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Airlines driving growth to European Islands

Europe has seven island markets listed as separate countries/territories in the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) and OAG databases for aviation data on capacity and aircraft fleets. These are the three nations of Cyprus, Iceland and Malta, together with four much smaller markets: the three UK crown dependencies Jersey, Guernsey (also including Alderney) and Isle of Man, along with the Faroe Islands, which are a self-governing region of Denmark.

Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney are served by Aurigny, among others (Kevan James)

In all cases, Europe’s island markets have a much higher propensity for air travel than other leading aviation markets. The small island territories depend much more on air travel to maintain vital links with the rest of the world. In addition, they have often successfully marketed themselves as popular tourist destinations (and as an aviation connecting hub, in the case of Iceland).

This has made these island markets attractive to airlines with a variety of business models, with no single template applied to all of them. Local airlines have dominated in the Faroe Islands and Iceland but with different models. LCCs are highly significant in Malta and in southern Cyprus. Jersey and Guernsey has Aurigny and Blue Islands based in the Channel Islands but the Isle of Man has no local airline.

For island nations, the importance of air travel is especially important. But, how can aviation be used to support travel growth? This issue will be among the discussion topics at the forthcoming CAPA World Aviation Outlook Summit where the islands’ discussions will focus on the main source markets for inbound arrivals, how they are positioned to attract key inbound markets and what impact tourism could have on European markets.

Low fare airlines like easyJet have driven tourism to island communities (Tyler McDowell)

In Europe the enormous publicity attracted by a sixteen year old Swedish girl has rattled the airline industry and is prompting government talk of aviation taxes to reduce flying. This is among a number of hurdles the industry will face in 2020.

At the start of this year CAPA chairman emeritus, Peter Harbison wrote: “the year begins with much uncertainty. Not only in China, where the economy has slowed considerably, but more globally, a sense of uncertainty is descending on global markets and in international political circles.

“The economic and political upheaval that is being created by an unpredictable US administration and by the vacillations of the UK government over how to rearrange its ties with the rest of Europe are merely the most visible of signs in what is very much a changing world. Until now, aviation has to a large extent been immune from any direct impact, surging forward at unprecedented rates. There has been no obvious move at government level to impose more restrictive rules on international airline market access, nor has there to date been any sign of a downturn in traffic.

“On the other hand, there have been no signs of moves towards greater freedom. Perhaps we have passed the zenith in that arena. As free trade comes under attack, the infection could easily overflow. In the operational sphere, it is fuel that will be a large determinant of the airlines’ financial performance in 2019. In the middle of the past year a dark cloud passed over the industry as Brent Crude prices exceeded USD80 and the experts predicted even higher levels. But going into 2019, the downward price trend, towards USD60, offered positive news making profits seem achievable once again. However, demand is another issue.”

As the foremost authority on aviation in the world, CAPA – Centre for Aviation’s events provide cutting edge knowledge about strategic market trends and dynamics to help attendees make informed decisions, delivering the information and connections needed to inspire and improve business.

The CAPA World Aviation Outlook Summit will take place in Malta on 5-6 December 2019.

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