Ryanair's Laudamotion to add nine jets to fleet for 2019 season
Laudamotion, the Austrian low-cost carrier in which Ryanair has taken a 75pc stake, is to double its fleet to 18 aircraft for summer 2019.
It raises the stakes in what's set to be an intensifying battle between Aer Lingus owner IAG, which recently launched a base in Vienna for its low-cost Level airline. That puts it in direct competition with Laudamotion.
Earlier this year, Ryanair acquired an initial 24.9pc stake in Laudamotion and received EU approval this month to raise the stake to 75pc. Ryanair also has an option to buy all of Laudamotion in four years' time.
The commitment to add aircraft comes as Laudamotion said it achieved load factors - or the percentage of available seats sold - of more than 90pc in its first summer season. It added that the nine extra aircraft for summer 2019 will see it grow passenger numbers by at least 20pc, to five million.
Ryanair expects Laudamotion to be profitable within three years and to eventually have a fleet of at least 30 aircraft.
It currently has four jets based at Vienna, and has also opened bases at Berlin's Tegel airport and in Dusseldorf.
Ryanair, headed by Michael O'Leary, is initially investing close to €100m in Laudamotion. That includes the price for the 75pc stake and €50m in working capital.
Laudamotion is expected to lose €150m in its first year, according to Ryanair.