Lufthansa rises above Ryanair as Europe’s largest

Lufthansa has retaken the crown as Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers after Ryanair was forced to cut thousands of flights because of pilot rostering problems.

The Lufthansa group as a whole carried 130m passengers last year, it said. The equivalent figure from Ryanair was 129m, meaning Ryanair slips behind Lufthansa after overtaking it in 2016.

Lufthansa has grown rapidly, having taken over Brussels Airlines at the end of 2016 and aiming to grow its budget brand Eurowings. The group, which also includes Swiss and Austrian Airlines, has also benefited from the collapse last year of rival Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest carrier.

Ryanair, meanwhile, has curbed its growth plans after a pilot rostering fiasco left it without enough standby pilots to fly its planes.

Air France-KLM reported a 5.6% rise in group passenger numbers to 98.7m, helped by its low-cost carrier Transavia. IAG, the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia, carried 104.8m people in 2017, up by 4%.

Lufthansa was already the largest in terms of distance, or revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), as it operates flights over both long and short distances, while Ryanair flies only short-haul routes. Most airlines use RPK as their main measure of traffic, but Ryanair does not provide the figure in its monthly updates. IAG shares have climbed 169% in the past year; Lufthansa by 168%; IAG by 42%; Ryanair shares have risen by 4.3%.

Reuters and Irish Examiner staff

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