News and Commentary on
Low Cost Airlines in Europe
The low cost flying revolution proceeds apace across Europe! From month to month, new discount airlines come into existence and old ones fail or are taken over by rival no-frills carriers. Staying ahead of the most recent developments means you can take advantage of the newest budget air routes from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic coast to the Balkans. This page provides up to date news on all the latest events taking place across the European budget airline landscape.
If you think we have missed a story, please send your comments or a link to the relevant newspaper article to our European low cost airlines newsdesk.
Latest News and Developments:
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dba takes over Germania Express
[Friday, 18th February] dba has been quiet for months now, although following the purchase of gexx it will acquire 12 new aircraft which will make it the third biggest German airline after Lufthansa and Air Berlin.
bmi baby and germanwings consider alliance
[Tuesday, 22nd October] The UK no-frills airline, bmi baby is reported to be considering a marketing alliance with the German low-cost carrier germanwings. A deal would allow each airline to promote each others services, increasing sales distribution and marketing reach for both partners.
This is not the first agreement of its kind. Early in 2004, a far-reaching deal was struck by Air Berlin with the new Austrian airline Niki.
The increasingly popular move by smaller European budget airlines to seek out marketing partnerships is seen by analysts as a defence against competition from the larger, more predatory low cost carriers.
German low cost airlines turn focus to Russia
germanwings, based out of Cologne Bonn and Stuttgart airports, will introduce a new low cost route from Stuttgart to Moscow. Meanwhile, Air Berlin will operate a new route from Vienna to Moscow - possibly through its Austrian sister-airline, Niki.
At present, there are only two European low cost carriers serving Moscow.
The German fixed-tariff airline Germania Express connects Moscow Domodedovo to Berlin Tegel, Munich and Dusseldorf. Meanwhile, the Italian virtual airline eVolaVia operates a low cost route from Moscow Domodedovo to Ancona on the Adriatic coast. More information is available on the Russian Low Cost Airlines Guide.
[Wednesday, 13th October] One of the UK's newest budget carriers, the TUI owned low cost airline Thomson Fly, confirmed today that it will begin operating out of Bournemouth from March 2005. At the beginning of August, the airline said it intended to commence flights from Robin Hood airport - formerly RAF Doncaster Finningley - before the end of 2004, though plans have now been set back until Spring 2005.
The introduction of Robin Hood and Bournemouth airports to the Thomson Fly network will bring the number of TUI no-frills hubs in the UK to three. Since Thomson Fly's launch in Spring 2004, the airline has operated only out of Coventry airport, an otherwise disused airfield which TUI bought wholesale before commencing low cost operations.Thomson Fly ]
[Tuesday, 12th October] easyJet has just announced it will begin flying to Grenoble in Eastern France from London Stansted on January 5th, 2005. Stelios' airline will operate flights to the Alpine skiing base twice a day, seven days a week.
Flights are now on sale - the lowest available one-way fares start at 22.95 British pounds including taxes.[ Source: easyJet ]
[Thursday, 27th May] Another week, another low cost airline casualty. UK-based no-frills carrier, Now was originally set to launch last summer, flying scheduled low cost routes to Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as within the UK. In a statement Now said: "Following the problems with completing the agreed funding for the Now Airlines project, the launch has been deferred until further notice. Now Airlines Ltd has been put into receivership... a plan for the re-structuring of the group is being considered."
Now hoped to distinguish itself from larger UK rivals such as easyJet and flybe by offering fixed fares by destination, regardless of how late passengers booked their flights. All other low cost operators start off with very low fares but increase them as flights are booked and raise their prices sharply immediately prior to the flight departure date. While no existing budget carrier in the UK has yet attempted to employ a fixed-fares model across all bookings, Air Wales has recently introduced return flights from Swansea and Cardiff to Amsterdam at a fixed fare of £99 including taxes.
Elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland-based helvetic and Germany-based Germania Express both operate low cost flights using a fixed tariff model. helvetic flies out of Zurich to all destinations from Prague to Malaga for €99 excluding taxes, while germania express charges a fixed fare depending on the distance between the departure and arrival airports which ranges from €44 including taxes for a flight from Berlin to Rimini and €111 including taxes for a flight from Munich to Moscow.[ Source: Now ]
[Thursday, 20th May] The UK's newest low fare carrier, EU Jet, opened its online booking engine to the public today. The new airline will be based at Manston airport in Kent and at Shannon in the Republic of Ireland and aims to introduce an ambitious network of routes spanning western and central Europe from the Czech Republic to Portugal..
EU Jet will commence flights on September 1st, 2004 to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Copenhagen in Denmark and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Eventually the no frills carrier aims to fly to twenty two destinations across eleven European countries.[ Source: EU Jet ]
[Wednesday, 12th May] Brand new low cost carrier JetGreen ceased trading at midday on Wednesday. The Dublin based airline closed operations after only one week after lofty promises to become " the finest, most stylish low fare, low cost and high service tour operator". In a similar fashion to both duo which went out of business at the beginning of May and JetMagic which went bust at the end of January, JetGreen sought to combine higher range low cost airfares with a service equal or superior to that provided by economy class on traditional airlines.
