Airport planning and business strategy: a case study of Cardiff International Airport

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1 Airport planning and business strategy: a case study of Cardiff International Airport Mike Snelgrove UWIC, Cardiff School of Management Loughborough University Department of Civil & Building Engineering: Transport Studies Group Owned by Airport Concessions and Development Limited (90% Abertis Infraestructuras, 10% Aena Internacional) Also own Belfast International airport and have operational, management and development responsibility of Luton airport. It is the only airport in Wales offering international scheduled flights Is served primarily by low-cost (40%), and charter carriers (44%), with some full-service scheduled services 1

2 Catchment: Core catchment - 2,279,000 (Mid and South Wales; 30 minute drive time) Outer Catchment 2,266,800 (South West England. Avon, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Hereford and Worcester are within 90 minutes drive of the airport) (CAA, 2006; Cardiff Airport, 2006) An improving propensity to fly propensity to fly is most significantly related to household income (with higher income households taking more flights), household composition (with singles and childless couples taking more flights than families), and ownership of property abroad (CAA, 2008). Source: CAA UK Airport Statistics

3 The Problem Declining passenger numbers short-term? Surface Leakage Cardiff are only attracting 47% of the passengers from its core catchment London airports 33% Bristol airport 12% 8% chose to fly from Birmingham International and other regional airports (Cardiff Airport, 2006). Why are passengers favouring other airports? Routes not available from Cardiff The dominance of Bristol Airport the Gravity Well effect Some background 3

4 What do airports do? Aeronautical Services Non-Aeronautical Services (Graham, 2004; Jiang, 2006) Airports sell aeronautical services to airlines who sell their product on to passengers under pressure Downward pressure on aeronautical revenues landing fees, load factors particularly for LCCs and non-aeronautical revenues as core catchment is put under pressure (Jarach, 2005) e.g. Cardiff and Bristol 4

5 How do passengers choose between airports? Emphasis on time Emphasis on cost 5

6 Little or no control over More control over 6

7 Airports have traditionally relied on to create product & to stimulate demand & market routes They tended to be passive recipients of this activity So how do airlines (specifically LCCs) choose where to locate their services? Ranking of Airport Choice Factors for the full sample of LCCs (Warnock-Smith & Potter, 2005) Rank 1 Factor High demand for LCC services (propensity to Fly) 2 Quick and efficient turnaround facilities 2 Convenient slot times 4 Good aeronautical discounts 5 Positive forecasts for business and tourism 5 Cost conscious airport management 7 High airport competition Let s not forget LCCs are interested in point-to-point services, not coherent networks. They therefore have a much greater choice of airports. This adds to the competitive pressures between airports seeking to attract LCCx 7

8 Is Bristol a more attractive proposition than Cardiff? Let s look at the no. 1 choice factor Mean household income for leisure passengers was 43,204 at Cardiff and 44,446 at Bristol Airport. Personal income for business passengers was 54,300 and 55,210 respectively (CAA, 2008). So, this doesn t seem to be the reason Is Bristol a more attractive proposition than Cardiff? So, is it to do with socio-economic grouping? A bias towards the important C1 group is evident at Bristol while at Cardiff, although the top two groups dominate, the proportion of C2 and D/E passengers is greater. So perhaps, but not clear cut 8

9 Does it come down to size? Probably The City of Bristol has a population of 433,000, with a larger urban zone of 1,006,600. Other major centres of population such as Swindon, Exeter are within 90 mins travel time Not forgetting the cities of Cardiff and Newport and the wider South/Mid Wales population all within c90mins of the Bristol airport overlapping catchments Has this attractiveness attracted airlines, routes, and capacity? 5,600,000 passengers Zero leakage 19 airlines including EasyJet and Ryanair both of which significantly distort catchment areas (Cardiff 16 incl BMIBaby) >130 routes (Cardiff c60 routes) 9

10 So, does this explain the leakage? Well YES Let s go back to the airport choice factors Easy to get to (the magic 3m!) Choice of routes Prices Frequency the S curve. Market Power = Size and Propensity to Fly of the local catchment area (Warnock-Smith & Potter, 2005) + the opportunity for substitution between airports (Graham, 2004), both of which are satisfied Market Power is very IMPORTANT The magnitude of market power that an airport has is largely determined by the proximity of other airports offering a similar value proposition to catchments with similar characteristics the more catchment areas overlap and less differentiated the product, the greater the competition. It is also the case that where the product and value proposition are essentially undifferentiated, the dominant player is highly likely to remain dominant in spite of the actions of the other competing player. 10

11 Does this mean that Cardiff are fighting a competitive battle that they just can t win? Is this leakage un-stemmable? Probably, YES, unless they change the value proposition create a point of differentiation give customers another reason to go to the airport It s all to do with developing a sustainable competitive strategy 11

12 For example Extend the core product? (Additional features and benefits beyond the core product) Differentiation price image support, service quality design product characteristics It s a BIG question Any ideas? References Graham, A., Airport Strategies to Gain Competitive Advantage. In Airport Competition and Benchmarking of Airports. Bremen. Available at: hmarking/ graham.pdf [Accessed December 3, 2010]. Jarach, D., Airport Marketing: Strategies to Cope with the New Millennium Environment illustrated edition., Avebury Aviation. Jiang, H. (2006) Internet Technology and Airport Economic Performance (online) URL: (accessed 2010, December 3). Warnock-Smith, D. & Potter, A., An exploratory study into airport choice factors for European low-cost airlines. Journal of Air Transport Management, 11(6),

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