Three’s A Crowd: Eurowings Eyes Big Stockholm Growth

They say things come in threes: once is luck, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern. And for Stockholm Arlanda, it must be a pattern, because Ryanair, Finnair, and now Eurowings have all announced new bases at the airport this year. Motivated by the decline of Norwegian, which is now at just 18% of its 2019 Arlanda capacity, the airport’s charges – something that previously put off carriers – have changed to encourage growth. It seems to be working.

Eurowings A320
Eurowings will base five A320s at Stockholm Arlanda. Photo: Florian Klebl via Flickr.

Eurowings is to create a new Stockholm base

German carrier Eurowings, part of the Lufthansa Group, will open a brand-new base at Stockholm Arlanda. Kicking off from March 2022, it’ll have five A320s at the airport – a huge number to start with – and 12 initial routes with more to come.

This route map builds on the carrier’s existing three routes to Düsseldorf (launched in 2015), Hamburg (2016), and Cologne (2017) from the Swedish capital. These routes, together with Berlin Schönefeld (2005-2012), used to be operated by Germanwings under the ‘4U’ IATA code.

The new Stockholm base announcement comes soon after Eurowings revealed that Prague will also be base, with its first flights – including Bristol, Fuerteventura, and Milan Malpensa – launching on October 31st. Stockholm will be its 12th base across Europe, with existing non-German bases including Palma, Pristina, and Salzburg.

A new base at Prague will also begin this year. Photo: Eurowings.

12 new routes coming

Eurowings will start with 12 new routes, although it expects to add at least eight more. With an average distance of 1,188 miles, there’s a big focus on summer sun routes to Spain, France, and Portugal, together with visiting friends and relatives (VFR) demand to Poland and Kosovo.

  1. Alicante: beginning March 30th, twice-weekly
  2. Barcelona: March 27th, three-weekly
  3. Berlin Brandenberg: not yet available for booking
  4. Birmingham: March 28th, twice-weekly
  5. Copenhagen: March 27th, 11-weekly
  6. Gdansk: March 29th, twice-weekly
  7. Faro: not yet available for booking
  8. Malaga: March 28th, three-weekly
  9. Nice: March 27th, twice-weekly
  10. Palma: March 27th, five-weekly
  11. Pristina: April 2nd, once-weekly
  12. Rome Fiumicino: March 27th, three-weekly

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Looking at Gdansk, Eurowings will compete head-to-head with Ryanair and SAS from Arlanda and Wizz Air from Skavsta. Norwegian previously operated Arlanda-Gdansk, but it seems that it might have ended; this could be this gap that attracted Eurowings.

Eurowings coming Arlanda routes
Eurowings has said it’ll begin more routes than these 12. Image: GCMap.

Stockholm to Birmingham stands out

One route stands out: Birmingham. Served by short-lived Duo Airways (remember them?) until 2004 and by Skyways until 2005, SAS operated it in 2005 and then again between 2012 and 2014. Monarch gave it a go in 2017, followed once more by SAS, although on a limited basis. The 904-mile link between the two cities will be the sole route on which Eurowings won’t have direct competition.

Even ignoring leakage from Birmingham’s natural catchment area to Manchester and London airports, which is likely to be pretty significant, approximately 20,000 round-trip passengers connected between Birmingham and Stockholm in 2019, booking data shows. That’s a good-sized starting point.

However, Stockholm has often been challenging from various UK airports, including easyJet from Luton, partly as there’s a higher business demand component. It’ll be interesting to follow its progress and to see how it does.

Will Eurowings be able to succeed to Birmingham where other carriers haven’t? Photo: Getty Images.

Finnair to also base aircraft at Stockholm

In another coup for Stockholm, Finnair is also to base aircraft at Arlanda. With three A350-900s stationed there, the Finnish flag carrier will open five routes from October despite ongoing restrictions. It’ll begin the following:

  1. Bangkok: starting October 22nd, twice-weekly
  2. Los Angeles: November 2nd, three-weekly
  3. Miami: October 23rd, twice-weekly (later four-weekly)
  4. New York JFK: December 7th, three-weekly (later four-weekly)
  5. Phuket: October 24th, twice-weekly

Finnair will use the so-called seventh freedom traffic rights, whereby it’ll operate standalone services that don’t touch Finland. This freedom of the air is seldom used and only really possible because both Sweden and Finland are EU nations. Very few network carriers use it.

Finnair, Airbus A350, Stockholm
Finnair will have five long-haul routes from Stockholm. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Why is Finnair doing it?

As is usually the case, things changed in the markets that encouraged Finnair’s entry, including the following. Notice the significance of Norwegian’s exit from long-haul flying to instead concentrate on its core Nordic operation. It is this that is also propelling Norse Atlantic to begin, probably from London Gatwick.

  • Stockholm to Bangkok is down by one airline (Norwegian ended it, but Thai still operates)
  • Stockholm-JFK is unserved (Norwegian and Delta both served it before)
  • Stockholm-Los Angeles is unserved (SAS and Norwegian both operated it previously)

In the case of Miami, non-stop seats available for sale in 2022 so far total 74,652, seven times (!) as many as in 2019. For Phuket, an ever-popular destination for Swedes and Scandinavians generally, 2022 capacity has recovered to the 2019 level.

Finnair, North America, Stockholm
JFK and Los Angeles will once again be served non-stop from Sweden. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Ryanair to also open an Arlanda base

Four months ago, ultra-low-cost carrier Ryanair announced that Stockholm Arlanda would become its second base in Sweden after Gothenburg. This followed the closure of its Skavsta base in 2020. In addition to the 21 routes previously announced, including Banja Luka, London Stansted, and Thessaloniki, another two will be served:

  • Barcelona: launching November 2nd, three-weekly
  • Skellefteå: December 3rd, twice-weekly

With Ryanair and Eurowings set to begin Barcelona, 1,440 miles away, this airport-pair will now have five airlines, joining Norwegian, SAS, and Vueling. In 2019, three airlines operated it. The potential impact on fares is obvious, necessitating the question: which airline will blink first?

Ryanair B737-800
Ryanair is increasingly moving towards primary airports as part of its inevitable evolution. But don’t be misled. Secondary and alternative airports are and will remain important to the carrier. Photo: Getty Images.

Ryanair will have three domestic routes

Perhaps most interesting is Ryanair’s domestic routes from Stockholm, with Gothenburg, Malmö, and now Skellefteå to be served. All will see the ULCC because Norwegian ended the routes.

In 2018, Norwegian had 262,000 seats between Arlanda and the northern city of Skellefteå, an airport last served by Ryanair between 2011 and 2015 when Girona and Stansted were served. Will Ryanair underestimate domestic Sweden like Wizz Air admitted it underestimated domestic Norway?

What are your thoughts on Eurowings, Finnair, and Ryanair developing at Arlanda? Let us know in the comments.