Sleeping Giants: untapped aviation markets with the potential of a reawakening

Sleeping Giants: untapped aviation markets with the potential of a reawakening

The recovery in air travel demand continues to be strong and resilient in 2023, notwithstanding the resurgent economic headwinds, manifold current challenges such as high inflation rates or tight labor markets, and, along with this, high levels of uncertainty when looking ahead.

The rebound of global air passenger traffic is underpinned by the latest published recovery rates, measured in revenue passenger-kilometers (RPKs), which rebounded “to 85.9% of pre-pandemic levels [in the first quarter of 2023 vs Q1 2019], signaling a significant improvement from the previous year”.

While this is certainly encouraging news, we wanted to identify if there were still any “sleeping giants”: aviation markets that have not been considered yet by airlines to be put back into operation even though they have already been proven to generate PAX demand pre-COVID in 2019.

Using origin-destination demand data from our BEONTRA Route Forecasting solution, we created the following table summarizing the top 10 untapped aviation markets ranked by their PAX volume in the latest 12 months (April 2022 to March 2023). For this list of sleeping giants we only considered markets which are currently unserved but had at least one direct service in 2019.

In the following, we will take a closer look at three of the 10 outlined markets to better understand their respective market conditions, competitive situation and whether there are specific reasons for this delayed recovery; also, what the latest market trends are, e.g., in terms of any upcoming, already announced relaunches later in the year.

Sacramento (SMF) – Orlando (MCO)

The route Sacramento (SMF) – Orlando (MCO) leads the ranking with 115,000 passengers (bi-directional) in the latest 12 months and a current recovery rate of 72% compared to 2019.

This route was exclusively operated by Southwest Airlines with one daily non-stop service back in 2019. Currently, there is no carrier in sight planning to resume this service. Passengers currently travelling between these airports require at least one stop, for example in Denver (DEN) or Austin (AUS) when flying with Southwest or in Salt Lake City (SLF) when using Delta Air Lines.

When taking a closer look at the catchment area of Sacramento we see that United Airlines is offering double-daily and Alaska Airlines daily non-stop services to Orlando from San Francisco (SFO), which is 137 km away from Sacramento. The capacity on the SFO-MCO route is close to what the two airlines have offered pre-COVID in 2019.

Lahore (LHE) – Manchester (MAN)

The route Lahore (LHE) – Manchester (MAN) comes second with 104,000 passengers (bi-directional) in the latest 12 months, reflecting a sharp rebound with a current recovery rate of 104%, already exceeding pre-COVID levels. Due to the lack of a direct service, passengers currently need to travel with a stopover. Most travelers fly via the Middle East by the known ME3 carriers – Qatar Airways (via DOH), Emirates (via DXB), Etihad (via AUH) – as well as Saudia (via JED) and Turkish Airlines (via IST). 

In 2019, this route was exclusively operated by Pakistan International Airlines twice per week, but the service has not been resumed so far.

Sao Paolo (GRU) – Los Angeles (LAX)

Unlike the outlined routes above, the route Sao Paolo (GRU) – Los Angeles (LAX), which has had 96,000 passengers lately, will be resumed by LATAM Airlines in August 2023 with three weekly frequencies initially. It will also be one of the first routes of their Joint Venture with Delta.

This route was operated non-stop by American Airlines pre-COVID with almost the same monthly capacity of ~10,000 seats that will be offered by LATAM from August onwards, operating a Boeing 777-300.

The number of airlines offering connecting services between Sao Paolo – Los Angeles via another hub has steadily increased after the pandemic. LATAM’s new direct services will have to compete with several indirect flight options, for example, offered by United Airlines via Houston (IAH) or Chicago (ORD) and American Airlines via Miami (MIA) or Dallas (DFW).

It will be interesting to follow the ongoing recovery in air travel demand and observe which of the ‘sleeping giants’ we outlined in the above will be revived in the coming months apart from the Sao Paolo (GRU) – Los Angeles (LAX) route.

