A look at where some of the continent’s major carriers call home.
With commercial air travel on the up, we recently looked at what are currently the busiest airline hubs in the US, based on data made available by Cirium. Figures for the European market also largely paint a picture of recovery, although, as it happens, many of the continent’s major hubs are still some way off 2019 levels.
1 Turkish Airlines – Istanbul
Measured by scheduled seats in the 12-month period ending in May 2023, Cirium’s data shows that Turkish Airlines’ base at Istanbul Airport (IST) is currently Europe’s busiest airline hub. The carrier had some 35.2 million seats available in the last 12 months, which represented a 29% increase compared to a year before.
This figure also exceeds Turkish Airlines’ figure for the 12-month period ending in May 2019 by 5%, in a rare example of beating pre-pandemic capacity. Of course, it is worth noting that Turkish Airlines only moved into the new Istanbul Airport in late 2018, meaning that, for that period, it won’t have had a full year of operations.
2 British Airways – London Heathrow
UK flag carrier British Airways sits in second place, with just under 21 million seats available from its London Heathrow Airport (LHR) hub in the last 12 months. The oneworld founding member has an enormous presence at the UK’s largest and busiest airport, with its scheduled operations split between Terminals 3 and 5.
Photo: EQRoy | Shutterstock
BA saw the biggest year-on-year growth out of the top five, with its figure for the last 12 months being some 56% higher than the 12-month period ending in 2022. That being said, it is still down on 2019’s levels by a margin of 12%.
3 Lufthansa – Frankfurt
Sitting in third place, and running BA’s Heathrow operations very close, is Lufthansa’s main base at Frankfurt Airport (FRA). The German flag carrier and Star Alliance founding member offered 20.8 million seats from here in the last year.
Photo: Leif Eirik Skaue/Shutterstock
While this wasn’t as large an increase as Turkish Airlines or British Airways, the 26% growth figure still represents a promising trajectory for the airline. Compared to the 12-month period ending in May 2019, it was down by 27%.
4 Air France – Paris CDG
The third airline to place in the 20-21 million seat window, and fourth overall in terms of European hubs, is Air France. Indeed, the French flag carrier and SkyTeam had just under 20.5 million scheduled seats out of its Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) hub in the 12-month period ending in May 2023. This represented a 28% increase compared to last year, although it was 5% below 2019 levels.
5 KLM – Amsterdam Schiphol
Rounding out the top five, we have Air France’s Skyteam partner KLM, which scheduled just under 17.4 million seats out of its Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) hub in the last year. This marks a 14% year-on-year increase, and is only 13% lower than in 2019, despite the impacts of the airport’s congestion-busting capacity caps.