Cheap Cologne: Across Germany, Ryanair and other LCCs are growing, and Lufthansa is fighting back

Ryanair and other LCCs are growingAs it prepares for next summer’s peak season, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier has opportunities—opportunities as far as the eye can see. With fuel prices down, profits surging, economies recovering, new planes coming and even corporate travelers now flocking its way, Ryanair is expanding throughout the continent, its capacity up sharply in cities as diverse as Rome, Brussels and Bucharest. But where is it growing most?

The answer: Germany.

In next year’s April-to-June quarter, corresponding with the start of the peak spring and summer season, Ryanair’s seat counts in Germany will rise by no less than a third, according to an Airline Weekly analysis of Diio Mi schedule data, highlighting an escalation of low-fare airline battles in Europe’s second largest airline market (the U.K. is No. 1). Ryanair, in fact, will add more new seats from Germany than from any other country next spring, driven by new bases at Berlin Schönefeld and Cologne/Bonn, both opening later this month.

Right behind it, meanwhile, is its fellow ultra-LCC Wizz Air, itself growing seat capacity from Germany by 24% next spring. Wizz Air is also adding routes from Cologne. But more interestingly, it has big plans at airports where Ryanair is actually shrinking, including Memmingen, Nuremberg, Karlsruhe and Hahn, which is west of Frankfurt and south of Cologne.

Ryanair and Wizz Air are not entirely representative of the wider trend among non-German LCCs. easyJet is currently shrinking a bit in Germany, while Norwegian and Vueling are downsizing to an even greater degree, albeit from a smaller base—at least according to currently published schedules for next summer, which could yet change. It’s safe to conclude though that Ryanair, already Germany’s busiest low-fare airline based outside Germany, will widen its lead. And importantly, easyJet will still be about a tenth bigger in Germany next spring than it was two years earlier, before it opened a new base in Hamburg to go along with one at Berlin Schönefeld. Vueling, for its part, barely served the German market before 2013 and today flies to 11 German airports. In other words, the long-term growth trend in Germany for all major European non-German LCCs is unmistakable.

What, though, of low-fare airlines based in Germany? Air Berlin is hardly a marginal player in Europe’s overall aviation arena, still operating more flights with more…

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