Riyadh Air takes the plunge into the Middle Eastern aviation shark tank

Riyadh Air takes the plunge into the Middle Eastern aviation shark tank

Since the announcement of Riyadh Air on 12 March 2023, the new airline is a hot topic within the travel and aviation industry. The airline will be operating from Riyadh Airport as its hub and aims to serve over 100 destinations around the world by 2030. This announcement prompted us to have a closer look at the already competitive situation in the Middle East and to draw up a comparison between some of the big players in the region. 

The map at the top visualizes the destinations of the flight schedule for June 2023 and highlights destinations served exclusively by one carrier. This makes it easier to identify the strategies the individual airlines pursue. 

When studying the map it becomes obvious that Etihad and Saudia seem to be positioned more in the conservative camp, serving the major hubs and regionally dominant airports. With Nagoya (NGO), Etihad claim exclusivity to only one destination. This statement also applies to Saudi Airlines, which have only one exclusive international destination in their portfolio, Lucknow (LKO) in India. This aside, Saudi Airlines focus on their domestic market, and partly on the markets in the neighboring countries (i.e., Sharm el-Sheikh (SSH) in Egypt). 

Considering the markets exclusively served by Qatar Airways, the network shows a strong focus on destinations in Southeast Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus, India and Africa. Secondary airports, such as Sarajevo Airport (SJJ)Belgrade Airport (BEG) or Sofia Airport (SOF) are also served, which strongly contributes to that regional densification. These are markets to which Emirates apparently do not claim any market share (which, however, could also be at least partly due to Emirate’s fleet comprising widebodies only). The markets that Emirates serve exclusively are exactly outside the “Qatar Airways corridor”. Not surprisingly, Emirates focus on the bigger airports in the respective countries and regions (i.e., Mexico City (MEX) in Central America, Buenos Aires (EZE) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) in South America). 

With four major airlines, the Middle East including Saudi Arabia is already perfectly connected to the world. Not only are the major hubs served, but also niche markets. Riyadh Air’s mission is to “provide tourists from around the world the opportunity to visit Saudia Arabia’s cultural and natural attractions” – we are curious to see which strategy will be adopted to achieve this goal.

Europe’s Next Candidates for PLAY Airlines?

Europe’s Next Candidates for PLAY Airlines?

The unique location of its hub Keflavik Airport enables the Icelandic startup PLAY Airlines to connect Europe and North America with its A320 neo fleet. The recent announcements of many new PLAY routes have inspired us to take a closer look at PLAY’s hub schedule – we wanted to discover which European airports are in a geographical position to allow for transatlantic connectivity via Keflavik.

We therefore analysed the bank structure at PLAY’s hub in Keflavik. PLAY Airlines serves New York’s Stewart International Airport and four additional markets on the east coast of North America on a daily basis. During summer, transatlantic flights arrive at KEF between 04.20 AM and 5.00 AM and depart between 02.50 PM and 3.30 PM. The below illustration shows how the time window for a flight rotation between KEF and other European airports has been determined, considering a minimum connecting time of 45 minutes.


In order to connect from and to North America, a rotation must not leave KEF before 05.45 AM and must arrive back no later than 02.05 PM. This time window of eight hours and 20 minutes allows PLAY to reach European airports in a range of approximately 2,500 kilometers, which is the area we have marked in the map as the “high potential zone” (please refer to header image).

Airports in the high potential zone have the advantage that PLAY can establish a rotation between these airports and KEF on the same day. For example, KEF – BER (2,400 km) is currently the longest already served route in the high potential zone. As we can see from the below illustration, the flight schedule gives passengers the opportunity to connect from and to North America both ways.

Nonetheless, PLAY also serves routes outside the high potential zone. For example, KEF – PRG (2,700 km) is also served with a rotation on the same day. However, this rotation does not provide connectivity to the transatlantic destinations, unless travelers combine the trip with a stay in Iceland.

