Airlines launch over 1,400 new routes across Europe in 2023; Ryanair and Italy repeat 2021/2022 success


According to our diligent research over the course of 2023, Air Service One estimates that airlines last year launched over 1,400 new routes involving at least one European airport. This is over 20% down compared with 2022 when we identified over 1,800 new European routes. Again, it should be noted that following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 we stopped tracking new routes launched to/from or within European Russia.

A few headline figures:

  • We have identified 1,429 new airline routes launched in 2023.
  • Average weekly frequency: 2.67 flights per week (up from 2.51 in 2022). 346 routes operated just weekly, 101 routes at least daily. Aeroitalia’s Catania to Rome FCO had the highest launch frequency (23-weekly).
  • Average sector length: 2,227 kilometres (up from 2,069 kilometres in 2022). Shortest was 21-kilometre Greek domestic route between Kasos and Karpathos (3-weekly by Olympic), the longest was 10,960 kilometres between Manchester and Singapore (by TUI Airways).
  • 512 routes (36%) launched with direct competition, 917 routes (64%) launched without direct competition
  • A total of 449 airports across 98 countries involving 161 airlines celebrated the launch of at least one new European service in 2023.

June was again the busiest month for European route launches in 2023

As in 2022, June was again the busiest month for route launches. This reflects a growing emphasis on seasonal routes which can only viably operate during the peak summer months rather than across the whole of the summer season (end of March to end of October). Also very similar to 2022, just 6% of all new routes launched in either January, February, August or September. In 2019 this figure was 9%.

New European routes 2021-2023

Only in January, September and October were there more route launches in 2023 than in the same month in 2022.

Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet lead the way … yet again

The airlines with the most new route launches in 2022 and 2021 were again the clear leaders in 2023. Ryanair’s new route count fell from 553 in 2021, to 302 in 2022, and to 222 in 2023, while Wizz Air went from 238 to 206 to 106. As was also the case in 2021 and 2022, easyJet ranked in third place.

Top 16 airlines for new routes launched in Europe

Athens International Airport

The leading non-(U)LCC (or leisure airline) was airBaltic in joint sixth place with 37 new routes, helped by having multiple bases in the Baltics and opening a seasonal winter base at Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

Italy tops country rankings … again

A look at the leading countries for most new routes reveals that Italy was once again top. Italy’s lead over the rest of Europe increased again in 2023. Spain and the UK were again second and third, with France not far behind in fourth place. Among the top 20 country markets were four outside of Europe (shown in red) with Egypt just beating Morocco. Saudi Arabia and the US both generated 40 new airline services to destinations in Europe.

Top 20 countries for new routes in Europe

Antalya and London LGW just edge out Rome FCO

Looking at an airport level it was again really close with our analysis indicating that Antalya and London LGW were tied for first place with 47 new services each, just pipping last year’s winner (and also winner in 2021) Rome FCO with 46 new services. In Antalya the top three airlines for new services were SunExpress, Pegasus Airlines and Wizz Air. In Gatwick it was British Airways, Norse Atlantic and Wizz Air while in Rome it was Wizz Air, Ryanair and Aeroitalia.

Top 19 European airports for new routes in 2023

Last year no airport welcomed over 50 new airline services compared with six in 2022 and four in 2021.

Birmingham Airport