German Pax Traffic Growth Slows, Domestic Air Traffic Dips

 - August 16, 2018, 1:17 PM

German airports increased passenger throughput in the first half of this year, but with a plus 2.3 percent, their growth rate is “significantly disproportionate” compared with the world and European average, which stood at 6.4 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, the Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL) noted in a recently released report.

In the first half of 2017, Germany’s airports recorded year-on-year growth of 6.4 percent in the number of passengers passing through their terminals.

The BDL attributes this year's sluggish performance to the “temporary capacity decline as a result of the market exit of Air Berlin.” Germany’s second-largest airline filed for insolvency one year ago and ceased operations at the end of October.

Air Berlin’s bankruptcy affected domestic traffic the most. Passenger numbers on intra-German routes dropped 4.9 percent in the first six months compared with the same period last year. Some 20 percent of German passenger throughput is on domestic routes. Systemwide, German airports handled 112 million passengers in the first six months. Growth was driven by traffic to/from Europe (up 4.8 percent).

According to the BDL, the demise of Air Berlin also is causing a shift in market shares, with German airlines losing ground in their home market. “Foreign airlines have, quite considerably, filled the capacity gap so that the market share [measured in the number of seats] of the German airlines at German airports further fell from 59.7 percent to 56.7 percent within a year,” the BDL said. This is in spite of Lufthansa budget subsidiary Eurowings swallowing up a large part of Air Berlin’s operations.

German airlines still hold a leading market share, but their loss of market share in terms of seat capacity is due not only to Air Berlin’s market exit, as the trend is ongoing over the past several years. In the first half of 2012, they still held a capacity share of 66.1 percent on routes to/from German airports.

German airlines including Lufthansa Group, Condor, and TUIfly carried 73.4 million passengers in the first half of the year, down 4.5 percent on the year-ago period when Air Berlin was still flying. German airlines posted a 6.1 percent increase in passengers in the first six months of 2017, BDL data show. 

On a European level, the bankruptcy of Air Berlin and other airlines such as UK’s Monarch Airlines and Alitalia furthered the consolidation process. The five largest airlines/airline groups increased their combined share of intra-EU/Switzerland seat capacity to 66 percent in the first half of 2018, up from 64 percent last year. “With 139 airlines, the choice for consumers is comparatively high within the EU/Switzerland,” the BDL said, pointing out that in the U.S. the top five carriers accounted for more than 85 percent of total domestic capacity in the first half. Consumers there had a choice of 48 airlines.

The airline group holding the largest capacity share on routes within the EU/Switzerland is Lufthansa with 17.6 percent of seats, followed by Ryanair (16.3 percent), the BDL report shows.