German flag carrier Lufthansa says it has replaced Irish rival Ryanair at the top of the list of airlines with the most passengers in Europe. The demise of Air Berlin played no small part in this, experts noted.
Germany's Lufthansa announced Wednesday it carried 130 million customers in 2017, edging ahead of Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair to become Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers.
Apart from its core brand, the German group includes Austrian and Swiss Airlines, Brussels Airlines and no-frills Eurowings which together logged around 19-percent growth year on year.
Lufthansa also gobbled up chunks of insolvent domestic carrier Air Berlin as part of a push to strengthen Eurowings. Lufthansa confirmed it had been able to secure a lot of extra bookings last fall when Air Berlin disappeared from the skies.
Ryanair reported growth of around 10 percent to 129 million passengers in 2017. The Irish carrier was unable to retain its crown as Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers as it had to cancel many flight towards the end of last year because of a shortage of pilots.
Executives at Lufthansa were left fuming last year by the Irish carrier's arrival at it home base in Frankfurt, where airport operator Fraport agreed to charge the budget airlines lower fees.
Lufthansa is also keeping an eagle eye on British low-cost carrier easyJet, which — after buying up other parts of Air Berlin — plans to operate more domestic flights in Germany.
hg/aos (AFP, Reuters, dpa)