are expected to stay relatively low and demand is projected to rise, so 2016 could very easily see even more expansion than 2015.
The stats also show how airlines are choosing to compete (or not compete) for passengers. 44 percent of the new services launched in ’15 were on competitive routes. That means that at least one other airline flew the exact same route.
Different expansion strategies
The 44 percent also means that more than half of the new services were on completely new routes. This move away from direct competition could be summed up by two trends.
First is the established strategy of low-cost carriers seeking secondary airports where the land fees are cheaper. So Ryanair, for example, may be flying between two major cities, but the airport pair on the route is different from other airlines because the Irish LCC takes off and lands at secondary suburban airports while other carriers land at the main hubs.
An example of this is Southwest, which launched flights from Kansas City and Saint Louis to John Wayne Airport in Orange County. They are connecting Missouri’s cities with the LA area without flying into busier Southern California hubs.
The second trend offers some insight into the future of airline service. More carriers are offering routes that connect two cities that have not previously been considered hubs. Some examples of this can be seen in China’s secondary cities. Late last year, we saw the announcement of routes such as Xian-Sydney and Hangzhou-Madrid. By finding underserved cities and establishing new routes, airlines can avoid competition and, ideally, meet 10 percent of the demand, thereby leaving no room for other airlines to come in and compete on the same route (unless they are able to come in and offer significantly lower fares).
The lack of competition on these secondary routes could mean higher prices, but, should this trend continue, it could also mean more direct flights that will make it possible to get between point A and B without layovers and circuitous routes.
As long as demand continues to rise and fuel prices remain low, airlines will be looking to expand to offer new services. The only thing that will differ is the strategy that they use.
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