Europe’s leading low-cost carrier Ryanair has reported a 7% year-on-year increase in passenger traffic, rising from 4.2 mln in February 2013 to 4.5 mln in February this year.
The airline, that is launching a handful of new routes from Cyprus next month, including Athens’ central Eleftherios Venizelos airport, said that its load factor also increased by a percentage point from 77% to 78%.
Ryanair Robin Kiely attributed the passenger increase to “the success of our lower fares, our easier-to-use website www.ryanair.com and our recent customer service improvements including allocated seats for all customers and the use of personal electronic devices on all flights.
“Further improvements will be rolled out over the coming months as Ryanair continues to lower prices and improve our industry leading customer service,” he added.
In January, the budget airline put the squeeze on troubled local carrier Cyprus Airways and the Greek airline Aegean when it announced flights from Paphos airport (PFO) to Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) with an introductory offer of just 12 euros each way. The launch fare has quickly sold out but caused an additional headache to Cyprus Airways that, although flying out of Larnaca, is seeing its market share erode further.
The Dublin-based carrier had so far only operated from Paphos to Patras, a route it plans to maintain for this summer, but the new Athens flight will be monitored throughout summer after which Ryanair will decide whether to increase the frequency to the Greek capital, a company official said.
Ryanair carried about 500,000 passengers to and from Paphos last year, with the most popular destinations both inbound and outbound being Manchester, London Stansted and Stockholm, spokesperson Maria Macken told the Financial Mirror.
She added that with an average load factor of 83% on its 189-seat aircraft, the PFO-ATH route could generate about 42,000 passenger seats this year. The flight departs from Athens at 12.10 and returns from Paphos at 14.10.
The new route marks Ryanair’s breakthrough to use Eleftherios Venizelos as a new base, also introducing flights from Stansted to the Greek capital for just GBP 24.99 each way.
The airline will continue to operate the Paphos-Stansted direct flight six times a week, as well as flights to Thessaloniki (11 weekly), Hania (5 weekly), Patra (3 weekly), Manchester (2 weekly), Brussels Charleroi (2 weekly) and Krakow (2 weekly), and the weekly schedules to Kaunas and Stockholm.
Aegean Airlines http://en.aegeanair.com/ , that used to operate a Paphos to Athens route which was terminated, but will introduce a Paphos-Kiev flight via Athens in summer, welcomed the challenge from Ryanair.
“The announcement for the establishment of new bases in Athens and Thessaloniki confirms that this is an openly competitive market within the European aviation industry, something that we have always contended,” Aegean said in an announcement.
“This is, after all, the reason that the merger of the two Greek airlines, Aegean and Olympic Air, was necessary in order to create the economies of scale which allow us to compete on an equal basis with other airlines and in other markets.”
In January, Aegean announced a 30% discount on all its international routes for flights to the end of June.
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