Air Transport World

The new breed: cut-price flights reshape the German market, but the airlines may not all survive.(Competition)

Be it on routes such as Berlin to Brindisi, Dortmund to Zurich, Munich to Hamburg or Frankfurt-Hahn to Girona-Barcelona, budget airlines are changing the face of travel to, from and within Germany. At last count--and the figure is in flux--at least 14 low-fare carriers with a combined fleet of 75-100 aircraft were challenging Lufthansa on its bread-and-butter home turf.

Air Berlin, Germany's largest with a fleet of 44 aircraft, is arguably the archetype for this new breed in that it was not created out of whole cloth in the low-cost mold but rather has adapted the traditionally lean and penny-pinching charter model to the scheduled business. The airline, whose origins date back to 1979, entered the scheduled market in 1997 and has seen the proportion of seats devoted to inclusive-tour business fall below 10% as its seat-only business has grown (ATW, 1/03, p. 45). Early last month, Air Berlin took a 24% stake in Niki, the carrier launched by Niki Lauda after he acquired 51% of the Austrian unit of insolvent Aero Lloyd in November.

It is a testament to the newness of this revolution that year-old Hapag Lloyd Express is a senior member of the class. A unit of the massive TUI travel conglomerate and an offshoot of leisure airline Hapag Lloyd, it operates to 20 cities in seven countries with eight 737-700s, one 737-400 and one dash 500 and expected to count 2 million passengers for 2003. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.