Europe's aviation industry by numbers - latest update

Routesonline's latest analysis of the European aviation industry, examining the top routes, airlines and airports.

Routesonline analyses the European aviation industry, taking a quarterly look at the top routes served and revealing the airlines that are dominating the market. We also rank the top ten airports by available seat capacity.

The latest figures for Q3 2018.

 The data is all supplied by OAG Aviation using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool.

Top European airline routes

London Heathrow - New York JFK had the most available two-way capacity during the third quarter of 2018 following a 6 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago. The route is operated by four carriers - American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic - and was recently ranked by OAG as the most lucrative airline route in the world. The rise in capacity came as Virgin Atlantic expanded its operation by adding a sixth daily A330-300 service, despite joint venture partner Delta Air Lines reducing service from three to two daily.

Izmir Adnan Menderes - Istanbul Ataturk fell to number two in the top ten after an 8.2 percent reduction in capacity compared with Q3 2017, while London Heathrow - Dubai International dropped from second to sixth after an 18.5 percent decrease. The decline in capacity on LHR-DXB followed Qantas’ decision to reroute flights from Sydney to Heathrow via Singapore, rather than Dubai, which came into effect in March 2018.

Elsewhere, Dusseldorf - Palma de Mallorca entered the top ten following a 30.7 percent jump in two-way capacity during Q3 2018, compared with the same period a year ago, as airlines battled to fill the void left by the demise of NIKI. Condor, Eurowings, Norwegian and TUIfly all increased frequencies, while Ryanair-backed Laudamotion, which emerged from the ashes of NIKI, entered the market.

Top European airlines

Ryanair increased capacity by 4.5 percent during the third quarter of 2018 to 40,149,081 available seats, up from 38,435,796 the same period a year ago, to comfortably maintain its position at number one in the top ten. However, low-cost rivals easyJet and Wizz recorded double-digit percentage increases, growing capacity by 14.2 percent and 19.6 percent respectively. Norwegian also upped its available capacity by 11.6 percent to more than 12 million available seats.

Top European airports

Frankfurt International posted the largest percentage growth of the airports in the top ten with a 7.8 percent increase in capacity to 12,215,766 departure seats, compared with 11,327,485 in the third quarter of 2017. The growth came as Lufthansa, the airport’s largest carrier, upped the number of available departure seats by 5.5 percent, while second largest Condor grew by 9.9 percent. Ryanair was also Frankfurt International’s third largest carrier in Q3 2018 as it continues to grow the base it launched in March 2017.

The data:

Top ten routes by capacity (Q3 2018):

Rank Route Capacity Q3 2018 Capacity Q3 2017


change (%)

1 LHR-JFK 1001810 945043 6.0%
2 ADB-IST 884171 963263 -8.2%
3 FRA-TXL 875488 633469 38.2%
4 AYT-SAW 816473 655285 24.6%
5 BCN-MAD 785267 790677 -0.7%
6 LHR-DXB 784097 961886 -18.5%
7 ADB-SAW 742008 710970 4.4%
8 DUS-PMI 737676 564445 30.7%
9 AYT-IST 714843 787549 -9.2%
10 BCN-PMI 709642 694692 2.2%

Top ten airlines by capacity on flights to/from Europe (Q3 2018):

Rank Airline Capacity Q3 2018 Capacity Q3 2017 Year-on-year change (%)
1 Ryanair 40149081 38435796 4.5%
2 Easyjet 28968672 25374108 14.2%
3 Turkish Airlines 25147442 24452237 2.8%
4 Lufthansa German Airlines 23923036 22412513 6.7%
5 British Airways 15640063 15381721 1.7%
6 Air France 15123398 15067284 0.4%
7 Aeroflot Russian Airlines 15100316 14250073 6.0%
8 Norwegian 12412811 11120269 11.6%
9 Vueling Airlines 11997132 10992418 9.1%
10 Wizz Air 10695692 8943678 19.6%

Top airports by departure seats (Q3 2018):

Rank Airport Departure seats Q3 2018 Departure seats Q3 2017 Year-on-year change (%)
1 London Heathrow  12957445 12941264 0.1%
2 Frankfurt International  12215766 11327485 7.8%
3 Paris Charles de Gaulle  11887872 11530705 3.1%
4 Istanbul Ataturk  11257055 11324499 -0.6%
5 Amsterdam 10972655 10727224 2.3%
6 Madrid  9270117 8682702 6.8%
7 Barcelona  8653629 8327593 3.9%
8 Munich International  8307995 8080365 2.8%
9 Rome Fiumicino  7950798 7503751 6.0%
10 London Gatwick  7600747 7614029 -0.2%


ASM PurpleASM is hosting a special training event in December to mark its 25th anniversary in route development. The two-day event will play host to an impressive line-up of senior airline, airport and Industry speakers around the theme of 'If route development was perfect, what would it look like?'. 

Speakers include:

  • Gabriel Schmilovich Isgut, director network strategy, Vueling
  • Leon Verhallen, head of aviation development, Brussels Airport 
  • Laurie Berryman, former meneral manager UK and Ireland, Emirates.

Delegates will have the opportunity to network, socialise and discuss their opportunities with the respective speakers throughout the event.

Places are limited so please click on the following link to find out more details and book your place on what promises to be a fantastic conversation.

Find out more

Share this article

Download Spotlight on China

China’s aviation story is one of phenomenal growth. The market is currently the second largest in the world but is on course to surpass the US as the biggest by 2022.

Download White Paper