Domestic Dominance: Which Are The UK’s Top Carriers?

When you think of aviation in the United Kingdom, one of the first airlines to pop into your mind is British Airways. Despite the carrier accounting for over half of London Heathrow’s slots, the airline has a much smaller focus on domestic services, lagging behind some big rivals.

United Kingdom, fully vaccinated, Quarantine
Which airlines have the most dominance in the UK domestic market?. Photo: Getty Images

Last week Simple Flying took a look at the Lufthansa Group’s dominance of the German domestic aviation market. Nine in ten domestic german domestic flights are operated by the German flag carrier or its group airline Eurowings. However, the numbers couldn’t be more different in the United Kingdom. (You can click on all the graphs in this article to enlarge them)

3 in 20 planes flights for British Airways

Surprisingly, only around three in every 20 domestic United Kingdom flights are operated by British Airways. According to aviation data experts Cirium, using schedule data from January 2019 to December 2021, an average of 16.24% of domestic flights each month are operated by British Airways.

British Airways, United Kingdom, Domestic Flights
British Airways’ domestic services took a massive hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Data: Cirium

Of course, there are ups and downs. In May 2020, at the height of the UK’s first lockdown, British Airways had just 126 flights scheduled, while its subsidiary BA Cityflyer had none. This equated to just 2.66% of the market. Interestingly, in March 2020, with the fall of Flybe, the airline’s share of the market briefly went up to 21.16% or one in every five flights.

A similar pattern can be seen for October, November, and December this year, with each month representing a domestic share of above 20%. As this is from future schedule data, it could well change when the fourth quarter comes around.

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Which airline ranks top?

Simple Flying decided to look at the top seven domestic carriers, compounding all of the remaining carriers, including the European giant Ryanair, into one airline known as “others”. Interestingly, the most dominant player in the UK domestic market is regional carrier Loganair. At the height of the crisis, the airline picked up the slack, accounting for up to 40% of all domestic flights in June 2020. Since then, its dominance has fallen slightly, accounting for 31.27% of the market in June with 3,232 flights.

British Airways, United Kingdom, Domestic Flights
UK domestic airlines are already better positioned than at the height of last year’s short-lived recovery. Data: Cirium

British low-cost carrier easyJet is another dominant player in the UK domestic market. This is despite the airline completely pulling out of domestic flights in Germany. In June 2021, the airline accounted for 27.55% of the country’s scheduled domestic connections, with a predicted 34.45% of July flights to be operated by the airline, according to schedule data. Its rival, Ryanair, pulled out of the UK domestic market towards the start of the year.

British Airways, United Kingdom, Domestic Flights
Loganair claimed a big chunk of the market at the height of the pandemic. Data: Cirium

An honorable mention should be given to Flybe. Before its collapse in early 2020, the airline regularly accounted for over 30% of the UK domestic market. In November 2020, Blue Islands saw a surge in its market share to 10.58%. However, this quickly dissipated. Finally, Channel Islands-based Aurigny Air is ramping up its services. It held 8.18% of the market in May and hopes to keep its share at around 6% moving forwards.

Were you surprised by the UK’s most dominant airlines? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!

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