Virgin Atlantic CEO, Steven Ridgway, stated it “would make a lot of sense to work more closely” with Lufthansa, following its acquisition of bmi (Bloomberg, 17-Aug-2009). The carrier, which has vigorously opposed a planned trans-Atlantic agreement between British Airways and American Airlines, is concerned that the tie-up, if approved, would intensify the competitive landscape and may encourage it to seek cooperation with other carriers.
Virgin Atlantic mulls closer ties with Lufthansa
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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.
airberlin: another record loss, but "Jack of all trades" may have a chance to escape Groundhog Day
The German airline airberlin made another record loss in 2016 and has reported net losses in eight of the past nine years. It has lost a cumulative EUR1.9 billion in the five years since Etihad became a shareholder. The only small net profit, in 2012, was because Etihad bought its loyalty scheme. The first results for this year show that losses worsened in 1Q2017.
The better news is that, with shareholder Etihad's support, airberlin has sufficient liquidity to continue, and it has a restructuring plan with a new CEO. If the story of losses, Etihad support, restructuring and a new CEO sounds familiar, it is because it is. Airberlin has been through this almost as many times as Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.
Crucially, though, the latest restructuring does seem genuinely radical. As new CEO Thomas Winkelmann has said, airberlin used to be a "Jack of all trades", but master of none. Past restructurings made it a Jack of fewer trades, but never fully resolved this lack of focus. The current plan brings it focus as a network airline – scaling down, and largely exiting from leisure. There is still much execution to be done, and competitive conditions are unlikely to ameliorate, but Mr Winkelmann may have a better chance than his predecessors.