Few countries have seen such dramatic changes in their airline market landscape as Spain.
The country has been caught in the middle of Europe's faltering economies and austerity moves. It has lost a long-established player with the demise of Spanair. Its national carrier Iberia has embarked on a major restructuring, under which it is heavily cutting costs and capacity. At the same time, though, another Spanish low-cost carrier, Vueling, is rapidly expanding, both at its Barcelona base and beyond, while established low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair are also prominent.
Nowhere are the economic difficulties felt more keenly, however, than on the Spanish domestic market. Innovata schedules data shows capacity by monthly seats and flight down by around a quarter in October compared to the same month in 2012. Capacity on the Barcelona-Madrid route – still the third biggest intra-European route – has been cut by 43%.
The route is far from alone. Of the 10 biggest domestic markets in Spain by capacity, only one route – linking A Coruña and Madrid – has more flights this month than a year ago. Many of the leading carriers in the Spanish market have pulled back capacity on domestic routes: Ryanair and Iberia are cutting capacity sharply, while EasyJet no longer operates any domestic routes in the country.
But there is growth on the international sector. Overall monthly seat capacity in October is running 4% higher than for the same month last year. While Madrid-London Heathrow remains the biggest international market from Spain by monthly seats, capacity has been lifted by two-thirds on the Barcelona-London Gatwick link, which is now the third biggest international market. There is also growth on the Alicante-Gatwick route, monthly seats for which are up by nearly 50%, while capacity is almost as high as on Barcelona-Frankfurt.