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SEAPLANE Activity 3: Airport Passenger Market Potential Analysis


The analysis and forecast of passenger demand is an important instrument for airports to demonstrate their market potential and prepare the creation of new connections. Airports need to convince airlines that there is a compelling commercial case which makes it worth accepting the commercial risk of inaugurating a route.

As part of the SEAPLANE project, detailed passenger market potential analyses have been carried out for 10 of the 21 SEAPLANE airports. The results of these analyses are summarised in Airport Action Plans that can now be used by the airports in their negotiations with airlines. In some cases, the routes proposed, if inaugurated, would result in significant improvements of regional accessibility (see figure 1 and table 1).

Accessibility improvements for regions included in SEAPLANE

Figure 1: The map gives an indication of accessibility improvements for regions included in SEAPLANE (comare table 1)
Inverness,Nairn (UK) +10,6%
Caithness (UK) +9,5%
Kronobergs Laen (SE) +8,7%
Kristianstad Laen (SE) +6,7%
Overig Groningen (NL) +5,6%
Delfzijl en Omgev (NL) +4,9%
Oost-Groningen (NL) +4,3%
Noord-Drenthe (NL) +4,3%
Joenkoepings Laen (SE) +4,0%
Rogaland (NO) +3,3%
Oostende (BE) +3,1%
Table 1: Percentage improvement in average accessibility for a range of regions included in SEAPLANE in case the routes identified would be inaugurated

Content of Airport Action Plans

The Airport Action Plans contain information on the following topics, supported by maps and diagrams:

  • socio-economic facts of the region
  • airport infrastructure & existing services
  • total catchment of the airport including socio-economic data
  • identification of new commercially viable routes
  • for each route, passenger demand by trip purpose, catchment, and route spider identifying transfer destinations
  • for each route proposed, a suggestion for adequate aircraft, schedule and carrier
  • effects on the region, e.g., changes of passenger demand, catchment, passenger mileage, fuel consumption, passenger time savings, or accessibility

How can the results be used? The Airport Action Plans based on the ex ante forecasts highlight routes with the best commercial potential. They provide a solidly researched basis for the airports to demonstrate their market potential and convince airlines to inaugurate (some of) the routes proposed.


The passenger market potential analyses are based on a formal, well established and certified econometric transport modelling method. Based on socio-demographic information and economic survey data, the total travel activity is modelled, including both business and leisure travel. The total number of trips thus generated is then distributed onto the total network of flight destinations, taking into account travel to the airport, the impact of competing airports with an overlapping catchment area, as well as surface transport modes competing with air transport.

A passenger market potential analysis involves two steps:

  1. The ex post forecast based on historic data shows what could have been achieved. A comparison with actual airport market data allows an in-depth validation of the model
  2. The ex ante forecast shows what can be achieved in the future for a certain time horizon. This allows the identification of actions that bring the highest overall benefit based on the most viable routes

An example of results: Ålesund Airport

Ålesund and the County of Møre & Romsdal are situated in the western part of Norway. A very scenic landscape and well developed infrastructure with roads, ferries, high-speed passenger ferries and airports characterize this region. A variation of medium-sized towns and villages is spread all over the county. There are 250.000 inhabitants, half of them living in Ålesund and the surrounding region of Sunnmøre.

Industry / economy: The county is the third largest exporting county in Norway with a turnover of some 90 billion NOK (2003). Export value is 17, 5 billion NOK. In total, there are about 14.000 entreprises, many of them small. Dominant branches representing 1/3 of total turnover are:

  • Marine sector (shipbuilding/yards, mechanical industry)
  • Fishing / fish farms / fish industry
  • Production of furniture

For Ålesund airport, a scheduled service to Copenhagen (see figure 2) and two charter destinations were identified. The total demand for Ålesund airport will be at 765 tsd. passengers in 2006, assuming that all suggested routes are inaugurated. This increase in passenger figures will be based on a recovery of the demand already seen in 2002. The impact of the new routes on trip generation would be limited, and effects on accessibility are moderate (a reduction of average travel time of about 15 min).

Route sheaf diagram for the proposed link Ålesund–Copenhagen

Figure 2: Route sheaf diagram for the proposed link Ålesund–Copenhagen. The diagram shows the distribution of transit passengers to onward connections.

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