Traffic down at seven of Germany’s top 20 airports as LCCs adjust network capacity

Image: Ryanair at Dűsseldorf Weeze
Figures for the first four months of 2008 show that Düsseldorf Weeze recorded notable growth in passenger numbers largely driven by Ryanair.

Latest figures from Germany show that passenger numbers at its major airports are up 5.3% to 57.3 million in the first four months of this year. This has been achieved with a modest 1% growth in the number of aircraft movements. However, growth rates vary considerably among individual airports with Dűsseldorf Weeze reporting a massive 143% year-on-year growth, while traffic at Frankfurt Hahn is down almost 12%. Curiously, Ryanair is responsible for both of these statistics.

Somewhat worryingly, traffic is down at seven of Germany’s top 20 airports including other airports with a major low-cost presence such as Berlin Schönefeld, Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart. On the other hand the airports reporting the highest growth (Weeze, Bremen and Dortmund) can point to LCCs as being responsible for their relative success.
Germany’s three largest airports (Frankfurt, Munich and Dűsseldorf) reported steady passenger growth of 3.2%, 6.2% and 5.5% respectively.

Chart: German top 20 airport growth (Jan-Apr 2008)
Source: ADV

Berlin’s airport system is achieving double-digit growth thanks to almost 20% growth at Tegel where additional capacity has been provided.

Image: easyJet welcome 10 millionth passenger to Schönefeld on 30 April
Traffic is down at seven of Germany’s top 20 airports, including airports with a major low-cost presence such as Berlin Schönefeld. However, easyJet was able to welcome its 10 millionth passenger to Schönefeld on 30 April. Pictured with the lucky passenger are John Kohlsaat, CEO, easyJet Germany (left) and Dr Rainer Schwarz, CEO of Berlin Airports (right).

Domestic demand influenced by timing of Easter

In the first quarter of 2008 domestic traffic increased by just over 3%, but this was heavily influenced by Easter occurring in March and resulting in domestic demand being down almost 8%. In April, without the distraction of holidays, domestic travel (primarily business) was up a staggering 20%, while international traffic remained unchanged year-on-year. Monthly growth rates by geographic segment are summarised below.

Month Domestic Europe Non-Europe Total
January 7.2% 5.9% 5.2% 6.0%
February 12.4% 9.3% 10.4% 10.3%
March -7.5% 4.9% 3.1% 1.0%
April 20.0% 0.0% 0.8% 5.2%
Source: ADV

Morocco makes claim as leading growth market

According to data from Destatis, in the first quarter of 2008 country markets that showed particularly healthy growth included Brazil (+38.2%), Morocco (+24.8%) and “European” Russia (+20.5%). Brazil’s growth follows a 12% decline in 2007, but Morocco also reported 21% growth in 2007 suggesting that German holidaymakers are discovering the country in a big way. Elsewhere in North Africa traffic to Egypt was up 7.2% in the first quarter but Tunisian traffic was down 5.4% following a 6.4% drop in 2007. However, the biggest loser so far this year appears to be the Dominican Republic where traffic is down almost 20%.

Major European markets such as France, the UK, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands are all reporting modest growth of less than 2.5%. However, near neighbours Austria (+13.6%) and Switzerland (+9.6%) are enjoying significant growth.

Transatlantic demand has grown by almost 10%

Image: Delta Air Lines welcomed its 300,000th passenger on its Berlin-New York route
Canada and the USA produced identical growth rates of 9.4% in the first quarter of 2008. On 5 May Delta Air Lines welcomed its 300,000th passenger on its Berlin-New York route. The lucky passenger – Anja Heinrich from Dresden – was presented with a flight voucher, as well as free transfer from Dresden to Berlin.

Both Canada and the USA produced identical growth rates of 9.4% in the first quarter of 2008, while other long-haul markets such as South Africa (+15.6%), Thailand (+8.0%) and UAE (+5.6%) also performed strongly. The recent launch of Air Berlin services to China should have a significant impact in that market, though the airline has already revealed plans to cut frequency later in the year.

Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships

Image: Germanwings tailfin & TUIfly plane on runway
Germanwings and TUIfly.com operate major bases from Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart, although they operate different aircraft types and have different network philosophies.

While Lufthansa is keeping a watchful eye on developments at Alitalia, Austrian and Iberia, Air Berlin has been frustrated in its attempt to take control of Condor. The German competition authorities are now expected to make a ruling in August. Meanwhile, the airline has developed a close relationship with German regional carrier LGW (Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter) whose predominantly domestic flights are now bookable via Air Berlin’s website. Dba and LTU have now been fully integrated (though the LTU brand is still alive). Air Berlin is now considerably closer in business model to Lufthansa than any traditional LCC.

Things have gone rather quiet on the planned merger between Germanwings (Lufthansa’s de facto LCC owned by partner Eurowings) and TUIfly.com, the airline created by the merger of Hapag-Lloyd Express and Hapagfly. Although both airlines operate major bases from Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart they operate different aircraft types and have different network philosophies. Germanwings is similar to easyJet, operating reasonable frequencies to major city airports, while TUIfly operates to more charter/leisure destinations, though it also has a significant number of domestic routes.

As analysed elsewhere, the development of easyJet’s Dortmund base has been more cautious than what it has achieved in Berlin, while the development of Ryanair’s bases across Germany varies significantly. While Bremen and Weeze are experiencing rapid expansion Hahn appears to be going through a period of consolidation.


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