Low cost sector drives aviation growth

Capacity on low cost airlines has more than doubled in just four years, according to the latest figures released from OAG. This month (September 2006), budget airlines plan to operate more than 46 million seats on over 323,000 flights, compared with 22 million seats on 169,000 flights in September 2002.

The volume of low cost flights worldwide is 14% higher than a year ago, and offers 16% more capacity. Low-cost carriers, accounting for 17% of all seats on sale worldwide, now operate around 14% of all flights. Europe and the United States are both showing the balance of budget flights as 18%, a figure that has been static in the US for the last 3 years.

The figures are published in a special report conducted by OAG in advance of the Routes Development Forum in Dubai and the World Low Cost Airlines Congress in London that take place later this month. OAG collates data from more than 1,000 airlines, on a daily basis, and tracks around 28 million departures a year.

Intra-regional growth figures show that the Asia Pacific low cost industry is outperforming the rest of the world and by a significant margin.  There are more than 17,000 additional no frills flights offering 2 million seats within the region this month than in September 2005, a rise of 63% year-on-year. 

China, which is very new to the budget airline phenomenon, is showing a rise of almost 2,000 more flights that represents a huge increase year-on-year of more than 4,000%. 


Europe as a whole continues its upward trend, with 15,000 more flights (up 18%) year-on-year, with the countries of the European Union accounting for more than 11,000 of these new flights.

The US domestic market, although by far the busiest in this sector, has shown a very slight drop of one per cent (1,800 fewer low cost flights) than in September 2005.
Although comparatively small in actual numbers, the Middle East low cost sector is still booming, with a 77% increase in flights within the region.

“We can only speculate on the future impact China and India will have on the low cost sector,” says Duncan Alexander, managing director of Business Development at OAG. 

“From a tiny base of just 48 low cost flights within China this time last year, the jump to more than 2,000 is remarkable.  Equally impressive is India’s fledgling market which has leapt from 600 flights and 28,000 seats in September 2004 to more than 12,000 flights and more than 1.1 million seats in just two years.”