2020 was a challenging year for commercial aviation. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic caused a huge drop in passenger demand, leading to heavy losses for airlines. However, for Spanish low-cost carrier Volotea, there were some reasons to be cheerful amid the doom and gloom. Among other factors, its average load factor last year was 90.7%!
A surprisingly positive 2020
In a press release published earlier this week, Volotea announced that it had recorded “satisfactory figures in an unprecedented year for aviation.” The third quarter of the year was a particularly strong period for the Spanish low-cost carrier. During this time, its activity compared to the previous year was down just 17%.
A switch in network strategy also meant that Volotea only needed to reduce its routes operated by 9%. Specifically, it focused largely on its domestic operations, which make up 86% of its network. As these are not bound by international travel restrictions, there will have been fewer obstacles in operating them as planned. In total, Volotea operated 293 routes in 2020.
This reworking culminated in the airline managing to carry 3.8 million passengers last year, with flights seeing an average load factor of 90.7%. This is a staggering figure when one considers the general downturn that the industry has suffered. These passengers were spread across 30,600 flights. This represented a 49% reduction compared to last year, although this is a better figure than the European average of a 56% reduction in flights operated.
In fact, some areas saw significant gains for Volotea this year. For example, its punctuality shot up by nearly 15 points, to 91.7% (defined by flights operating within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival and departure times).
A brief history of Volotea
Volotea is a relatively young airline in the grand scheme of things, having commenced operations in April 2012. Bloomberg reports that its name draws inspiration from the Spanish verb revolotear, which means “to fly around.” Having initially operated the Boeing 717, Volotea quickly planned to retire the type in favor of the Airbus A320 family over the coming years. According to CH-Aviation, it announced this publicly in November 2015.
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The airline’s first flight was an Italian domestic service between Venice and Palermo, according to anna.aero. The airline states that it now has bases “in 16 European mid-sized capitals,” and serves “90 cities across 14 countries.” This year will also see its first African routes, between France and Algeria, commencing operations.
Ongoing fleet modernization
Volotea recently completed the latest phase of its ongoing fleet modernization program. Until recently, it had been Europe’s last operator of the Boeing 717. According to Planespotters.net, it flew 19 of these jets, known for their rear-mounted engines, over the years. However, earlier this month, it operated its final 717 flight.
This left the airline with a fleet of 20 Airbus A319 aircraft, with an average age of 16.5 years. Of these, just six are reportedly in active service. The other 14 remain grounded as COVID-19 continues to impact the industry.
However, going forward, Volotea has plans to expand its fleet. According to the aforementioned press release, it hopes to operate between 36 and 39 aircraft this summer. This would represent nearly double its current fleet size. Planespotters.net reports that it already has three A319s and five A320s on order, reflecting its desire to remain an all-Airbus carrier.
What do you make of Volotea’s surprisingly high average load factor for 2020? Have you ever flown with the airline? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!