Ryanair set to triple flights from 'expensive' Frankfurt
Ryanair plans to more than triple the number of its planes based at Frankfurt airport next winter, boosting the low-cost carrier's position in Deutsche Lufthansa AG's backyard.
The Irish airline will increase the number of jets at Lufthansa's main hub to seven after initiating expansion there in November with plans for just two planes, chief executive Michael O'Leary said at a press conference in Frankfurt. Ryanair will increase routes from the airport to 24 from four, with the services to include business-oriented flights to London, Madrid and Milan.
Ryanair is moving to aggressively challenge higher-cost legacy carriers on short-haul routes. The goal is to effectively squeeze rival carriers out of the segment and offer feeder services to their long-haul routes.
The expansion at Frankfurt means Mr O'Leary has had to backtrack on previous commitments to never fly to the German financial centre's main airport. Ryanair previously flew from Hahn, about 120km from Frankfurt.
"We're a bit of a pimple on the side of the big beast of Lufthansa," O'Leary said on Tuesday. While "we're very pleased to be flying" from Frankfurt's hub, "it is one of the most expensive airports in Germany".
Ryanair is set to have the second-biggest market share in Germany by the end of the year, he said.
That means overtaking struggling Air Berlin, which is halving its core fleet.
Amid pressure from Ryanair and other low-cost rivals, Lufthansa has started to cooperate with Air Berlin and its backer, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
The Ryanair chief yesterday hit out again at Lufthansa's plans to lease 38 Air Berlin aircraft, adding that the carrier has submitted an objection on competition grounds.
Ryanair's push into Frankfurt has prompted Lufthansa to look at using its own budget carrier, Eurowings, for flights from its main hub from 2018, against previous expectations.
"The boardroom of Lufthansa is the only place in Europe where people think that Eurowings is low-cost," O'Leary said on the prospect of such a move by Lufthansa.
Ryanair plans to provide "feeder flights" to Norwegian Air Shuttle from April, O'Leary said. (Reporting Reuters and Bloomberg)