Flights to Spain still flying high

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LAST YEAR saw over 41 million passengers travelling on flights between the UK and Spain. This was an increase of 15.7% on the 2015 figure of 35.7 million, and the fastest growth in the market in over 20 years.

Safety and security concerns in other traditional leisure destinations such as Egypt and Turkey continued to work in Spain’s favour as airlines and tour operators redirected capacity to this more established market.

Between 1994 and 2007 the UK-Spain market doubled in size from 17.6 million passengers to 35.5 million, before the economic recession resulted in three successive years of passenger declines in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The following year saw almost 10% growth before solid growth of between 4% and 5% in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015, with 2015 finally seeing the record of 2007 being beaten; then came 2016’s phenomenal growth.

Of the UK’s top 15 airports for Spanish routes, 10 saw double-digit growth. Five airports recorded growth of more than 20% led by Birmingham (+34%), Edinburgh (+31%) and Newcastle (+29%). In volume terms Manchester’s growth of 25% represented an additional 1.1 million passengers just on routes to and from Spain. Four London airports ranked in the top eight, with Luton (+24%) recording the highest growth.

Airports outside the top 15 that also recorded impressive growth include Belfast City (+64%), Doncaster Sheffield (+36%) and Cardiff (+23%). London’s share of the UK-Spain market (which also includes London City and London Southend airports) fell in 2016 by two percentage points from 45.8% to 43.8%. What this highlights is that UK-Spain traffic from outside of the London area grew by almost 20% last year.

In Spain, 13 of the top 15 airports for UK traffic grew by more than 10%, with only Madrid (+7%) and Murcia (-1%) falling below that mark. Three airports managed growth of more than 20%; Gran Canaria (+29%), Reus (+28%) and Valencia (+25%).

The top three airports were separated by only a quarter of a million passengers. Alicante saw the greatest volume increase of just over 800,000 passengers ahead of Malaga (793,000 additional passengers) and Barcelona (717,000).

Outside the top 15 there was impressive growth at Almeria (+62%) and Asturias (+60%) while Castellon saw traffic increase from just under 20,000 passengers in 2015 to almost 73,000 in 2016 thanks to Ryanair’s services from Bristol and London Stansted.

Looking at schedule data for this summer, the increase in UK-Spain seat capacity is around 11%, with an additional 1.9 million one-way seats from UK airports. Although Ryanair and easyJet remain the top two airlines, Jet2.com has overtaken Thomson Airways to become the third biggest carrier. Having opened bases this summer at Birmingham and London Stansted, the leisure carrier has added almost 900,000 one-way seats, accounting for 47% of the growth this summer.

Ryanair has added around 550,000 one-way seats, easyJet 315,000 and Thomson Airways just under 200,000 according to OAG data. Blue Air is the only additional carrier in the market this summer having launched three times weekly flights from its new base in Liverpool to Alicante, a route already served by Ryanair (10 weekly flights) and easyJet (seven weekly flights).

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