How low-cost carrier route volatility can help airports not just survive, but thrive
Airports should prepare for the high route-volatility of low-cost carriers with a new approach.
Frontier has an even higher proportion of volatility across their network than Ryanair, cutting 30-40 routes annually. Although this is offset by new route additions, it still represents approximately 20% of their routes ceasing each year being cut or moved to new markets in support of the carrier’s growth ambitions. Chart source = SRS Schedules July (each year)
How LCCs will drive growth
Recent fleet orders are a clear indicator that LCCs will continue to drive market growth, especially in Europe, where 90% of seat growth is driven by this market segment. LCCs are forecast to add more than 10% additional seating to the market, compared to just 1% from the legacy carriers. In the U.S., LCCs like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant are growing at a combined rate of 15%—nearly four times the market average.
As these airlines become increasingly mainstream and add more capacity than legacy airlines, airports need to understand this different approach to network development. A more tailored approach to air service development (ASD) is often required for carriers seeking to expand in new, and often previously untested, markets.
Whatever approach is right for your airport, consistent, regular communication with airlines is essential. The aim is not so much to persuade them, but to inform them, seek their feedback, and look for ways to make your plan more relevant and meaningful for them. This step alone will differentiate an airport from most of its competitors, whose focus is on trying to tell airlines how to plan their networks.