With low-cost carriers slumping, transatlantic growth slows

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Norwegian Air is scheduled to increase its transatlantic seats by 7% this summer compared with 91% growth last summer.
Norwegian Air is scheduled to increase its transatlantic seats by 7% this summer compared with 91% growth last summer.

Airline seat capacity between the U.S. and Europe is on track to grow at the slowest rate since 2013, according to an analysis by the Anker Report newsletter, which focuses on European commercial aviation.

According to an Anker Report review of data compiled by analytics company Cirium, airlines are slated to offer 3% more transatlantic seats this year than they did in 2018. That compares with growth rates of at least 5.2% since 2014. The U.S.-Europe growth rate spiked as high as 6.9% in 2016 and was 6.4% last year. 

The beginning of those high-growth years coincided with the onset of service by discount carrier Norwegian Air, which entered the U.S.-Europe market in 2013. 

The biggest factor in this year’s slowdown is the March demise of Icelandic discount carrier Wow Air, Anker Report author Ralph Anker wrote. Wow flew 13 U.S. routes last summer and was the 16th largest carrier in the market. The collapse of ultralow-cost carrier Primera Air, which flew six U.S.-Europe routes last summer, was another factor. 

Also having an impact is the slowdown in growth at Norwegian, which is scheduled to increase its transatlantic seats by 7% this summer compared with 91% growth last summer and 70% in summer 2017. 

The largest players in the market are network U.S. carriers Delta, United and American, which are scheduled for transatlantic growth of 5%, 6% and 6%, respectively, this summer. Delta flies the most U.S-Europe routes with 69, down from 71 last year. United and American are offering 62 and 58 U.S.-Europe routes, respectively, this year. 

Growing fastest in the U.S.-Europe market this summer is TAP Portugal with a 45% jump in total seats. TAP is increasing its route count from five to eight with the upcoming launch of flights from Lisbon to Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. 

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