JetGreen said it would be offering: "More leg room, in flight entertainment, good complimentary food, airbridges to protect you from the weather, choice of seat and for that extra bit of luxury... the world's first Low-Cost First Class service... luxury flights at great prices." Industry watchers speculated that a lack of sufficient publicity may have contributed to the airline's downfall.
The low cost airline had established an itinerary flying from Dublin to Rome in Italy, Faro in Portugal, Nice in France and to Malaga and Alicante in Spain. All flights were to be operated by Icelandair under JetGreen's own colours.[ Source: JetGreen ]
[Saturday, 1st May] Birmingham and Edinburgh based low cost business airline, duo ceased operations on May 1st, 2004. The company was created in Summer 2003, after a management buyout of Maersk Air UK and operated flights from the UK to nine western European countries from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean.
duo is the third major European low cost airline casualty of 2004: Finnish no-frills operator, Flying Finn and Irish low cost leisure / business hybrid, Jet Magic both went into receivership at the end of January. The collapse of both Jet Magic and duo within a couple of months of each other suggests that any future operator looking to run low cost flights for the business community may need to rethink its strategy.[ Source: duo ]
HLX introduces new UK to Germany route
[Tuesday, 3rd February] TUI's Germany-based low cost airline Hapag-Lloyd Express will begin flying from Newcastle in the north-east of England to the north German city of Hannover from May 2nd, 2004. The new flightpath brings the total number of HLX scheduled routes to three - HLX already flies from Manchester to Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart airports.
German no-frills carrier Air Berlin already flies to Hannover from Stansted.
Other German low cost destinations accessible from the UK include Munich, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Lübeck, Paderborn, Dortmund, Münster, Dortmund, Nuremberg, Karlsruhe Baden, Friedrichshafen, Erfurt, Frankfurt Hahn and Leipzig Altenburg. See the German Low Cost Airlines Guide for more details.[ Source: Hapag-Lloyd Express ]
Jet Magic ceases operations
[Thursday, 29th January] Irish airline Jet Magic has confirmed that it is no longer in the running. The Cork based airline started up in April 2003 with the aim of serving both business and leisure passengers with low priced flights within the British Isles and to Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. But in a final statement Jet Magic reported that it had had more success in attracting leisure passengers than business passengers. The company said it had "enjoyed high passenger loads on a number of routes - particularly those to holiday destinations" which included Alicante, Barcelona, Nice, Nantes and Milan. However the company described bookings on business routes to Brussels, London City, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Paris as "very disappointing... with only Belfast City achieving satisfactory levels."
The collapse of Jet Magic raises questions over whether a low cost model which uses comparatively cheap business flights to subsidise low cost leisure flights is viable. The company's closure follows the suspension of operations by another Irish low cost airline, Fresh Aer, in the third quarter of 2003. The end of Jet Magic leaves only three Irish low cost airlines still flying: Aer Arann, the TUI operated Budget Air and RyanAir.[ Source: Jet Magic ]
V Bird begins low cost flights from Manchester to Düsseldorf
[Thursday, 29th January] German low cost airline V Bird, begins flights from Manchester in the northwest of England today. Passengers will be able to fly from Manchester to Niederrhein airport near Düsseldorf for a cheapest fare of €39 / £27 and take a connecting flight from Niederrhein to Munich or to Copenhagen in Denmark for an extra €10 / £7.
V Bird, one of the newest low cost airlines in western Europe started operations in the summer of 2003. Its hub, the brand new Niederrhein airport, which itself only started operations in May 2003, lies on the German-Dutch border, approximately 60km north-west of Düsseldorf and 35km south-east of the Dutch city of Nijmegen.
At present the only other budget airline which flies from Manchester to Germany is TUI-owned Hapag-Lloyd Express which flies from Manchester to Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart.
Other no-frills airlines which currently connect the UK to airports in Germany include Air Berlin and RyanAir which link London Stansted to numerous German cities, dba which flies from London Gatwick to Berlin Tegel, duo which flies from Edinburgh to Munich and from Birmingham to Berlin, Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart, easyjet which flies from London Stansted to Munich and germanwings which flies from Edinburgh and London Stansted to Cologne-Bonn airport.[ Source: V Bird ]
RyanAir brings in new routes for 2004
[Monday, 12th January] RyanAir will introduce 12 new routes on Thursday, January 15th. New destinations from London Stansted include Erfurt in Germany, Bari in southern Italy, Linz in Austria and Jerez in Spain. The no-frills carrier will also begin flying to the Spanish city of Valladolid from Brussels Charleroi, to Tampere in Finland from Frankfurt Hahn and to Rome Ciampino and Milan Bergamo (Orio al Serio) from its hub at Stockholm Skavsta.
RyanAir also announced that towards the end of January it will start operating flights from Frankfurt Hahn to Reus (one hour south of Barcelona) and from Rome Ciampino to Klagenfurt in Austria, Karlsruhe in Germany and Paris Beauvais.
