The role of secondary airports for today's low-cost carrier business models: The European case

M. Dziedzic, D. Warnock-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    One of the core characteristics of Low-Cost Carrier (LCCs) is their use of secondary and regional airports. However, nothing is fixed as the market constantly evolves and carriers modify their strategies in order to achieve growth. This paper uses the examples of Ryanair, easyJet and Norwegian to show how changes to LCC business models are affecting secondary airports across Europe. Using a content analysis, this paper first describes how airport choice factors for LCCs have evolved over the last 10 years. This is followed by a data analysis of historical and current airline network capacity to identify how LCC traffic at secondary airports is developing. The paper finds that cost, demand and efficiency are still the most important criteria for LCCs when choosing an airport to operate from. However, it also identifies that LCCs have become more interested in serving business passengers, which is why they are increasingly using primary airports (accounting for 58% of their recent capacity growth). Through the use of a selection of case airports it is finally concluded that the evolution of LCCs increases competition between primary and secondary gateways. In most cases, secondary airports are losing a significant amount of LCC traffic and only sustain flights to less important destinations. This research puts into question the future importance of secondary airports for LCCs. As not all airports have been impacted by the hybridisation of LCCs to the same extent, the results are not equally applicable to the whole European airport industry.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)19-32
    Number of pages14
    JournalResearch in Transportation Business and Management
    Early online date21 Jul 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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