Ryanair Holdings Plc will double operations in Berlin and add bases in Hamburg and Nuremberg as it seeks a fourfold expansion of its share of the German airline market at the expense of Air Berlin Plc and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.
Four additional aircraft will be stationed at Ryanair’s base at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport, bringing the total there to nine, and its passenger numbers in Hamburg will double as two planes are assigned to that city in November. Ryanair is sticking to plans to account for 20 percent of Germany’s aviation market in coming years compared with about 5 percent currently, Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday.
The carrier, Europe’s biggest discount airline, ranks third in passengers in Germany. It’s drawing customers from the two larger competitors as Lufthansa’s efforts to develop its Eurowings low-cost brand have sparked labor walkouts, while Air Berlin scales back its route network to stem losses.
“It’s the perfect time to expand in Germany,” with Air Berlin contracting and Lufthansa battling “several distractions,” Jacobs said. “We are committed to Germany.”
The German move puts Ryanair up more directly against second-ranked European competitor EasyJet Plc, which is adding capacity to destinations including Berlin and Stuttgart. EasyJet Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall is leading an expansion drive across the region amid attempts by both Lufthansa and Air France-KLM Group to quell union unrest.
Ryanair reduced capacity in Germany in 2011 in response to an aviation tax of 8 euros ($9) per passenger for flights within Europe, a fee that also prompted Air Berlin to limit growth. Jacobs said almost a year ago that Ryanair would triple the number of planes it operates in the country, Europe’s biggest economy.
To underpin its grab for market share, Ryanair is prepared to intensify fare cuts on services linking Berlin with Cologne as it weighs expanding with other inner-Germany routes, Jacobs said Wednesday. The popular Berlin-Cologne flights, which cost as little as 9.98 euros one way, are part of a bid to woo business and government travelers away from Lufthansa and Air Berlin.
“If the price war becomes more aggressive, we’re happy with that,” Jacobs said. “We have deeper pockets and more staying power.”
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