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on the fly: What are the largest airline hubs in Europe?

May 22, 2023

A look at the growth of European airline hubs or bases.

Analytics on the fly

on the fly: What are the largest airline hubs in Europe?


What is the largest airline hub in Europe in 2023? The answer is Turkey.

To get a clearer idea of just how big the Turkish Airlines Istanbul hub has become, let us take a look at its capacity compared to London Heathrow. Schedule data from Diio by Cirium show that Turkish has offered more than 35m seats to and from Istanbul during the 12 months through May of this year. For London Heathrow, now Europe’s second busiest airport, the number is less than 21m. That’s a huge gap.

The Turkish Airlines Istanbul hub is also larger today than it was pre-Covid. That’s unusual, with most large European airline hubs still yet to recover their pre-Covid size. Pegasus Airlines, which competes with Turkish, has also grown its Istanbul hub, but at the city’s secondary airport. Other hubs or “bases” that have grown since the Covid crisis include easyJet at London Gatwick, Ryanair at Dublin, Ryanair at Milan Bergamo, and Air Europa at Madrid. Remarkably, Aegean Airlines and Air France/KLM subsidiary Transavia have roughly doubled their capacity since the crisis, at Athens and Paris Orly, respectively.

That’s compared to four years ago. How has capacity at key European hubs performed in the last twelve months? Compared to last year, nearly all hubs have grown. Two exceptions are Aeroflot at Moscow Sheremetyevo, due to the Ukraine conflict, and Turkish Airlines at the secondary Istanbul airport.

One final point to highlight from the chart below. Notice how much smaller Lufthansa’s Frankfurt and Munich hubs are today than four years ago. Its sister airline Swiss is similarly much smaller at Zurich airport.

largest airline hubs in Europe

NEXT ON THE FLY: Which are Africa’s busiest airlines?

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