Route planning is one of the aspects of the airline business that I am more passionate about.
In the competitive globalized World we live in it is not only airports but whole communities that are affected by route planning decisions. Network quality is vital not only to airports but it can also have a dramatic effect on the overall competitiveness of the region they serve.
Just think what was the typical centralized route network in every European country twenty years ago (I still keep some flag carrier's in-flight magazines from those days!), you would have one or (eventually) two hubs per country with flights to regional airports and a handful of other major capitals, most secondary airports had to live off charter flights and the regular links to the country's hub...but then came Ryanair, Easyjet and all the other LCCs and proved that many more combinations were possible, that if you had the right business model you could make thinner routes work too and the overall air travel cake got bigger.
But the route frenzy is not over, just as we see the low cost model consolidating in virtually every major air market (except Russia), I would expect another wave of route development driven by the long-haul this time: better aircraft economics (think Boeing 787) will unlock potential on many thin routes, the emerging mega-carriers like Emirates and Qatar Airways will continue to build up their presence in Europe, China and the US, increasingly covering second tier cities (something they already do in India) plus the long-haul low cost model that is already succeding in the Asia-Pacific region is coming to Europe soon.
There is a world of possibilities out there, but...how to make sense of all the different options?
Here is when "Route Exchange" comes into play...
I found the concept really innovative, "Route Exchange" is an online platform, managed by Routes Online, that airlines and airports can use to evaluate potential new routes. It is a tool that helps both sides (airlines and airports) identify market opportunities and facilitates the information flow between them.
There is also the possibility of proactively seeking new routes opportunities, this is for example what AirAsiaX did this summer, sending a Request for Proposals (RFP) for its upcoming European expansion. All European airports were invited to submit their RFPs to the innovative Malaysian airline...but this particular contest is going to be the topic of a separate upcoming post...