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Low-cost incoming flights make up 36% of scheduled seats worldwide

  • Mabrian analyzes the global expansion of low-cost air connectivity
  • The United States, India, Spain, China and Italy are the countries with the most incoming low-cost places by absolute volume scheduled for 2023

We have analyzed the global presence and distribution of low-cost airlines throughout 2023. To do this, we have analyzed the air schedule of 698 companies around the world, classifying them into two categories: regular and low-cost. As part of this, Mabrian has classified as low-cost those companies that offer reduced prices by not including certain services that regular airlines do such as luggage, food, and so on.

To achieve this we have analysed more than 2 billion incoming (i.e. not domestic) low-cost seats worldwide, distributed among 173 airlines, representing 36% of all scheduled international seats worldwide.

From this extensive analysis it can be concluded that the countries with the largest presence of incoming low-cost airlines by total volume are the United States with more than 395 million seats, India with 147 million, Spain with 108 million, China with 98 million and Italy with 85 million low cost seats. 

Meanwhile the low-cost airlines Southwest, Ryanair, Indigo, Easyjet and Spirit stand out in the ranking by volume of seats.

The results by regions

When breaking down the study by regions, in Europe, the countries that receive the most inbound low-cost flights, and therefore depend more on these low-cost airlines, are Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Belgium, Slovakia, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia. In all these countries, the share of low-cost flights exceeds 70%.

Meanwhile other highlights include:

  • Asia is a continent with a high predominance of low cost flights, with very dependent countries including India, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan with a low-cost percentage of more than 60% of all inbound flights.
  • In Africa, the countries that receive the most low-cost inbound flights are Liberia, Togo, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Gabon, with a percentage of low-cost seats higher than 52% and reaching 64.25%.
  • In the Pacific, the country that receives the most low-cost seats is Australia, with 46%, while in countries like New Zealand, Palau and Fiji, the percentage of low-cost airlines is very low.
  • In North America, Mexico stands out as the country with a percentage of low-cost seats, exceeding 60%. Meanwhile, the United States, despite being the country with the highest total volume of low-cost seats, registers a share of only 33.7% of these flights.
  • In the Caribbean and Central America, only Puerto Rico exceeds a level of 50% of low-cost seats. Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti are above 40%.
  • For its part, in South America, Brazil is the country with the greatest predominance of low-cost inbound connectivity with a 60% share. Chile, second in the ranking, has a share below 40%.

The expert analysis

The penetration of low-cost companies in destinations is part of the tourism structure and their tourism development model, but also of the mobility patterns of their inhabitants. Although the appearance of low-cost companies can be seen as the evolution of the offer of tour-operated vacation trips towards a less packaged service, nonetheless for the masses low-cost connectivity also fulfills an important function of increasing interconnectivity in regions where other methods of transportation are limited.

“In fact as well as vacation plans, other trips such as visiting family or friends and also business journeys generate a lot of demand for low-cost connectivity. It is risky to say that connectivity low-cost supposes a low-cost tourism model, although we always recommend that destinations have as much information as possible through data and have a balanced strategy in their negotiation policy with airlines, to avoid inefficiencies derived from excessive dependence”.

Carlos Cendra, Director of Marketing and Communication at Mabrian

The percentage of dependence on low-cost is closely related to three different attributes: first, the degree of support from regulatory authorities; second, the high percentage of domestic trips; and thirdly, the importance of leisure traffic and VFR (visiting friends and family for its acronym in English).

“The countries with the largest population (apart from China), India, Mexico and Brazil, all have low-cost penetration with more than 60% share. The reason is that the phenomenon of low cost has allowed carriers to compete with the bus and train networks.

“On the other hand, Europe is a great prodigy of a strong low-cost model related to holidays and getaways, as Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have really pushed the north-south axis (originally for northern Europeans to spend their vacations in southern Europe) and the work trips of east-west emigrants from Eastern Europe to Western European countries. The EU’s open skies policy allowed strong base development, as an airline with a European AOC (Air Operator’s Certificate) could establish operations and fly within and from any Member State. This advantage has allowed countries to really commit and support the low cost model with airport incentives and marketing agreements to boost routes.

Gavin Eccles from GE Consulting, a renowned international consultant specializing in aviation and tourism
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