Ryanair growth threatens Norwegian

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Europe’s biggest and most aggressive low-cost airline, Irish-based Ryanair, has traditionally flown between smaller, outlying airports to keep costs and taxes down. The company has now set its sights on major airports as part of a new growth strategy, posing a threat to other budget airlines like Norwegian Air.

Ryanair continues to generate turbulence in the Norwegian market where it's been trying to expand. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Ryanair’s new growth strategy is to fly into more capital city airports, rather than focusing on smaller, outlying bases. The plan poses a threat to other low fare carriers like Norwegian Air, which already targets budget travelers at main airports. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Ryanair’s new, long-term strategy is to increase passenger numbers from 81 million to over 100 million a year. The company wouldn’t be able to achieve those figures flying only from the less-accessible airports. “This is a further development of our concept where we now begin to also fly from the primary airports, at the same time as we continue to fly from secondary airports,” Communications Director Robin Kiely told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday. “We expect that half of the growth will come from the large airports.”

Ryanair already flies into main airports in Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona, Prague and Dublin. The company announced it will also start flying into airports in Athens, Brussels and Rome. Other strategies included introducing flexible ticketing, seat reservations and fast track check-in.

The plan presents a tough challenge for budget carriers like Britain’s EasyJet and Norwegian Air, which already fly between main airports. Danish aviation analyst Ole Kirchert Christensen told Aftenposten that in the Scandinavian market, Norwegian Air would be the most vulnerable. “There will always be a market for Ryanair in the price-conscious part of the business,” he said. “And Ryanair’s focus on the business market will affect Norwegian Air hardest because Norwegian has already taken the passengers from SAS who were removable from a full service product to a low price product.”

Norwegian said it was ready to meet the threat Ryainair’s growth posed. “Low costs are important for running a profitable business and to survive in the tough competition,” said Norwegian’s head of information, Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen. “Establishment of bases outside Scandinavia helps to reduce costs which again means that travelers get cheaper plane tickets.” Norwegian is in the middle of its own expansion strategy, and has been granted permission to run its long-haul service out of Ireland, under less-restrictive EU conditions.

Ryanair would not reveal if it had any plans to start flying into the main Scandinavian airports in 2014. The company faced problems in Norway last year, including an unfair dismissal case, accusations of illegal staff surveillance, and CEO Michael O’Leary’s friction with authorities, causing Ryanair to pull its outspoken boss out of the public relations spotlight. Late last year Ryanair announced it was cutting back some of its Norwegian flights to expand its service into Italy.

Ryanair flies into Rygge, Torp and Haugesund in Norway, but not into the main Oslo Gardemoen airport. An application to fly into Stockholm’s largest airport, Arlanda, is under consideration. The company previously applied for traffic rights into Copenhagen airport, but later withdrew its bid.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate