Airlines still have faith in Swedish market as Ryanair, Eurowings and Finnair all descend on Arlanda
In 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, passenger numbers using Sweden’s airports fell by almost 5%. Near neighbours Denmark and Norway saw zero growth, while Finnish airports registered growth of 4%. Across all of Europe traffic grew by around 3%. In Sweden, one of the reasons cited for the traffic decline was the growing social movement of ‘flight shaming’, which had started in Sweden in 2017. Other factors included the collapse of regional carrier NextJet in May 2018 and some downsizing by Norwegian, as it struggled with its financial issues.
Taking a chance on Stockholm
In the period April to December 2020, traffic at Sweden’s airports fell by 88.4% compared with the same period in 2019. In the first half of 2021, passenger numbers were still more than 80% down compared with 2019. However, in July this improved significantly to being down 53% and in August improved still further to minus 45%.
However, Swedavia, the operator of most of Sweden’s airports, has been able to report some good news this year. It has managed to entice Ryanair to move their Stockholm operations, starting this winter, from Skavsta to Arlanda and has also secured multiple new short- and medium-haul services from Lufthansa’s LCC Eurowings, as well as some new long-haul services from Finnair.
Will airlines make money, money, money?
Ryanair will open its Arlanda base at the end of October with two aircraft and over 20 new routes. In addition to the international routes summarised in the table below, it will also begin domestic services to Gothenburg (14-weekly), Malmö (10-weekly) and Skelleftea (2-weekly from 3 December). In November, Ryanair will be operating 93 weekly departures from Arlanda across 22 routes giving an average of 4.2 weekly flights per route.
The Eurowings base opening next summer will see the carrier base five aircraft at the airport, with plans to operate 20 routes, though only 15 have been announced so far. Of these, four are in Germany and four in Spain. Schedule data for next June shows a total of 69 weekly departures on these routes, indicating an average of 4.6 flights per week.
In the long-haul market, Finnair has chosen to start long-haul flights from Stockholm ARN this winter to three US destinations and two in Thailand. Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK will all be served 3-weekly with the oneworld carrier’s A350-900s. SAS will be operating daily to Newark and Chicago this winter and 3-weekly to Miami. Thai Airways is set to serve Bangkok (2-weekly) and Phuket (weekly), while TUIfly Nordic is expected to offer service to Phuket and Krabi.
The winner takes it all?
The arrival of Ryanair and Eurowings at Arlanda will put additional pressure on the airport’s biggest carriers, Norwegian and SAS. Alicante, Barcelona and Malaga are all likely to be served by all four carriers (with Vueling also serving Barcelona and easyJet serving Malaga). It will be fascinating to see if all four carriers are able to compete viably in the Stockholm market, or whether there will be casualties. Survival will be the name of the game, or else, when all is said and done, some airlines may have to consider whether it is time to move on.