Malev continues European airlines’ winter of discontent

So Malev has become the second established European carrier (its history dates back to 1946) in a week to suspend operations. While there have been some smaller airline casualties in Europe so far this year – Czech Connect and Germany’s Cirrus Airlines both suspended flights while seeking new finance (another, Austrian carrier Air Alps, has now resumed flights after earlier suspending operations in January), it is the fall of Malev and Spanair over the last seven days which demonstrates how tough it is for airlines in Europe. Malev and Spanair are both established in alliances – Oneworld and Star Alliance respectively - and feature in the top 150 airlines by revenues.


  • 21 aircraft
  • Revenues $421m (2010)
  • Passengers: 3.05m (2010)


  • 29 aircraft
  • Revenues $800m (2010 Airline Business estimate)
  • Passengers: 6.96m (2010)

This is rapidly looking like it might become a winter of discontent for Europe’s airlines. The region is forecast for losses this year as they battle the headwinds of high fuel prices and the eurozone woes. And enforcement of European Commission state aid rules is adding further pressure to those who might previously have taken comfort from the state for support. (For more on this pressure check out our ANALYSIS: Spanair collapse bad news for state-funded airlines article).

Alongside airline collapses, mergers are the other element to airline consolidation – and a number of deals in the works will further change the picture. How far has this journey gone? Well here is a little graphic which shows the number of passenger airlines (scheduled and charter) operating today from some of the major markets compared to 2001 - and while passenger numbers for European carriers among the top 200 airlines have jumped more than 75% over the last ten years, the number of carriers in each country has fallen (and this doesn’t take account of deals in the works or shared airline ownership).


then and now.jpgAnd for a more detailed look on how this process has worked, look at this analysis of the Italian market - which if planned mergers are completed, will mean it will have gone from around 20 airlines to essentially three in the last decade.

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