Swimming in a sea of sharks! Innovative marketing delivers enhanced Nuremburg connectivity

21 September, 2017

It can be really hard for a regional airport to secure new air services, especially when it is located in the backyard of the country's two largest hub airports. Well, that is exactly the case for Albrecht Dürer Airport in Nuremburg, Germany which is located right between Frankfurt and Munich. It is certainly the small fish in the pond, but its innovative Blue Ocean marketing campaign is helping to deliver new capital city and leisure destination connectivity and have seen it become recognised by Europe's airlines for its impactful message to the route development industry.

For the past year the air service development team in Nuremberg have been floating the idea to prospective airline partners to beware of the shark tank that hub airports can be and benefit from the Blue Ocean chances in Nuremburg. And they were recognised by their peers at the Routes Europe air service development forum in Belfast, Northern Ireland with a highly recommended prize for airports handling less than five million passengers.

"Why jump into a dangerous 'shark tank' - the red ocean - when the blue ocean offers us interesting options on a route to profitable growth? At Nuremberg, airlines can look forward to a largely competition-free market that offers a huge amount of untapped potential in the business, leisure and incoming sectors for attractive city pairs and unserved point-to-point routes. So what are you waiting for? Start "swimming in the blue ocean" and we will show you the possibilities," says the airport's marketing material.

And, on the subject of slot restrictions at its rivals, it says: "zero slots? We don't have any slot restrictions! On the contrary, in Nuremburg 'slot' is essentially a foreign word. This makes flight planning more relaxed and gives you the flexibility you need to successfully develop new routes!"

The airport may have been fighting for scraps from the top table, but CAPA data shows that it has been able to successfully develop a route network based around low-cost and leisure airlines. Wizz Air has been its fastest-growing carrier and continued this growth into 2017 with new links to Belgrade and Tuzla and this summer to Kiev, starting from August 2017.

In fact last week The Blue Swan Daily reported that Nuremburg was the fastest growing airport (more than one million passengers in H1) in Germany and fifth fastest growing in Europe during the first half of 2017. See: Keflavik freezes out the competition as Europe's fastest growing airport in 2017

It is now seeing the rise of Ryanair (now its largest operator) which opened a single aircraft base in Nuremberg from last winter, adding to a long-standing route to London Stansted. This facilitated the introduction of new Bergamo, Budapest, Malta, Manchester and Rome flights, as well as Bari, Madrid, Palermo, Porto and Verona more recently in the current summer 2017 schedule. New links to Krakow and Vilnius have already been confirmed for winter 2017/2018.

CHART - Annual Network Capacity at Nuremburg's Albrecht Dürer AirportSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG

This enhanced connectivity has meant network capacity at Albrecht Dürer Airport grew 27.2% year-on-year in the first six months of 2017, making it the fastest growing major German airport. The growth rate actually exceeded 30% in both April and June and is phenomenal when you consider that the airport's largest operator in H1 2016, airberlin, reduced its schedule by 56.4% during the first six months of this year as part of its repositioning strategy.

Nuremberg has certainly been helped by its business links. It is the largest base worldwide for multinational Siemens, while Adidas, Puma, GfK, Schaeffler, Stabilo and LEONI are just a few of the major brands that have their headquarters in the city and surrounding area. This means the per capita purchasing power in the core catchment of the airport is 11.4% above the German average.

The airport estimates that just under two thirds of its catchment demand leaks out to other airports, around 2.7 million passengers annually. It hopes that a focus on boosting its business links will help balance this split.

This year has also seen the arrival of a Germania base in Nuremburg and an enhanced offering into Mediterranean markets, including links to Dalaman, Paphos and Faro. These are being flown using an Airbus A319 and a Boeing 737. The airline has recently confirmed plans to add a third aircraft into Nuremburg in summer 2018, while also operating a larger A321, boosting its weekly departures from 30 to 45 due to steadily rising bookings for its flights. Planned new additions to its network include Bourgas and Varna in Bulgaria; Antalya in Turkey; Tel Aviv in Israel and Hurghada in Egypt.

The leisure growth from Germania is positive, while Ryanair has started delivering city connectivity, but there are still more unserved capital city markets that remain on the Nuremburg radar including Athens and Warsaw. It has no connectivity into Scandinavia, still has limited capacity into Poland, while data shows that London is underserved and a second airport is known to be on the airport's wishlist.

According to traffic data from OAG for 2016, London Heathrow was the largest destination market currently unserved from the German city with a one-way outbound annual demand of more than 15,000 passengers. Other stand out unnerved markets include Copenhagen (~9,500 one-way passengers), Agadir (~9,000 one-way passengers), Athens, Milan and Stockholm (all ~8,500 one-way passengers).

There are sizeable indirect flows into Spain, Turkey, Germany, UK and Italy suggesting an option for additional capacity into these markets while more than 50,000 one-way passengers flew into Scandinavia from Nuremburg via other points last year. These tentative figures are all obviously also impacted by the significant ground transport leakage to Frankfurt and Munich.