Ryanair opens Romanian base #1 at Timisoara; adding domestic flights to Bucharest

On 14 January, Ryanair confirmed plans to enter the Romanian market, both internationally and domestically, with the opening of a base at Timisoara Airport, effective 1 November. As a result of basing a single 189-seat 737-800 at the airport, the ULCC will introduce seven new routes to Bucharest, Berlin Schönefeld, Brussels Charleroi, Weeze, Frankfurt Hahn, London Stansted and Milan/Bergamo. Marking the achievement at the main international gateway to the western part of Romania are Ryanair’s Denis Barabas, Sales and Marketing Executive for Romania and David O’Brien, CCO.

Since joining the EU at the beginning of 2007, the demand for air travel to and from Romania has increased considerably. Liberalisation of the market has enabled competition to flourish and allowed Ryanair to enter this market with flights from Constanta to Pisa, as well as from Arad to Milan/Bergamo in 2008. Nonetheless, the Irish ULCC has expanded significantly over the last few years, as it currently operates eight airport pairs from Bucharest to Brussels Charleroi, Dublin, London Stansted, Madrid, Milan/Bergamo, Bologna, Rome Ciampino and Milan Malpensa, with the latter having been added on 2 December 2015. In addition, Ryanair is also gearing up to commence its ninth route from Bucharest, this time to Athens, starting on 27 March.

Moreover, on 14 January, Ryanair announced its first Romanian base (#78 overall) at “Traian Vuia” Airport, or more commonly known as Timisoara, effective 1 November, with a single aircraft deployed at the main international gateway to the western part of Romania. As a result of basing a single 189-seat 737-800 at the airport, the ULCC will introduce six international airport pairs to Berlin Schönefeld, Charleroi, Weeze, Frankfurt Hahn, Stansted and Milan/Bergamo. Noteworthy is the fact that Ryanair has confirmed its plans to expand massively in the Romanian domestic market with the addition of its first route within this country, namely the 398-kilometre sector from Timisoara to Bucharest.

Commenting on the opening of the ULCC’s first Romanian base, David O’Brien, CCO, Ryanair pointed out: “We are pleased to open our first Romanian base at Timisoara from November, as we invest $100 million in the Banat region with a single based aircraft, a twice-daily service to Bucharest and six international routes to Schönefeld, Charleroi, Weeze, Hahn, Stansted and Milan/Bergamo, which will deliver 575,000 passengers per year and support 430 jobs at the airport. Our twice-daily flight to Bucharest will be ideal for both business and leisure passengers.”

Country To (code) WF
Germany Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) 2
Weeze (NRN) 2
Frankfurt Hahn (HHN) 2
Belgium Brussels Charleroi (CRL) 3
Italy Milan/Bergamo (BGY) 5
Romania Bucharest (OTP) 14
UK London Stansted (STN) 7
Source: Ryanair website. WF = Weekly frequencies.

Ryanair becomes airline #2 at Timisoara

Located in the historical region of Banat, Timisoara witnessed a surge in traffic of 26% in 2015, as its passenger numbers reached over 850,000 last year. The airport, which is currently ranked as the country’s third busiest airport, behind Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, already serves as an operating base for the rival ULCC, Wizz Air. Examination of 2015 passenger data facilitated by the Romanian airport reveals that Wizz Air is by far the dominant carrier at the facility with around 60% of total passenger traffic flying from Timisoara in 2015, followed by Lufthansa (19%) and TAROM (17%). With the arrival of Ryanair’s operations, the airport forecasts that it will break the magical one million annual passengers in 2016. Operating a total of 35 weekly flights and 6,615 weekly seats, Ryanair will become the second biggest operator at Timisoara.

Direct competition on four routes from Timisoara

Unsurprisingly, Ryanair will face the biggest competition from Wizz Air, as the two ULCCs will directly compete on three airport pairs, with the most contested route having been the 901-kilometre sector to Milan/Bergamo. Furthermore, the Irish ULCC will also face indirect competition on the airport pair to Stansted, as Wizz Air is also flying daily to London Luton. Looking at OAG Schedules Analyser data for week commencing 1 November, Ryanair’s services to Schönefeld and Weeze are currently not served by any other airline.

Route Competition (WF)
Berlin Schönefeld (SXF)
Weeze (NRN)
Frankfurt Hahn (HHN) Wizz Air (2)
Brussels Charleroi (CRL) Wizz Air (2)
Milan/Bergamo (BGY) Wizz Air (7)
Bucharest (OTP) TAROM (26)
London Stansted (STN)
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 1 November 2016. WF = Weekly frequencies.

The flag carrier of Romania, TAROM, will also compete on the domestic sector to Bucharest head-to-head with Ryanair. The densest route in terms of competition, to the Romanian capital, is also the sector that Ryanair is planning to offer the most weekly operations (twice-daily flights), which highlights the ULCC’s desire to disrupt TAROM’s monopoly in the domestic market.

Romanian domestic market in sight

Nonetheless, Ryanair’s plan to conquer the Romanian market will not come easy, as TAROM is still the dominant operator on most of the domestic airport pairs. With the establishment of its first base at Timisoara, further domestic Romanian expansion is perhaps on the cards for Ryanair. Wizz Air also seems to have its sights set on the the national carrier’s domestic dominance, as it recently announced a six times weekly service between Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, starting on 22 July, and another TAROM monopoly. According to the Irish ULCC, the airline is gearing up to establish a total of four to five bases within Romania and plans to operate to a total of 10-12 airports in that market. “In five years, we estimate there will be 10 million passengers in Romania,” highlighted Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary in December 2015. Growth within Romania is contingent on the right prices being met as O’Brien complained that Bucharest is still an extremely expensive airport to consider opening a base there. He added that handling fees are more expensive there when compared to Copenhagen, while a reduction in costs would need to happen for the Romanian market to reach truly its potential. Therefore, anna.aero predicts that Ryanair’s Romanian base #2 will be announced at Cluj-Napoca by the end of the year.


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