There are even significantly longer PLAY routes, such as KEF – ATH. However, due to the stage length of 4,200 kilometres, the plane arriving in Athens in the afternoon does not head back to KEF before the next day. This flight schedule has the advantage that it again provides transatlantic connectivity. On the other hand, the long ground time at ATH decreases aircraft utilization compared to shorter routes.

Those examples illustrate that airports in a 2,500 km radius from KEF have the highest potential to benefit from PLAY’s North American network.

Of course, geographic location alone does not make for a successful route launch. Airports using BEONTRA’s Route Forecasting solution can assess market size, yield, connectivity and more to determine the potential of a new route and to build an airline business case.

Find out more at

Leidos Subsidiary BEONTRA and RDC Aviation Announce Air Fare Data Integration

Leidos Subsidiary BEONTRA and RDC Aviation Announce Air Fare Data Integration

(Karlsruhe, Germany) February 28, 2023 – BEONTRA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, a FORTUNE 500® science and technology leader, and RDC Aviation, today announced a new collaboration to integrate RDC’s air fare data into BEONTRA’s Route Forecasting solution.

“We are excited to collaborate with RDC Aviation,” said Martijn Verhees, Managing Director for BEONTRA. “The integration of RDC’s air fare data enables us to provide consistent pricing information for our customers to help them gain aviation market insights and build solid airline business cases.”

BEONTRA’s Route Forecasting solution provides airport customers with access to traffic data, MIDT-based fares, flight schedules and more to explain market trends and simplify the route forecasting process. RDC supports BEONTRA with low-cost carrier air fares, which BEONTRA blends with further market data. As a result, BEONTRA customers can gain detailed insights into airlines’ route performance as well as the yield structure of origin-destination markets.

“We are delighted that BEONTRA has chosen to integrate our air fares data into its Route Forecasting solution,” said Peter Hind, CEO at RDC Aviation. “This collaboration will allow BEONTRA’s customers to benefit from RDC’s extensive expertise in air fare pricing data.”

For more information about the Route Forecasting solution, or the other solutions available on BEONTRA’s Horizons platform, visit


Since 2004, BEONTRA has been developing industry-standard integrated scenario planning and forecasting solutions for the aviation industry. With a flexible architecture, machine learning algorithms, and data intelligence, BEONTRA’s Horizons software platform provides answers to complex planning and forecasting questions. Based in Karlsruhe, Germany, BEONTRA has a global customer base. For more information, visit

About Leidos

Leidos is a Fortune 500® technology, engineering, and science solutions and services leader working to solve the world’s toughest challenges in the defense, intelligence, civil, and health markets. The company’s 45,000 employees support vital missions for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Leidos reported annual revenues of approximately $14.4 billion for the fiscal year ended December 30, 2022. For more information, visit

About RDC Aviation

RDC Aviation provides technology and data services to the air transport industry. The company has a comprehensive set of proprietary datasets which are used to present a unique suite of analytical services via a technology driven approach that includes on-line products, a data distribution platform, APIs and custom datasets. For more information, visit

Certain statements in this announcement constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the rules and regulations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These statements are based on management’s current beliefs and expectations and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. These statements are not guarantees of future results or occurrences. A number of factors could cause our actual results, performance, achievements, or industry results to be different from the results, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, the “Risk Factors” set forth in Leidos’ Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 30, 2022, and other such filings that Leidos makes with the SEC from time to time. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. Leidos does not undertake to update forward-looking statements to reflect the impact of circumstances or events that arise after the date the forward-looking statements were made.


Melissa Dueñas
(571) 526-6850

Thomas Donheny
(571) 474-4735

Victor Melara
(703) 431-4612

Join us for the 25th BEONTRA Summit – Virtual Edition

Join us for the 25th BEONTRA Summit – Virtual Edition

We are happy to announce the 25th BEONTRA Summit! The BEONTRA Summit is an airport community meeting for planning experts and executives and, just like last year, will be held as a virtual event that runs in two individual sessions on October 27 and 28, 2021please save the date and join our event!

To view the agenda and register please click here.

We look forward to virtually meeting you in a few weeks’ time!