February 1, 2018 / 11:39 AM / 3 months ago

Rivals expand to fill gap left by Air Berlin collapse

BERLIN, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Lufthansa and low-cost rivals easyJet and Ryanair have moved swiftly to offer more seats on German flights, meaning capacity will by next month be restored to the levels seen before the collapse of Air Berlin.

The demise of Air Berlin, which served around 30 million passengers a year, meant the number of seats available on domestic German routes dropped by 1.2 million between October and December, equivalent to 21 percent of the market, according to data from the German aviation association BDL on Thursday.

The resulting lack of supply led to higher ticket prices and prompted the German cartel office to review complaints of rising fares.

“We see further capacity announcements... so that for the summer timetable, the gap will likely be overcompensated,” BDL head Matthias von Randow said in an online briefing.

For March 2018, almost 1.2 million more tickets are available than for December 2017.

That is driven by easyJet with an additional 490,000 seats, Lufthansa with 340,000, Lufthansa’s budget arm Eurowings with 333,000, and Ryanair with an additional 22,000 seats, the BDL said.

EasyJet has taken over Air Berlin’s operations at Berlin Tegel, while Lufthansa has acquired Air Berlin unit LGW and is growing its Eurowings business on its own account.

Eurowings said on Thursday it was planning to increase capacity on the route between Cologne/Bonn and Berlin and would start more long-haul routes from Duesseldorf, a former Air Berlin hub.

Eurowings currently has one long-haul jet based in Duesseldorf and will increase this to four from April. For winter it will base seven wide body jets there, including four which were previously based in Cologne/Bonn.

Overall, German air traffic measured in revenue passenger kilometres rose 3.1 percent in 2017, but would have grown around 5 percent had Air Berlin not collapsed, the BDL said.

That underperformed Europe as a whole. The International Air Transport Association said on Thursday that European traffic rose 8.2 percent last year thanks to strong economic activity in the region driving demand.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan

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