New London and Birmingham bases help push ahead of leisure rivals

23 July, 2017

The opening of new bases at Birmingham and London Stansted will grow network capacity by over 45% this summer, versus last year, as the low-cost carrier (LCC) moves its successful business model into southern regions. The budget operator has created a strong brand in northern England over the past decade supporting traditional package holiday requirements in these regions. From its birth from the Channel Express brand back in 2003 as a low-cost seat-only airline, it has since re-engineered the holiday process launching its own low-cost tour operator, Jet2holidays, to compete with the likes of Thomas Cook and Thomson.

Analysis by The Blue Swan Daily of OAG schedule data shows that is offering over 8.5 million seats during the current summer schedule, up from less than 6 million in summer 2016. Its new London Stansted base is already its fourth largest across the UK after (Manchester, Leeds Bradford and East Midlands) and the five largest point in its network (also after Palma de Mallorca, which is served from nine points across the UK).

While the launch of its 25 destination network from London Stansted and 16 destinations from Birmingham are the main reason for its rapid growth, significant capacity growth is also being seen in existing markets and new routes have been added from its other UK bases, including seven from Edinburgh, six from East Midlands, six from Leeds Bradford, three from Glasgow, two from Manchester and two from Newcastle. Network Capacity (2014 - 2017)Source: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG

The airline has a strong focus on the Spanish market and has gained from its recent growing demand as holidaymakers have moved away from emerging North African markets following recent terrorist attacks in the region. In fact has more than quadrupled its annual capacity into Spain since the start of the decade and it now accounts for almost two thirds (60.2%) of its capacity from the UK.

Over the calendar year, is growing significantly in its three largest markets: Spain (+56.2%), Portugal (+59.7%) and Greece (+61.0%). Strong growth is also being seen into Cyprus (+69.6%), but it is Malta and Croatia that are its fastest growing market with capacity doubling (+101.6% and +98.8%, respectively) between 2016 and 2017, albeit from a much smaller base than its larger markets. Largest International Markets (2016 - 2017)Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

The expanded network in 2017 has helped to grow larger than the UK's long-standing leisure providers Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways, well, when you are studying the summer months at least. Based on summer schedules, is ranked as the fifth largest operator in the UK behind British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Flybe, overtaking both Thomson Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines. But, as the chart below illustrates, during weekly leisure peaks also rises above Flybe in the ranking.

Largest Airlines in the UK (weekly seats July 2017)Source: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG

It is clear that the summer months are an important time for the carrier, perhaps more than any other in the UK. In fact a recent CAPA insight analysis on the carrier described it as "the most summer biased of any significant airline or airline group in Europe". This seasonality reflects's strong leisure focus and the LCC's growing dependence for seat sales on its own in-house tour operator, Jet2holidays, which provided it with almost half its passengers in the past 12 months.

Attempts to reduce seasonality by growing its seat capacity in the second-half of fiscal year (the winter months from October 2016 to March 2017) at a faster rate than the summer-focused first half have only partly rebalanced the capacity distribution across the year, but barely changed the revenue distribution. This is because's the second half yield suffered a heavy fall as a result of rapid capacity growth and the advanced costs of opening new bases at Birmingham and London Stansted this summer.

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