Lufthansa beats Ryanair as Europe’s top airline

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Lufthansa Group as a whole carried 130 million passengers in 2017

Lufthansa has overtaken Ryanair to retake the title of Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, but only because the Irish low-cost carrier was forced to cut thousands of flights this year during its pilot rostering scandal.

Lufthansa Group as a whole carried 130 million passengers in 2017, a new passenger record, and a nose ahead of Ryanair’s 129 million reversing, at least for now, Ryanair stealing the crown in 2016.

Lufthansa Group grew rapidly last year, taking over Brussels Airlines at the end of 2016 and pushing growth at its own budget brand Eurowings to become Europe’s third largest point-to-point carrier.

It also benefited from the collapse of its German competitor Air Berlin, which ceased flying in October.

This was reflected in its December stats, for example, when 9.3 million passengers flew with Lufthansa Group airlines in December, 20% more than in the same month the previous year.

Capacity in terms of available seat kilometres was up 14.2% in December over the previous year, with sales rising 15.9% and load factor improving 1.1 percentage points to 78.9%.

In 2017 as a whole, load factor on the group’s 1.1 million flights stood at a record 80.9%.

Individual carriers
SWISS and Austrian carried 7 million passengers in December, 7.4% more year-on-year with ASKs rising 4.5%, sales up 5.8% and load factor up 1 point to 78.7%. In 2017 overall, the airlines carried 97.4 million passengers, 6.8% more than the previous year, with load factor up 2.1 percentage points to 81.1%.

Lufthansa itself transported 4.7 million passengers in December, a 7.3% rise, with a 4.2% increase in seat kilometres and a 5.1% rise in sales, pushing load factor up slightly to 79.2%. In 2017 overall, Lufthansa carried 66.2 million passengers, 6.1% more than in 2016. At 81.6%, load factor was 2.5 percentage points higher.

“We’ll be back”
Ryanair has had to postpone its growth plans since the rostering issue left it without enough standby pilots. However, as it said in a statement, “Next year, as we grow to 140 million passengers, we expect to overtake Lufthansa again, unless they acquire some other airline to boost their figures.”

Ryanair and Lufthansa Group were both ahead of IAG, parent company of British Airways and Iberia, which carried 104.8 million in 2017, up 4%.

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