Concluding remarks

This last part of the research-section will first give answers on central research questions. Secondly suggestions will be made for further research.

Research questions

Purpose of this research is to analyse “how the spatial network of low-cost carriers developed itself in Europe from 1990 till 2005, and how the network could develop itself in the near future”. To answer this question minor questions have been formulated.

When is a carrier a low-cost carrier?

With only a few exceptions professional literature speaks of only one kind of low-cost carrier. This appears to be over-simplified. In principle an airline company is a low-cost carrier if they operate according to the low-cost model. When operating according the low-cost model costs savings can be made on different areas. These savings result partly in cheaper tickets for passengers. Because in reality airline companies only operate according some of the characteristics of the low-cost model, there is no clear distinction between low-cost carriers and other carriers. Based on the characteristics of the model an airline company could be for example partly a low-cost carrier and partly a charter carrier. To get a better understanding of these differences between low-cost carriers four different low-cost carrier types have been formulated, based on their original situation in the past. The four types are the LCC charter type, LCC full-service type, LCC original type, and LCC regional type. To determine which carrier is a low-cost carrier one needs to look at the core of the low-cost carrier: offering cheap tickets.

What are spatial characteristics of the low-cost carrier network?

Based on graph theory the spatial low-cost carrier network can be divided into ‘links’, the flight routes, and ‘nodes’, the airports. Because the airports determine for an important part the final network layout, they will be divided into ‘site’ characteristics, related to the airport itself, and ‘situation’ characteristics, the context of the airport. In combination with characteristics filtered out of the researched literature, the final research characteristics can be formulated and operationalized. Table 26 summarizes these characteristics.

What research methods are suitable to analyze the spatial characteristics related to the research question?

After identifying different relevant characteristics they need to be operationalized. This also includes the use of geographic information systems (GIS). In this research GIS has especially been used in visualizing and analyzing different networks, analyzing directionality of a network, and analyzing the airport context related to gross domestic product, tourism, and population density.

How did the low-cost carrier network developed from 1990 in Europe?

To answer this question the recent situation has been analyzed, in which the relation between the different characteristics and the four low-cost carrier types was investigated. Selected characteristics have been analyzed during the whole research period.

Table 23, Overview 'links' characteristics
Links LCC charter   LCC full-service   LCC original   LCC regional  
Distance ++ +- +- --
Density ++ +- +- --
Frequency -- +- +- ++
Connectivity ++ - + --
Concentration - ++ + --
Network development ++ +- + +
Geographical direction B-C A-A (B-C, D-D) A-A (A-C) C-C (A-A, B-B)
Turn-around time -- +- +- ++
Density - +- + +
Connectivity ++ +- +- --
Hierarchy p:6 s:27 t:67 p:18 s:32 t:50 p:7 s:25 t:68 p:14 s:29 t:57
Potential market:        
  Population density + ++ +- --
  Gross domestic product + - + -
  Tourism ++ - + --

Table 25 gives an overview of the results per LCC type. The LCC charter type operates aircraft with a large capacity and on long distances with a low flight frequency. The dominant direction of the network is B – C (West Europe, Mediterranean). The network has a high connectivity and has little primary airports. It flies on areas with a relatively high gross domestic product (GDP) and high number of tourists. Although the LCC full-service and LCC original type look similar, the LCC full-service type has a lower connectivity and flies on more primary airports. Both are strongly represented with flights within Great-Britain. The LCC regional type distinguishes itself because it operates on short distances with smaller aircrafts and a high frequency. Flights take place within the regions. The LCC regional type flies on more primary airports and the regions have a relatively low population density, GDP, and number of tourists per seat.

Although the emphasis of the analysed characteristics lays on the last years, the hypothetical network development during the whole period is explained by using four cases. The whole network development can be seen per carrier in the LCC network development section on this site.

How will the network look in the near future?

This is an interesting question and one of the reasons for this investigation, but is hard to answer based on the results of this research. When the development of the trends during 1990-2005 of the selected researched characteristics there can be found no evidence the expected development mentioned in the introduction, stating only a couple low-cost carriers will survive in 2010. To determine how the low-cost carrier network will look in the future more knowledge is needed on political and policy factors related to the ‘links’, ‘sites’, and ‘situations’, or the airline companies, airports, and related governments and organizations. The low-cost carrier analysis and presentations in this research can be a first step for further research into this subject.

Further investigation

During this research some interesting subjects needed to be left out because of the limited scope of this research, but which still are interesting for further investigation.

A first point which has been left out in this research because of lacking tools to obtain the right data is the land-side accessibility and market area around airports. By using highway and railway data in a GIS more understanding can be gained on the land-side accessibility of airports. When this data is coupled to a travel time matrix the potential market area around airports can be analyzed.

A second point for further investigation is to get a better understanding into the politics and policies involved in the low-cost carrier organizations. This could answer the question to what extend current politics or policies influence the development of airports and airline companies. This requires more investigation into the ‘situation’ characteristics on different spatial levels.

At the core of the low-cost carrier model lays the cost reductions which partly result in cheaper flight tickets. Because most information on ticket prizes is advertised and available on the internet, it is possible to continuously monitor the price development of low-cost carriers. This way a better understanding can be obtained on price behaviour of the low-cost carriers and for example be investigated how prizes of different airline companies might influence each other.