German demand falls below Spain in 2016; airberlin, Eurowings and TUIfly still finalising S17 as Germania, Ryanair and Wizz Air attack

airberlin, Eurowings and TUIfly finalising S17 plans

Frankfurt’s current airport charging scheme (and a new, underused runway) have helped persuade Ryanair to base two aircraft there in S17. Initially only four routes are planned (Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca) all of which will be served daily. Home carrier Lufthansa also serves all four of these routes in the summer season, two of them (Alicante and Palma de Mallorca) with double-daily flights. The Palma de Mallorca route is also served by airberlin, Condor and TUIfly all offering at least daily flights.

Recent developments suggest that Germany is going to be a market well worth watching in 2017 with significant structural shifts planned for the country’s home-grown airlines, while foreign carriers see opportunities to be taken advantage of. The perceived strength of the German economy has not in recent years translated into dynamic growth at the country’s airports. In 2015 ADV reported passenger growth of just under 4% while in the first 11 months of 2016 demand has grown by just 3%. This compares with traffic growth of 6% in the UK and a whopping 11% in Spain. As a result Spain will overtake Germany for second place in airport traffic for 2016 among European countries, though still some way behind the UK.

It’s all kicking off in Germany in 2017

The last three months have seen a number of significant announcements which look set to change the German airline industry landscape. In summary:

  • airberlin announced plans to sell its “leisure business” and its Austrian subsidiary NIKI to Etihad Airways. The NIKI sale was confirmed on 5 December with the UAE carrier paying 300m Euros for its stake in NIKI. TUIfly will also merge its fleet into this new (currently nameless) entity which will be 24.8% owned by TUI AG, 25.0% by Etihad and 50.2% by the existing private foundation NIKI Privatstiftung. The airline will be based in Vienna, have a fleet of some 60 aircraft generating some 15 million seats per year and operate leisure routes from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. On 18 December it was announced that airberlin will have a new CEO, Thomas Winkelmann, who was previously employed by Lufthansa as CEO of germanwings. According to the out-going CEO, Stefan Pichler: “Step by step, we are transforming airberlin into a network carrier focused on domestic and European traffic to feed our two long-haul hubs in Berlin and Dusseldorf.” For S17 airberlin’s core operations will be served by a fleet of 75 aircraft comprising 17 A330 wide-body aircraft for long-haul flights, 40 A320 family aircraft and 18 Q400 aircraft for short-/medium-haul flights.
  • Lufthansa confirmed on 16 December an agreement to wet-lease 38 A320-series aircraft from airberlin, for an initial period of six years to the Lufthansa Group. On the same day it was confirmed that 33 of the aircraft would be operated for Eurowings starting in February 2017. The remaining five aircraft will presumably be available to Lufthansa itself or its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines or SWISS.
  • Eurowings will use the 33 aircraft wet-leased from airberlin to grow significantly at its existing bases of Cologne Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Hannover and Stuttgart. In addition Eurowings will set up a four aircraft base in Munich and start operating 32 routes. Finally, additional aircraft will be based in Palma de Mallorca and Vienna. To avoid overcapacity the airline will phase out around 20 older A320s that it currently operates.
  • Ryanair will open a two aircraft base in Frankfurt at the end of March and start by operating to just four leisure destinations (Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca). At the start of the W16 season it opened bases in both Hamburg and Nuremberg , the latter which attended, and is expanding significantly in Berlin and Cologne Bonn. Based on current data it will operate over 230 routes from 13 German airports next summer; including 45 from Berlin Schönefeld, 43 from Weeze, 41 from Frankfurt Hahn, 21 from Cologne Bonn, 17 from Bremen, 16 from Hamburg, 14 from Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden, 13 from Memmingen and 12 from Nuremberg.
  • Germania is continuing to grow its fleet. The leisure airline will operate 29 Airbus and Boeing narrow-body aircraft in S17. It opened a base in Nuremberg at the start of the W16 season bringing to 13 the number of German airports it serves with almost 150 routes in total. In S17 it will base a single 737-700 in Palma de Mallorca.
  • Condor is growing its European network with the addition of several new destinations to its network in S17 compared with S16. These include Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Comiso, Dubrovnik, Lamezia Terme, Larnaca, Naples, Olbia, Palermo, Paphos, Porto Santo, Rimini, Samos, Split, Thessaloniki and Volos as well as new US routes to New Orleans, Pittsburgh and San Diego. Condor will offer over 200 routes in the peak summer season.
  • easyJet has bases in Berlin and Hamburg. However, it seems to be resisting the temptation to get involved in the fight for German passengers. From Berlin Schönefeld it is adding low-frequency seasonal service to Bastia, Pula and Varna while from its Hamburg base it is launching seasonal flights to Bordeaux, Rhodes and Valencia starting in June. Its German network will comprise 83 routes next summer; 45 from Berlin Schönefeld, 25 from Hamburg, plus six in Munich, five in Stuttgart and one each in Dresden (to Basel) and Dortmund (to London Luton).

