May 16, 2017 | Low Cost Monitor

DLR study on low cost airlines: record supply, rising competition and falling prices

  • The number of European and intercontinental connections is steadily growing.
  • Larger airports are being increasingly used by low cost airliners.
  • With a market share of 50 percent, Eurowings is the largest provider in Germany.
  • Focal points: Aeronautics, air traffic

Eurowings dominates the market. Ryanair and easyJet are experiencing strong growth. Low cost airlines in Germany are increasingly setting their sights on major airports, leading to rising competition, record offer of low cost flights and a drop in ticket prices. These are the findings of the 'Low Cost Monitor 1/2017', recently published by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). The report has been published every spring and autumn since 2006.

Record number of low cost flights

"The low cost carrier network has 518 different routes that originate in Germany, which is a new record for a winter half-year," says Peter Berster from the DLR Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research in Cologne. "Ryanair has experienced the strongest expansion with an additional 35 new connections – a 25 percent increase. easyJet is also growing, and now flies to seven new destinations." Eurowings/Germanwings still holds a dominant position, although with slower growth than last year. The carrier has the largest range of low cost flights in and from Germany in winter 2017, accounting for a market share of more than 50 percent. It is followed by Ryanair, with a 21.5 percent share of the market, and easyJet with 11 percent. "Ryanair alone has increased its services by one fifth, offering roughly 150 more flights than last year," says Principal Investigator Berster. Airlines such as Transavia and Norwegian have even doubled their services. Over 23 percent of all flights departing from Germany are low cost.

Competitive situation of low cost carriers. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Prices continue to fall

The average gross prices charged by low cost carriers for a single flight have dropped to between 44 and 105 euro thanks to the continued fall in the price of oil, the large number of providers and increasing competition on the same routes. For comparison, in 2016, prices ranged from 64 to 107 euro. Despite their growing presence at major airports, Ryanair and Wizz have lowered last year's prices, hence contributing to the trend towards lower ticket prices," says Berster.

Average ticket price of low cost carriers. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Spain and eastern Europe increasingly popular

Domestic low cost flights in Germany account for just under 30 percent and are therefore the most popular products, although this market accounts for just under one tenth of all routes. 'On the other hand, 16 percent of flights or a total of 85 routes fly from Germany to Spain," says Berster. "This is a 20 percent increase compared to winter 2016." The number of flights to eastern European countries such as Romania, Hungary or Bulgaria is also increasing. The United States, Thailand and Central American markets have also gained in importance due to the long-haul services offered by Eurowings.

Major airports increasingly interesting

Berlin-Schönefeld, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Cologne/Bonn airports account for the lion's share of low cost German services in winter 2017. Berlin-Schönefeld recorded the most significant rise, 30 percent, which is largely due to Ryanair and easyJet. The share in Hamburg increased by 23 percent, precipitated by the expansion of Ryanair and other airlines. Germanwings, easyJet and Norwegian are also increasing their presence at Hamburg Airport and newcomer Wizz has just established itself there. Low cost flights are gradually gaining in importance at Frankfurt Airport, Germany's largest airport, although the share in total air transport remains very low – at less than one percent. "But this will continue to change in the future," explains Berster, "as Ryanair plans to service over 20 destinations from Frankfurt, starting in autumn 2017." Ryanair currently holds a share of five percent of German air transport, although this is also likely to increase as a result. Following the opening of a dedicated hub at Munich airport this year, Eurowings also has major plans, including the operation of its own base in Frankfurt from 2018.

Low cost carriers in Europe

Ryanair is still the largest European low cost airline, clocking over 11,000 take-offs in January 2017 alone. "The Irish airline increased its European services once again by over 10 percent compared to last year, whereby their route network has grown by 18 percent," explains Berster. "Its expansion in Germany has played a significant role in this development."

Great Britain is the country with the largest number of low cost flights with over 9000 take-offs per week. In this respect, the country’s network in winter 2017 comprises over 1000 routes to European and domestic destinations. There are now just under 800 connections with two competitors and slightly below 100 connections with more than two competing airlines. Almost one third of all flights in Europe already belong to the low cost sector.

Low cost flights in the long-haul sector are gaining significant ground as well. While Norwegian introduced flights to the United States and Asia as far back as 2013, offering routes from Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm in a modern Boeing 787, their services have since spread to London, Paris and Barcelona. Moreover, Eurowings introduced low cost long-haul flights departing Cologne/Bonn Airport for Asia and America at the end of 2015, and this spring significantly increased the number of take-offs compared to last year. In total, there are now 92 intercontinental low cost flights from Europe per week, compared to 55 last year.

Increasing traffic of low cost carriers in and from Europe. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Low Cost Monitor

The airlines that DLR tracks in its Low Cost Monitor are not identified based on their business model; rather, they are companies that exhibit a large number of services in the low cost segment of the overall market. Low prices, general availability and the significant disparity between the cheapest and most expensive prices for one route, depending on the advance booking period, remain typical features of the low cost segment. The above quoted findings of the study are based on data acquired during the reference week in January 2017. Airberlin, included in the Low Cost Monitor last year, is no longer taken into consideration due to structural changes in the study.


Falk Dambowsky

Head of Media Relations, Editor
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-3959

Peter Berster

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne