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Lufthansa can't keep up with Ryanair

Germany's largest airline is no longer Europe's largest. Modest growth in passenger numbers was not enough to fend off the fast-expanding Irish budget carrier.

Figures released Tuesday showed Lufthansa's passenger numbers had fallen behind those of Irish budget carrier Ryanair for the first time.

Lufthansa group - which owns Austrian Airlines, Swiss, and low-cost Eurowings - said it had carried a record 109.7 million passengers in 2016, up 1.8 percent on the year before.

But this modest growth paled in comparison to Ryanair's 117 million passengers, 15 percent higher than in the previous year.

Lufthansa has been plagued by a series of crippling strikes by pilots, but the 500,000 affected passengers would have had little effect on the overall figure.

Hamburg-based aviation expert Cord Schellenberg told AFP news agency the numbers "should be a wake-up call for Lufthansa."

Watch video 04:06

Cheap flights: Ryanair focuses on Berlin

The German carrier remains ahead of Ryanair in terms of revenue, and announced it would be adding Wi-Fi access to a large part of its fleet, a move likely to appeal to business travelers.

Lufthansa is also increasing its challenge to Ryanair through its own budget subsidiary, Eurowings, which has absorbed another Lufthansa subsidiary, Germanwings.

But Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr dampened speculation of atakeover of troubled budget carrier Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, pointing to its inefficient cost structure. Lufthansa reached an agreement late last year to lease 33 planes from Air Berlin that will be operated by Eurowings.

The figures came a day after an investigation closed into the March 2015 crash of a Germanwings jet in the French Alps that killed 150 people. The report concluded the mentally ill pilot acted alone in deliberately crashing the Airbus. Lufthansa faces legal action from families of the deceased.

sgb/ (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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