German scheduled capacity up 7% in Q2 of 2017 … possibly

Analysis of OAG data indicates that scheduled seat capacity from German airports could be up around 7% in the second quarter of 2017 (which is basically the first three months of the S17 season). Based on current schedule data (which is subject to change and which believes in the case of airberlin considerably overstates the airline’s expected capacity) the top 15 airlines from German airports are shown in the following graph. German airlines (shown in dark green) account for six of the top 10 airlines, with Ryanair, easyJet, Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) being the biggest foreign carriers.

Chart: Top 15 airlines in Germany Market share of seat capacity in Q2 2017 (Change in seat capacity versus Q2 2016)

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for Q2 2017 and Q2 2016. *Analysis of OAG’s current schedule data indicates that airberlin’s seat capacity will grow by 13% in 2017 Q2. However, believes this data is unreliable based on what is known about the airline’s plans for 2017. **Includes germanwings (4U) flights.

Schedule data for airberlin currently indicates that it will still be bigger in Germany than Eurowings in the second quarter of 2017. However, with the current fluid state of the airlines and their schedules, by the time the summer season starts this may well have changed.

Eurowings expanding rapidly in Munich and Vienna

Lufthansa’s in-house LCC Eurowings (including germanwings operated flights) is set to expand rapidly this summer. Looking at the airline’s top 15 airports for the peak summer period reveals that Düsseldorf, Cologne Bonn, Hamburg and Stuttgart remain the airline’s four busiest bases. At present, the airports receiving the most additional flights compared to the first week of August last year are Munich, Vienna and Palma de Mallorca. The airline’s two biggest non-German airports (shown in bright green) are Vienna and Palma de Mallorca, both of which will see Eurowings based aircraft in S17. Maybe surprisingly, the LCC’s next biggest foreign airport is London Heathrow. From Europe’s busiest airport Eurowings offers multiple-daily flights to five German airports; Berlin Tegel, Cologne Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

Chart: Eurowings's top 15 airports in S17 Weekly departures in August 2017 [Change versus August 2016]

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 7 August 2017 and w/c 1 August 2016.

However, with the airline set to wet-lease over 30 aircraft from airberlin starting as soon as next month, it seems likely that there will be significant changes ahead. As and when all the airlines involved sort out their new arrangements will re-examine the German market and seek to reveal which airports have gained (and lost) the most from the ‘new reality’.

airberlin, Eurowings and TUIfly finalising S17 plans-2

One of Germany’s fastest-growing airlines is Germania which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. The independent carrier will have a fleet of 29 aircraft this summer and will operate from 13 German airports. In a new move for S17 it will also base a single 737-700 in Palma de Mallorca.


  1. Tom G says:

    You mention that Ryanair is significantly Cologne Bonn. Based on what is presentable available on, there is a decrease of 19 flights per week at CGN (to 137). Decreases can also be observed at HHN (-9), NRN (-2), BRE (-6) and FMM (-2).

    • Fair point Tom. Ryanair’s rapid growth at CGN was really in 2015 and 2016. Although the number of weekly flights is down slightly in S17 Ryanair has grown its network from 20 to 21 routes at CGN with the addition of Sofia which launched last September.

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