All-Airbus Carrier Volotea Reveals Where Its A320s Will Fly

Volotea’s first A320s will enter service in April, with the carrier to use them on 62 routes this summer. The move to A320s makes huge sense economically, with lower costs and more revenue opportunities. Its A320s will initially be used to, from, and within Italy – which is no coincidence. That is where it sees most competition.

Volotea aircraft
Volotea will begin using the A320 from April, although the A319 (as pictured here) will remain its backbone in the short-term. Photo: Volotea.

The first two A320s for Volotea have been delivered and are being prepared to enter revenue service from April. Now, we know the routes on which they’ll fly too.

Like Allegiant in the US, Volotea uses older, second-hand aircraft that are less expensive to acquire and require less intensive use each day, or as much year-round, as newer aircraft. They fit very well with Volotea’s very summer-seasonal operation, although its seasonality is reducing year-by-year as it grows.

One A320, EC-NNY, is a 12-year-old aircraft previously used by Aeroflot, while EC-NNZ is a 15-year-old example delivered to Virgin America in 2006 and then used by Alaska Airlines.

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Not a fleeting change

Volotea launched in 2012 using Boeing 717s. By 2019, it had nearly four million seats, data from OAG reveals. Higher-capacity A319s joined its fleet in 2016, with these playing an increasingly important role in developing the LCC. Its 717s were retired in January 2021 to focus on an all-Airbus fleet. This now includes the A320.

Basic airline economics means that the larger the aircraft, the higher the trip cost (the cost to fly from A to B). However, this is countered by a lower seat and unit cost. This is key for reducing fares.

Volotea’s A319s have one-quarter more seats – 21 extra per trip – than its B717s did, yet fuel burn is lower, providing important cost savings. Its A319s obviously have a higher trip cost, but this is spread over the additional seats, so they have a meaningfully lower unit cost. And they can carry far more passengers too, so more revenue from fares and ancillaries. It’s an economic win-win.

Volotea's development
Volotea’s newly delivered A320s will begin operating this April. Note: A320 schedules aren’t yet available past October. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Why the A320?

Volotea’s A320s are the next stage in the carrier’s upgauging. More capacity (24 extra seats per trip), lower seat and unit cost, and more revenue per trip and in total. Volotea’s seat load factors (SLF) are also extremely high. In 2019, it had just over eight million seats and 7.6 million passengers, meaning a 94% SLF.

And as Volotea inevitably faces more and more direct competition, the need to be increasingly cost-competitive is clear. It’s no surprise that its first A320s will first be deployed within Italy, the battleground for LCCs and ultra-low-cost-carriers (ULCCs) alike.

It’s highly likely that Volotea’s A319s will be gradually phased out in favor of larger-capacity A320s and that A320s will be its only aircraft in the future. After all, they provide a better balance between trip and seat cost for LCCs, which is why the 180-to-200-seat range is so popular with them.

Volotea A319
The A319, as shown here, are very likely to be replaced by A320s. Photo: Alexandre66000 via Wikimedia.

Volotea’s A320s to operate from April

Despite coronavirus, Volotea has a record year planned, with over 10 million seats expected so far (see the figure above). This is up by two million and almost one-quarter (24%) over 2019. And the year isn’t finished yet, as schedules for its A320s are currently only available until the end of the summer season in October. So expect more.

At the time of writing, Volotea will initially use its 180-seat A320s from April 1st (no joke), OAG shows. It’ll use them on two core routes: both Catania and Naples to Venice. Three additional routes – Catania-Pescara, Catania-Turin, and Palermo-Venice – are also due to see the aircraft on a one-off basis in this month.

Volotea's A320 routes this year
Volotea is currently scheduled to use A320s on 62 routes this year. Image: GCMap

A320 routes this year

If April-October is considered, Volotea is expected to use its A320s on 62 routes. Italy is due to have 98% (!) of all of the A320 seats because of the number of routes to, from, and within the country, and many routes being larger. Other countries will see a rollout from next year.

Venice will see over eight in ten A320 seats, with routes to Catania, Olbia, Naples, Santorini, Mykonos, Brindisi, Bari, Zakinthos, Palma, and Preveza top. Note the slot-constrained airports, with slots often a big problem at Greek airports in summer.