KLM CEO, Peter Hartman, criticised Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for entering discussions with easyJet, stating: "This sort of low-cost activity does not belong at Schiphol because no new destinations are added to the network." (DutchNews/Parool, 24-Jun-2010) Schiphol is reportedly in talks with the LCC to establish a base at the airport, with Mr Hartman stating this goes against agreements made between the aviation sector and the government two years ago.
Schiphol in discussions with easyJet; move criticised by KLM
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Ryanair's 117million pax in 2016 tops European airline groups. The first time an LCC topped rankings
For the first time ever in Europe, in 2016 a low cost airline carried more passengers than any other airline or airline group, as Ryanair's 117 million passengers pushed Lufthansa Group's 110 million into second place. Ryanair had beaten Lufthansa itself, but not the whole Lufthansa Group. IAG's first full year of including Aer Lingus helped it to take third place from Air France-KLM. Europe's number two LCC, easyJet, was ranked fifth.
The big five can be expanded into a big seven to include Turkish Airlines and the Aeroflot Group, although these two had contrasting growth rates in 2016. A chasing pack of middle sized airline groups includes three LCCs (Norwegian, Pegasus and Wizz Air) and three legacy airlines with varying challenges to establishing sustainable profitability (SAS, Air Berlin Group and Alitalia).
Most of the faster growing airline groups in the top 20 are LCCs and the main growth drivers for Europe's big three legacy groups are their LCC subsidiaries. Just outside the top 20 are some fast growing legacy airlines in Eastern Europe, demonstrating the potential there. Nevertheless, unless there is a big merger or acquisition, Ryanair looks set to remain at number one for some time.
Europe's big five airline groups embrace disruption via digital innovation; some more than others
Many of Europe's leading airline groups are acknowledging the importance of establishing dedicated incubator and/or accelerator programmes to innovate in digital technology. On 24-Apr-2017 IAG announced that it had invested in two new technology companies – Esplorio and Vchain Tech. These are the first two investments under its Hangar 51 accelerator programme in partnership with L Marks, an innovation specialist and early stage investor.
IAG's investments followed easyJet's announcement earlier this year that its partnership with the incubator Founders Factory had selected two travel startups for its accelerator programme. The Lufthansa Group established its Innovation Hub in 2014 and started a new partnership with Californian startup investor ‘Plug and Play’ in 2016. While these three groups chose external partners, Ryanair has its inhouse Labs team, set up in 2014. Air France-KLM is alone among Europe's big five airline groups in not having a distinct and dedicated digital incubator/accelerator programme, but it has recognised digital's strategic importance.
Much of the airlines' rhetoric concerning these developments suggests that they are trying to associate themselves with the forces of disruption, but this will take more than rhetoric. CAPA has argued previously that the airline industry has been slow to prepare for disruption, but some are at least making a start.