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Ryanair is Europe's largest airline, the largest low-cost carrier, and one of the world's largest airlines as measured by international passengers carried. Ryanair's largest hub is at London Stansted Airport, with its second largest base at Dublin Airport. The carrier operates a comprehensive network of services across Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa with a fleet of over 300 B737-800 aircraft.
Location of Ryanair main hub (London Stansted Airport)
Ryanair share price
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider Ryanair fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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Recent reports suggest that Ryanair is on the verge of two further new developments in its strategic evolution, taking it ever-closer to the network airline business model. Firstly, the CEO Michael O'Leary has said that the airline plans to introduce trial passenger transfer services at London Stansted and Barcelona airports (Irish Independent, 14-Apr-2016). Secondly, Ryanair is reported to be close to agreement on feeding Norwegian's long haul routes from London Gatwick (Irish Independent, 20/4/16).
These developments follow several other changes to Ryanair's business model over the past couple of years - changes that have been well received in the market. Until now Ryanair has not engaged in intralining with itself or interlining with others.
It would not be the first European LCC to do either of these things, but it would be the only airline to combine them with an ultra-low cost base and leadership of the intra-European market by passenger numbers.
TAP Portugal's new shareholder Atlantic Gateway Consortium, which includes David Neeleman, the Chairman of Brazilian LCC Azul, has prompted a number of changes. Atlantic Gateway's investment in Nov-2015 has led to a commercial relationship with Azul, giving TAP customers access to domestic destinations in Brazil and giving Azul customers access to TAP's Brazil-Portugal network. There are also signs that the two will reshuffle some routes between them as Azul commences European flights. Moreover, TAP will benefit by receiving aircraft previously ordered by Azul.
Although Atlantic Gateway originally took a 61% stake, it was subsequently agreed that this would be scaled back to 45%, with the Portuguese government regaining a 50% holding and 5% available for employees. An intriguing prospect now is that the Azul shareholder HNA Group may also become a TAP shareholder directly.
TAP reported a loss for 2015 but its ownership and long haul development are more assured now than for some time. Nevertheless, the erosion of its market share on European routes is an ongoing threat. The CEO of Ryanair, which is number two to TAP on Portugal-Western Europe, recently claimed that his airline would overtake it in Portugal in the next couple of years. A strategy to counter this threat is vital.
Reports that easyJet may be considering a bid for Monarch Airlines could herald a much anticipated wave of consolidation in Europe's LCC segment. The CEOs of both Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM have indicated that they expect consolidation, while IAG has previously been active in this field, by acquiring Vueling in 2013.
This report compares the market structure of Europe's LCC segment with that of North America and considers the prospects for consolidation among European low cost airlines. As with the broader market, Europe's LCC segment is more fragmented than North America's. However, viewed as a market in its own right, it is more concentrated than the broader European market.
The two leading LCCs, Ryanair and easyJet, have almost half of all intra-Europe LCC seats between them (but Southwest has more than 60% of intra-North America LCC seats on its own). Notwithstanding speculation about easyJet and Monarch, whose Europe seat share is only 2%, any meaningful LCC consolidation in Europe seems more likely to involve second-tier LCCs. This may include the LCC subsidiaries of the legacy groups, although none of the big three appear ready to lead the process currently.
Part one of this report on European airline market structure and consolidation highlighted that the top twenty airline groups in Europe hold 75% of seats. This is the same share as the top six groups in North America. This equivalence, in market share terms, between Europe's top 20 and North America's top six underlines the huge gap in consolidation progress between the two regions' airlines. It would take a large number of merger and acquisition deals to recreate North America's market structure in Europe, consolidating 20 into six.
This second part of the report is a kind of fantasy, a hypothetical. It suggests an illustrative series of combinations among Europe's top 20 that would approximately replicate the market shares, in terms of seat share, held by North America's top six.
This would require large merger and acquisition transactions involving pairings between members of Europe's smaller top six of Lufthansa Group, IAG, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Turkish Airlines and easyJet. It would also mean several deals involving second-tier FSCs and LCCs. However, for now the larger deals in Europe remain relatively unlikely, and there are even hurdles to the smaller deals.
Consolidation among Europe's airlines has always been fitful, and truly sizeable deals have ground to a halt in recent years. By comparison, North America has become the benchmark of airline consolidation progress. The announcement that Alaska Airlines is to acquire Virgin America once again highlights the differences in pace between Europe and North America.
This first part of CAPA's analysis of European airline market structure and consolidation compares market concentration in Europe with that of other world regions and looks at the link with profitability. It mainly focuses on comparing Europe with the other two large aviation markets, North America and Asia Pacific, but also gives data on market concentration for all of the other regions: Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
Europe's fragmented airline market is less profitable than its much more consolidated North American counterpart (although, on most measures, Europe is less fragmented than Asia Pacific). Europe's top 20 airline groups have the same seat share as North America's top 6.
Part two of this report considers a possible set of combinations to reassemble Europe's top 20 into six groups matching North America's top six.
After two years in which the Aegean Airlines Group had the highest operating margin among European full service airlines, its crown slipped in 2015. Its financial results for the year show a fall in operating profit and in net profit.
Double-digit capacity growth in a very weak macroeconomic environment, and in the face of strong competition led by Ryanair, put downward pressure on unit revenue. Aegean was unable to cut its total unit cost enough to offset falling RASK, in spite of lower fuel prices and some progress with ex fuel unit cost reduction, including improved labour productivity.
Nevertheless, although Aegean's operating margin slipped it remained fairly healthy at very close to 10%. Moreover, given the very challenging conditions faced in 2015, the group did well to limit the decline in the way that it managed. In 2016, slower capacity growth may ease downward pressure on unit revenue and the bottom line should benefit further from lower fuel prices post hedging, but Aegean will be focusing on reducing ex fuel unit cost.