Cologne/Bonn: Germanwings’ low frequency summer routes widen peak/off-peak gap

Image: Customers boarding Koln Bonn Airlines
Germanwings loves CGN so much it even branded one of its aircraft in the airport’s corporate colours.

Germanwings’ base at Cologne/Bonn airport (CGN) is the largest LCC base in mainland Europe in terms of destinations served. Since starting services to 10 destinations on 27 October 2002, the airline’s network has grown to encompass some 58 destinations during summer 2007, up from 48 the previous summer. While the number of routes increased 21% the number of flights increased by only around 8%, with most of the new routes operated at very low frequencies, typically just once or twice per week.

Chart: Germanwings at Cologne/Bonn

 Source: Derived from airline website timetables

However, the number of destinations served this winter is up only one from 34 to 35 with the addition of Bucharest, Malta, Skopje and Sofia, balanced by the dropping of Alicante, Helsinki and Oslo. It seems Central Europe is ‘in’ and the Nordic countries are ‘out’.

Germanwings operates a third of all flights at CGN

According to schedule data for the current winter season, Germanwings is responsible for just over one-third of all scheduled capacity at CGN, 80% more than its nearest rival TUIfly.com. Although Lufthansa serves only five routes, the high frequencies on its domestic routes to Berlin, Hamburg and Munich still give it an almost 20% share of capacity.

Airline Frequency Share Capacity Share Destinations
Germanwings 31.6% 35.6% 35
TUIfly.com 17.4% 19.6% 29
Lufthansa 21.5% 18.4% 5
Air Berlin 12.3% 13.7% 10
easyJet 2.7% 3.2% 3
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 November 2007

Since acquiring dba last year, Air Berlin has grown its share to almost 14%. The only other LCCs operating at CGN are easyJet (with three UK routes to East Midlands, London Gatwick and Liverpool) and Wizz Air, which operates two Polish routes, namely Gdansk and Katowice.

Competition has reduced

When Germanwings and TUIfly.com (then known as Hapag Lloyd Express) first began low-cost operations at CGN in late 2002 there was some overlap on destinations served. Since then the carriers have managed to reduce the level of direct competition as each airline has focused on its own key markets and niche routes. This winter, Germanwings faces competition on just eight of its 35 routes.

Germanwings TUIfly.com Lufthansa Air Berlin
Berlin SXF (27) Berlin TXL (44) Berlin TXL (46) Berlin TXL (45)
London STN (18) London LHR (20)
Munich MUC (35) Munich MUC (62)
Paris CDG (13) Paris CDG (17)
Palma PMI (3) Palma PMI (2) Palma PMI (10)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 November 2007Figures in brackets are weekly frequencies

On five routes the airline faces competition from fellow German airlines with the Berlin route being the most keenly contested. In the London market there is also easyJet to contend with, serving London Gatwick with 12 flights per week. On three other routes – Istanbul, Prague and Vienna – Germanwings competes against the national flag carrier of the destination country.

Not all routes have succeeded

Map: Germanwings network from CGN
This is the Germanwings network from CGN this summer. Surely it won’t be long before North Africa is added to the network.

With any base development, success on any given route is never guaranteed. Ignoring seasonal routes, Germanwings has had its share of failed routes at the airport, which include Birmingham, Gdansk, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Jerez, London Gatwick, Malaga, Oslo and Venice (both Marco Polo and Treviso were tried). Of the 10 routes the airline started with back in October 2002, all are still operating though Berlin service transferred from Tegel to Schönefeld after the first year.

Smart Connect: enabling transfer connections

Image: Smart Connect

With its central location in Europe, CGN is well positioned as a potential hub. Previously, LCCs have avoided promoting the idea of connecting passengers, though clued up customers have been making their own connections for years. Now Germanwings is launching Smart Connect at its bases in CGN, Stuttgart and Berlin, and generating a total of 140 ‘new’ routes. Passengers collect their bags in the baggage reclaim area, but check-in for the second leg of their journey at a transfer desk where they collect their boarding pass.


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