Competition intensifies between Lufthansa and airberlin; airlines now going head-to-head on 17 routes from Dűsseldorf

As Germany’s two biggest carrier, Lufthansa and airberlin (this year celebrating its 30th anniversary), continue to acquire other airlines and additional partners their tendency to avoid direct competition on international routes is gradually weakening. Having acquired dba (once upon a time known as Deutsche BA) airberlin suddenly found itself competing head-to-head with Lufthansa on many of Germany’s most popular domestic routes. Lufthansa still offers twice as many seats in the German domestic market as airberlin but between them they account for 83% of scheduled seat capacity. Lufthansa’s own LCC Germanwings has another 9% which means that all other carriers have just 8% of the market.

Chart: Domestic competition
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 May 2009

airberlin competes with Lufthansa on 10 of Germany’s top 12 domestic routes leaving its rival with a monopoly on just two routes; Frankfurt – Hamburg and Frankfurt – Munich. Other domestic routes on which the two compete are Munich – Hannover, Dűsseldorf – Nuremberg, Dűsseldorf – Dresden, Dűsseldorf – Stuttgart, Frankfurt – Nuremberg, Berlin Tegel – Nuremberg, Hamburg – Nuremberg and Munich – Műnster/Osnabruck.

On the Cologne/Bonn to Berlin Tegel route the two carriers face additional direct competition from TUIfly.com plus indirect competition from Germanwings which flies to Berlin’s Schönefeld airport. A comparison of fares on this route was done by anna.aero in 2007. This clearly demonstrates that airberlin is not a true low-fares airline when compared with the likes of Germanwings and TUIfly.

Image: airberlin 30th celebration
April 28, Estrel Hotel , Berlin: Some ordinary Germans celebrating the 30th year of airberlin – Joachim Hunold CEO, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Johannes Zurnieden, Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

International competition limited, so far …

However, competition on international routes has so far been limited. Analysis of the number of destination served by each airline from their busiest German airports shows that while Lufthansa remains dominant at Frankfurt, airberlin operates at least 25 routes from each of the next four busiest German airports.

Chart: Lufthansa vs airberlin in Germany
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 May 2009
Image: Lufthansa and airberlin at Dusseldorf
Competition between the two airlines is greatest at Dűsseldorf with head-on competition on six domestic and 11 international routes. Both airlines recently started flights to St Petersburg and Venice within days of each other.

At many of the smaller German airports airberlin, thanks primarily to its network of low-frequency routes to Mediterranean destinations, offers customers more choice than Lufthansa, especially from its hub at Nuremberg.

Competition between the two airlines is greatest at Dűsseldorf where the two airlines now compete head-to-head on six domestic routes (Berlin Tegel, Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart) and 11 international destinations Barcelona, Miami, Milan Malpensa, Moscow Domodedovo, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Rome Fiumicino, St Petersburg, Venice, Vienna and Zurich. Both airlines recently started flights to St Petersburg and Venice within days of each other. The long-term future of airberlin’s long-haul division, LTU, is still somewhat uncertain but at Dűsseldorf the airline plays a key role in operating regular scheduled flights to Florida, Los Angeles, New York and Thailand, as well as weekly scheduled flights to destinations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives and Mexico.

At Hamburg the two carriers compete head-to-head on four domestic routes, but also on routes to Vienna and Zurich (where Austrian and Swiss are also in the mix). From Munich the two airlines compete on international routes to Moscow Domodedovo, and to a lesser extent on Palma de Mallorca where airberlin has 18 weekly departures to Lufthansa’s two.

Of airberlin’s 11 routes at Frankfurt only three are operated at least daily; Alicante, Palma and Berlin Tegel. The rest are low-frequency services to the likes of Fuerteventura, Ibiza and Thessaloniki.


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