Dűsseldorf reaches 18 million passengers; airberlin and Lufthansa vie for supremacy

Image: Lufthansa & Air Berlin Battling for No.1 Spot

Logo: Dusseldorf International AirportDespite being the biggest airport serving the major Rhine-Ruhr conurbation that includes several major cities, Dűsseldorf Airport (DUS) has struggled in recent years as it is neither one of Lufthansa’s two major hubs nor the home of airberlin. However, both of these carriers have shown interest in establishing themselves as the dominant carrier at the airport.

Chart: Dűsseldorf traffic 1994-2008 Annual passengers (millions)
Source: ADV

In recent years the airport has been hampered by an enforced hourly movement limit. Despite having two parallel runways movements are limited to just 45 per hour. This does at least have the side benefit of enabling more punctual operations. Jet2.com recently awarded the airport a prize for being the most punctual on its European network of over 40 destinations.

Traffic has grown in each of the past five years, passing 18 million for the first time in 2008. Growth in 2008 was just 2.1%, but long-haul traffic grew by 16.7% while the US market saw demand increase by 35%. This contributed in the percentage of transfer traffic at the airport increasing from 5% to 8%. It currently ranks as Germany’s third busiest airport, behind Frankfurt and Munich but ahead of Berlin Tegel and Hamburg.

Chart: Dűsseldorf airport seasonality (Monthly passengers)
Source: ADV
Image: Lufthansa Route Launch
Lufthansa launched services from Düsseldorf to Toronto last year. While Düsseldorf’s overall growth was 2.1% in 2008, long-haul traffic grew by 16.7%.

The airport’s seasonality profile is similar to many other major city airports in Europe with demand around 50% higher in the peak months than in December and January.

airberlin gaining ground on Lufthansa

A comparison of schedule capacity for February 2008 and 2009 reveals that airberlin has closed the gap on Lufthansa in terms of weekly seats offered. While both airlines have cut frequency, airberlin by 12% and Lufthansa by 17%, airberlin has maintained its capacity (by using larger aircraft) while Lufthansa has seen capacity fall by 11%. As a result weekly seat capacity is almost the same now for both airlines though Lufthansa still operates 75% more flights. Airberlin’s average aircraft size at DUS is 151 seats while Lufthansa’s is just 88. If LTU’s capacity is added to that of airberlin then the airberlin group of airlines becomes the leader in terms of weekly seat capacity.

Overall, scheduled seat capacity at DUS this February is down just 0.6% despite frequency being down 10.5%. As a result average aircraft size has increased from 107 to 118 seats.

Airline Weekly  departing flights Weekly   departing seats Routes served (Domestic/International)
Lufthansa 728 64,215 41 (8/33)
airberlin 419 63,079 31 (7/24)
LTU 22 7,106 11 (0/11)
Air France 57 6,297 2 (0/2)
British Airways 50 6,210 2 (0/2)
TUIfly.com 28 5,040 12 (0/12)
Source: OAG Max Online w/c 16 February 2009

Lufthansa and airberlin compete head-to-head on 12 routes, including six domestic ones (Berlin Tegel, Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart) and international destinations Barcelona, Milan Malpensa, Moscow Domodedovo, Rome Fiumicino, Vienna and Zurich.

The airport’s top five busiest routes in 2007 were Munich (1.53 million), Palma de Mallorca (983k), Berlin (911k), London (779k) and Antalya (661k). The leading airlines were Lufthansa (4.23 million passengers), airberlin (4.05 million), LTU (2.47 million), TUIfly.com (1.14 million) and Condor (0.79 million).

airberlin’s short-lived Chinese adventure

Since February 2008 a number of routes have been dropped, others have been added and some have been and gone. Turkish Airlines has dropped several low frequency routes but has been replaced by a mix of Pegasus (a Turkish airline) and Blue Wings (a German airline which has also added new services to Moscow and St Petersburg).

Lufthansa has dropped Belgrade and Marseille services while Malaga, Nice, Palma and Toulouse have all disappeared as winter routes though may re-appear for summer. Airberlin has dropped domestic routes to Erfurt, Hannover and Saarbucken all of which were operated by its partner airline LGW with 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft.

Two Chinese routes (to Beijing and Shanghai) were started by airberlin during 2008 and then dropped again when demand fell short of expectations. Services by airberlin to Milan Bergamo were re-directed to Milan Malpensa last June, while Lufthansa has moved Moscow services from Sheremetyevo to Domodedovo. Other airlines to drop winter routes at the airport include TUIfly.com, Northwest (a daily Detroit service), Royal Air Maroc (to Casablanca) and airBaltic (to Vilnius).

New high-profile routes have been started by Aegean Airlines (to Athens) and Lufthansa has added new routes to Miami (in competition with LTU), Oslo (taking on Norwegian and SAS) and Wroclaw (a new route). SunExpress has added a service to Antalya (in competition with Blue Wings and Pegasus) while Mahan Air has started flying thrice-weekly to Tehran.

Finally Germania has re-started scheduled services and is offering weekly flights to Eilat, Kharkov, Pristina and Skopje.

Scotland popular among new destinations for summer 2009

New routes announced so far for this summer include a four-times weekly service to Edinburgh operated by Jet2.com and a weekly flight to Inverness starting in mid-June operated by Lufthansa. Icelandair is starting twice-weekly flights to Reykjavik from 4 June while airberlin is adding flights to Jersey (weekly), Preveza (weekly), St. Petersburg (daily) and Venice (daily except Sunday), all from the beginning of May. A new service to Kiev will also be offered this summer operated by AeroSvit.


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