Air Berlin gaining ground on Lufthansa in Germany by acquisition and mergers; more consolidation likely as airport traffic falls 1% in August for first time in 6 years

Image: Lufthansa launch service from Frankfurt to Nanjing on 31 March 2008
Lufthansa launched five times weekly service from Frankfurt to Nanjing on 31 March. Entertainment at the launch included a performance by European singer Ilhem Khodja.

Passenger demand at Germany’s main airports fell by 1.1% in August, the first such decline in six years. Traffic at the country’s airports has been growing consistently at between 5% and 6% for the last three years with passenger numbers passing 180 million last year. A total of 40 airports currently have scheduled services with just two airports, Frankfurt (53.9 million) and Munich (33.8 million), handling almost 47% of the country’s air traffic.

Chart: German airport traffic, 1991-2007 Annual passengers
Source: ADV

Between 1991 and 2000 airport traffic across Germany grew by 82% (an average of almost 7% per annum), but following the traffic downturn in both 2001 and 2002 it has now grown by 35% in the last five years. Given the current trends overall growth in 2008 will be an achievement given that in August traffic fell at six of Germany’s top 10 airports, including both Frankfurt and Munich.

However, year-to-date growth at some of the smaller airports remains positive thanks to low-cost carrier development. Weeze has seen traffic double so far this year while Karlsruhe/Baden (+23.6%), Dortmund (+20.8%) and Bremen (+19.9%) are all performing well.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin dominate domestic market

German domestic routes are dominated by Lufthansa and Air Berlin who share around 80% of the market. Since Lufthansa effectively controls Germanwings this increases its capacity share still further. However, the future ownership of Germanwings, and Condor is still unclear and may further alter the landscape of the German domestic market.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Domestic routes
Lufthansa 56.5% 56.5% 45
Air Berlin 21.1% 26.0% 35
Germanwings 6.8% 8.5% 12 3.9% 5.2% 9
Cirrus 3.8% 1.0% 8
Ryanair 0.4% 0.7% 1
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 22 September 2008

Ryanair manages to be the sixth biggest airline in the domestic market (by capacity) despite only operating a single (twice-daily) route between Berlin SXF and Frankfurt Hahn. Intersky and OLT may operate more flights but utilise much smaller aircraft.

Chart: Top 15 German domestic routes
Source: Destatis
Note: Berlin is combined figure for SXF, THF and TXL

Unlike France and the UK where domestic travel is dominated by flights to and from Paris and London, Germany’s domestic market has no such hub. Nine city-pairs experienced demand of between one and two million passengers last year. Of the top 15 domestic routes only two showed a fall in traffic in 2007. These were the two shortest routes of fewer than 300 kilometres between Frankfurt and Dűsseldorf (down 4.9%) and Frankfurt and Munich (down 4.7%). These 15 routes account for around 70% of all German domestic air travel. Lufthansa operates flights on all 15 of these routes with competition from Air Berlin on 12 of them. Air Berlin’s domestic network was initially achieved by buying struggling dba (formerly Deutsche BA). Germanwings also competes on five of these 12 routes, while both Germanwings and compete on Berlin to Cologne/Bonn and Berlin to Stuttgart.

The Frankfurt – Hamburg and Frankfurt – Munich routes remain Lufthansa monopoly routes, each generating over 1.2 million passengers per annum, making them among the busiest monopoly routes in the world.

Spain still biggest country market; Russia new in top 10

According to German government statistics Spain remains far and away the busiest international market from German airports with almost 11 million departing passengers in 2007, almost twice as many as travelling to the UK. Italy, Turkey and the USA are the next biggest country markets.

Chart: Top 12 German country markets
Source: Destatis

Thanks to growth of 19% last year Russia has made it into the top 10 for the first time. If we compare traffic figures in 2007 with those in 2000 the fastest growing country markets have been Poland (+246%), Russia (+132%), Austria (109%) and Italy (+95%). In that seven year period traffic to Greece (-3.0%) and the Netherlands (-0.9%) has actually fallen.

According to OAG statistics 146 airlines operate international services to and from Germany with German airlines operating well over half of all seats headed by Lufthansa (32.9%), Air Berlin (11.2%) and (6.4%). Europe’s biggest LCCs, Ryanair and easyJet, have 5.8% and 3.1% of international capacity, while Lufthansa’s LCC Germanwings has 3.6%.


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