London – Berlin market growth triggered by buzz and Virgin Express; now easyJet and Ryanair compete with national flag carriers

Image: LCC’s at Berlin
easyJet entered the London-Berlin market when it made Schönefeld a base in 2004. Both easyJet and Ryanair are competing with national flag carriers on the route. airberlin gave up its Tegel to Stansted service last October. Despite starting many mainland European routes from its new London Gatwick base, Aer Lingus has not (so far) picked on Berlin.

100th Edition of anna.aeroSince 1999 air traffic between the capitals of the UK and Germany has grown by an astonishing 140% from around half a million passengers per annum to almost 1.2 million in 2008. The trigger for this can be traced to a couple of unlikely suspects. Back in the winter of 1999, when the only flights between London and Berlin were from Heathrow to Tegel (TXL), KLM’s UK low-cost subsidiary buzz and Brussels-based Virgin Express both began multiple daily services from London Stansted; buzz to Tegel and Virgin Express to Schönefeld (SXF). A year later Virgin Express moved its flights to London Gatwick before pulling off the route.

Chart: London - Berlin traffic 1996-2008 (Annual passengers)
Source: UK CAA

Buzz would then move its Stansted flights to Berlin Schönefeld. When buzz failed in early 2003 and was taken over by Ryanair, the Irish carrier rapidly re-launched the route from 1 May 2003. Meanwhile airberlin (or Air Berlin as it was then) had begun serving London Stansted from Berlin Tegel in September 2002. dba made a brief appearance in the market linking London Gatwick and Berlin Tegel with two daily flights during the winter of 2003.

Finally in 2004 easyJet entered the market when it made Berlin Schönefeld a base and began serving Luton from 1 May and Gatwick from 26 September 2005.

Last year Lufthansa began Tegel to London City services but these were abandoned at the start of the summer 2009 season in favour of the airline’s first ever flights from Berlin to London Heathrow. Last October airberlin also gave up its Tegel to Stansted service. As a result there are now only four airport-pairs linking the UK and German capitals.

Route May 2008 May 2009 Change
Heathrow – TXL 39,157 49,184 +25.6%
Stansted – TXL 15,655 0 -100.0%
Stansted – SXF 19,552 13,092 -33.0%
Luton – SXF 18,396 8,566 -53.4%
Gatwick – SXF 14,386 15,862 +10.3%
London City – TXL 4,956 0 -100.0%
Total 112,102 86,704 -22.7%
Source: UK CAA

Traffic data for May shows that the disappearance of airberlin and capacity reductions by other carriers has resulted in traffic falling almost 23%. Lufthansa and British Airways compete on Heathrow to Tegel leaving easyJet and Ryanair to serve Berlin Schönefeld from the other London airports.

Route Airline (weekly frequency)
Heathrow – TXL British Airways (35), Lufthansa (21)
Gatwick – SXF easyJet (13)
Stansted – SXF Ryanair (12)
Luton – SXF easyJet (7)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 July 2009


  1. Its good to hear that the historic aspect of LCC route developemnt Berlin London started back in winter 1999 when buzz pioneered this new LCC service!
    Often these carriers are forgotten, although they earned a share in developing an preparing new routes for their (more successful) successors!

  2. Stephan Jaeckel says:

    The actual low cost pioneer between Berlin and the UK was ABAirlines who operated between SXF and LGW with a hush-kitted BAC 1-11.

    I flew with them in autumn of 1998 but believe that the service started in November or December 1997.

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