Ryanair Joins Rivals In German Expansion Move

April 10, 2014

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Low cost carrier Ryanair plans to expand at Germany's Cologne airport, joining rivals in boosting services in Europe's largest economy and providing more competition for Lufthansa on its home territory.

Ryanair will base one aircraft and open up five new routes in October from Cologne, in Germany's most populated federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Ryanair said it is investing more than USD$90 million in Cologne. The new routes are to Dublin, London Stansted, Madrid, Riga and Rome Ciampino, reflecting Ryanair's move into larger airports, rather than smaller regional airports.

The airline joins rivals such as easyJet and Spain's Vueling, all of which are hoping to take advantage of Germany's strong economy and its citizens' love of foreign travel.

Low cost carriers have been slow to break into Germany, in the same way as they have taken over in other markets such as Britain, France and Spain.

But low-cost carriers have spotted an opening, especially as Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, struggles with its finances.

"Germany is the growth engine of Europe. As a European airline, it would be wrong to leave out Germany," Vueling German manager Ulla Siebken told journalists in Frankfurt last month.

Except for routes that feed into its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, full-service carrier Lufthansa has now handed over its European short-haul operations to Germanwings, its low-cost unit.

Vueling plans to increase revenue by 25 percent in Germany this year as it offers 33 percent more capacity there.

Easyjet is also expanding, putting in extra planes to Berlin and launching routes to Hamburg.

"Germany for us is good," easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said last month. "We're doing well in Berlin... and we just launched in Hamburg. That will be good for us. All the signals are very good."