Ryanair Holdings Plc strengthened its dominance of Europe’s discount-airline market in 2017 by adding more customers than any of its rivals, even as a scheduling foul-up contributed to its smallest gain in passenger numbers in three years.

The company filled 12 million more seats in 2017 than a year earlier, while second-ranked EasyJet Plc said Friday that it flew 7.2 million more passengers in the period.

No-frills airlines continued to gain market share across Europe last year, with the top four adding a combined 29 million passengers. Ryanair accounted for 40 percent of that total, despite a botched reworking of pilot leave that led to cancellations of thousands of flights and forced the company to accept unionization after crews gained bargaining power. The 10 percent advance in passenger numbers marked Ryanair’s weakest growth rate since 2014.

Budapest-based Wizz Air Holdings Plc, Eastern Europe’s biggest discounter, boasted the fastest surge in 2017 passenger numbers among the four main discounters, at 24 percent, while Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA posted a 13 percent gain, including long-haul services. Both carriers, though, remain less than half the size of EasyJet.

Network airlines Air France-KLM Group, IAG SA and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have established their own lower-cost operations to better compete for short-haul traffic and fend off an emerging challenge on inter-continental routes.

 

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Photo Credit: A Ryanair aircraft. Despite its recent problems, the airline is still doing better than its rivals. Bloomberg