FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

January 31 2011

 

Airlines. Who’s the biggest of them all?

 

T

HE continental divide. Three airlines on three continents are vying for the title of the world’s largest airline in terms of seats sold. Currently it is US-based Southwest Airlines.

In 2010, Southwest held on. It finished the year having sold 88mn seats, but its growth was only 2%.

And in growth rates, the two challengers are moving much faster. Ireland-based (but with most of its operations from the UK) Ryanair grew at 11%, which took it to 73mn. We thought Ryanair’s growth would have given it something (more) to boast about by overtaking Southwest in 2010 to become the world’s largest.

But it has been cheated out of the chance, by an airline that is from the usual location now for adjectives such as ‘biggest’, ‘fastest’, etc – China.

In 2010, Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines grew at a remarkable 15%, overtaking Ryanair and ending the year with 76mn seats sold.

If those patterns are maintained this year, then the order at end-2011 will remain the same – SW, CSA, Ryan. In 2012 it would be CSA, SW, Ryan, and then in 2013 Ryan would make it to No 2.

Spare a thought though for a game change. SW and Ryan are both low-fare-airlines. CSA is a regular airline. China’s government currently controls/limits airline activity. Just think what will happen when controls are lifted and LFAs can operate freely in China.

 

The Fox