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Central Europe’s smaller airlines grow. Consolidation likely

The only airline based in Central Europe that ranks among Europe's top 20 airline groups by passenger numbers in 2018 is Wizz Air –ranked at number nine, with almost 34 million passengers. The second largest airline based in the region, LOT Polish Airlines, carried just under nine million passengers in 2018, placing it at number 23.

The two next largest airlines carried only broadly half of LOT's traffic: Blue Air with five million and airBaltic with four million. There are a further nine Central European airlines that had more than 100k seats in 2018: SmartWings, TAROM, CSA Czech Airlines, Air Serbia, Croatia Airlines, Adria Airways, Bulgaria Air, Montenegro Airlines and Albawings.

This report presents a brief look at these smaller Central European airlines, i.e. those of Blue Air's size and below. They are characterised by their small scale, focus on European destinations (mainly in Western Europe), significant use of regional aircraft types in many cases, relatively rapid growth (but not in all cases) and use of partnerships to widen their reach (whether codeshare or full alliance membership).

A number of them are at least partly state-owned, but private investors are also not uncommon in the region's airlines. Consolidation looks likely.

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