Finally, from February 5th, RyanAir will launch new routes from Girona (one hour north of Barcelona) to Paris Beauvais, Karlsruhe, Alghero on Sardinia, Turin, Venice Treviso and Rome Ciampino in Italy, Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Bournemouth and Liverpool in the UK.
The introduction of new routes follows the termination of flights from London Stansted to Ostend in Belgium, Maastricht in the Netherlands and Reims and Clermont-Ferrand in France and from Liverpool to Brussels Charleroi.
It's a lot to remember, so here is a list of all the countries RyanAir serves.[ Source: RyanAir Press Release ]
Austria's Fairline takes flight
[Monday, 12th January] Austria's new low cost airline, Fairline, (geddit?) operated its first flights today from the south-eastern Austrian city of Graz to Milan Malpensa and Rome Ciampino airports in Italy. The airline will fly passengers between Italy and Austria for as low as 30 euros (not including taxes) and will operate from its Graz hub to Rome, Florence and Milan.
As with the pricing plans of many other no-frills airlines, Fairline will sell tickets in bands with the cheapest band sold first - usually several months before the booked flight. Low cost airlines operating an alternative fixed tariff, which enables passengers to book early or late but always pay the same price include Switzerland's helvetic and Germany's germania express.
What makes Fairline a little different is that the airline will operate two cabin classes and a corresponding two tier price structure. Higher priced tickets will afford passengers greater flexibility to change the departure date and destination. Also luggage allowances will be increased and snacks, beverages and newspapers will be provided free rather than being available to buy.[ Source: Fairline Press Release ]
Air Berlin takes a slice of FlyNiki
[Friday, 9th January] Germany's leading low cost carrier, Air Berlin, has bought up nearly a quarter of Niki Lauda's Austrian startup FlyNiki. The move signals an intention by FlyNiki to move towards a low cost no-frills operating model - at present the company is a medium-cost charter carrier. Niki Lauda and Air Berlin Managing Partner, Joachim Hunold, told reporters at a joint news conference that the two companies will cooperate to open new routes into Eastern Europe. Specific destinations are yet to be confirmed.
FlyNiki began operations in October 2003. The company is ex-Formula One racing world champion Niki Lauda's second airline. He stepped down as chairman of the first, Lauda Air, at the end of 2000 after investigators discovered financial irregularities in the way the company was being run. The carrier was subsequently bought by Austrian Airlines.[ Read more... from Airwise (Reuters)]
Bulgarian Bexx confirms service will start in late March
[Friday, 9th January] Bulgarian charter airline bexx will begin flights between Germany and Bulgaria as a low-cost / charter hybrid from March 19, 2004. The company, which has joint German and Bulgarian management, will charter aircraft according to demand and only operate flights once every two weeks. In most other respects, bexx will operate like a low cost airline, flying from Sofia to Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Hannover, Cologne and Münster. Flights are ticketless and can be booked online at the bexx website. The company will offer travellers a choice of two classes (economy and first), and prices will start at €89 for a one-way flight, not including taxes which should come to about €21, but including an aperitif and a meal.[ Source: bexx website ]
RyanAir launches new routes to Germany and Austria
[Friday, 9th January] RyanAir will start operating flights on its two newest routes on Thursday, January 15th. The first new destination is the Austrian town of Linz, situated just south of the Czech border, approximately halfway between the Austrian capital of Vienna, and the city of Salzburg. The second destination is the German city of Erfurt, the 1250 year old capital of Thüringen, known in the Middle Ages as the Bologna of the North on account of its significance as a centre of learning.[ Source: RyanAir Press Release ]
SAS considers changing to low cost model
[Sunday, 4th January] SAS is looking at transforming its entire operation into a budget network. The revelation comes nine months after SAS successfully launched Snowflake as a no frills network based out of Stockholm and Copenhagen to meet the challenge from RyanAir, easyJet and numerous other no-frills startups.[ Read more... from The Independent ]
helvetic plans to take on industry giants
[Tuesday, 23rd December] Swiss low cost airline helvetic is planning to create a medium to large scale network by the end of 2004. The new Zurich carrier outlined its 2004 project in a statement today. "By the end of the year, helvetic plans to gradually build up its flight network up to 20 to 25 European destinations," the airline said.
Expansion is expected to begin as early as February. The company said it will introduce four new destinations - Nice, Marseilles, Venice and Prague - from the end of February 2004 and begin operating flights to Rome and Naples from March 28th.[ Source: helvetic Press Release ]
Fairline Austria prepares to launch
[Tuesday, 23rd December] Fairline has confirmed that it will commence flights between Austria and Italy from the middle of January 2004. The new Austrian low cost carrier will begin operations flying from its hub in the south-eastern Austrian city of Graz to Rome, Milan and Florence. The airline will use a two tier price structure with the higher priced tickets affording passengers greater flexibility to change the departure date and destination.[ Source: Fairline Press Release ]