The northern hemisphere’s summer season (S18) began on 25 March and will run until 27 October. anna.aero’s New Routes Database suggests that airlines will commence services on 506 new airport pairs during a busy first three weeks of S18. A similar comparison performed by anna.aero this time last year recorded just over 460 new route launches during the first three weeks of S17, so airlines have clearly upped the new route race this summer. This analysis reveals that Ryanair will offer more new routes than any other airline in early S18, while Frankfurt is the leading airport for new services and the US is the dominant country market.
Ryanair edges new Frontier routes
According to anna.aero’s database, 125 airlines will offer at least one, if not more new airport pairs in the first three weeks of the summer season. Ryanair tops the route launch table for early S18, but only just. The Irish operator is scheduled to start 66 new services in the first three weeks of the summer season, three more than fellow ULCC Frontier Airlines, which plans to introduce 63 new routes during the same period. A look back at previous anna.aero analysis of early summer route launches reveals that Ryanair has traditionally owned first position in this category, but its lead has seldom been this slender. In the early weeks of S17, the Irish carrier lead the way with over 100 new route launches, which was more than twice as much as its nearest competitor. This year, nine of the top 15 airlines (highlighted in blue) are based in Europe while a further four (highlighted in red) are US carriers. The remainder include one carrier from Africa (highlighted in orange) and one from Russia. Eight of the top-ranked carriers for new routes can be classified as LCCs or ULCCs, including all of the top four. The top 15 also includes two USB3 (US Big three) airlines (United Airlines and American Airlines) but none of the MEB3 (Middle East Big three) carriers. The highest-ranked full-service carrier is SAS, which is scheduled to launch 13 new routes in the first three weeks of S18.
The airports welcoming the most new Ryanair services in early S18 are Frankfurt (14 new routes), Malta (11) and Bourgas (10). The Irish ULCC’s new routes will take in a total of 70 airports across 28 countries, with 50 of these airports welcoming just one new service. The average frequency across Ryanair’s 66 new airport pairs is 2.2 flights per week, with the highest frequency to be operated on the carrier’s Brussels Charleroi to Malta and Manchester to Belfast International links, both of which will see daily departures. Second-placed carrier Frontier will see a high concentration of routes launching from Austin (16 new services) and Raleigh-Durham (11). The only non-US routes amongst the 63 the ULCC will launch in early S18 are two links to San Juan, although these might still be classified as domestic since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the US.
A notable entrant amongst the top 15 airlines is Namibian carrier Westair Aviation. OAG schedules show that the African operator has filed flights for multiple routes to be operated with ERJ 145s. These include six routes from its main base at Windhoek Eros, including four domestic connections, plus two links to South Africa. These involve connections to Cape Town and Johannesburg that would operate via Oranjemund and Walvis Bay respectively. All of these routes are due to commence on 1 April, but at the time of writing it is unclear if they will launch. Westair does not currently operate scheduled services and a report in ch-aviation from 21 February suggests that the airline was still in negotiations over the proposed flights, with no final decision having been made at that time.
European airport early-birds
European airports (highlighted in blue) dominate the rankings for most new route launches in early S18. In total, 12 of the top 18 airports are in Europe, including three of the top four, while a further five (highlighted in red) are located in the US. Frankfurt will welcome the most new services in the first three weeks of summer with a tally of 23. The German hub will play host to 14 new routes from Ryanair, plus six new connections from its main operator Lufthansa. The leading US Airport is Austin, with 19 new services commencing between 20 March and 9 April. The Texan gateway will benefit from a raft of route launches from Frontier, which will introduce 16 domestic connections from the airport across two consecutive days on 8 and 9 April. The highest-ranked airport for new routes outside of Europe and the US is Taipei Taoyuan. The Taiwanese hub will welcome eight new services in the first three weeks of S18, including three links to Japan with Tigerair Taiwan.
US is leading country market
The US is by far the largest country market for new services in early S18 when all new routes from all airports are considered. Under this methodology airport pairs are counted twice (it is considered a new route for both the departure and arrival airports). The majority of new links from US airports in the period under analysis are domestic services. This time last year the US only finished sixth in anna.aero’s equivalent country rankings, with 32 services started, indicating a dramatic upsurge in early season route launches in 2018. During the first three weeks of S18, 22% of all route launches by airport will take place from a US facility. In total, 97 countries will welcome at least one new scheduled service during the first three weeks of S18. The US will offer three-times as many new services as the next largest market, Germany, with Frontier accounting for 57% of new links from all US airports during this period.
The other top-ranked country markets include a strong presence from Europe, with last year’s leader Germany and the rest of the FIGUS markets (France, Italy, Germany, UK and Spain) occupying second through sixth positions in the table. In total 11 of the top 15 country markets are in Europe (highlighted in blue). Interestingly, the six countries experiencing the most new route launches in early S18 are amongst the most developed and mature air service markets globally. Outside of the US and Europe, the remaining country markets in the top 15 include two in Asia Pacific (China and Thailand – highlighted in light green), and Russia. The largest non-US or European market for new routes by airport is Russia, with Utair and Ural Airlines leading the way for new services in their home market.
This analysis is based on a number of assumptions. The first three weeks of S18 are classified as those dating from 20 March through 9 April. New routes refer to services that were not previously served by the launch carrier, rather than entirely new airport pairs. Clearly in some cases, the new routes will be both new to a certain carrier and an entirely new airport pair. Although 500 new routes represents a strong start to S18, airlines won’t be finished there. Additional services will continue to be added as the season progresses and anna.aero is the best place to keep up-to-date with the latest announcements.