Lufthansa Becomes Europe’s Largest Airline

Since the merger of Air France-KLM in 2004, the group has been the largest carrier in Europe, until now. After a blisteringly good 2018, Lufthansa have overtaken the Paris based company to take the crown as Europe’s largest airline.


It’s been 14 years since Air France-KLM took the title of largest airline in Europe, and they’ve kept it all that time too. Although Lufthansa have been putting the squeeze on the merged airline for several years, finally knocking them off their pedestal took some doing.

Carrying 142 million passengers in 2018, the Lufthansa group have set a new personal record with their effort. Last year they carried 130 million, which made them the largest European airline by passenger numbers that year. However, this year’s status is far more significant, as it’s measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), which are a more solid marker of how an airline is performing overall.

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Image: Bloomberg

No doubt the new status was only helped by ongoing strife at Air France-KLM, as labour unrest and management changes left them running at a loss, with profits down 81.6% in the first half of the year. Although things are starting to move in the right direction again now, Air France-KLM must have felt quite an impact from their turbulent year.

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Strife at the Air France-KLM group could have contributed to their lack of growth

It’s not only Lufthansa who are creating headaches at Air France-KLM HQ.  British Airways owner IAG grew twice as fast as them in 2018 and are also snapping at their heels to take a top spot in the largest airline league tables.

Organic growth at Lufthansa

The growth at the German carrier has been exponential, but natural. Their expansions has been around three times that of rival Air France-KLM, with much of the impetus behind the growth provided by budget airline arm, Eurowings.

Eurowings enjoyed a growth factor of almost 25% at some points in 2018, averaging 18% growth over the course of the year. Lufthansa’s purchases of Swiss, Austrian and Brussels airlines no doubt helped their expansion too.

Also driving growth were increased passenger numbers at their hubs in Zurich, Munich and Vienna. Zurich saw numbers increased by 9.5%, Munich by 9.3% and Vienna by 8.5%. The number of passengers at their biggest hub, Frankfurt, increased 4.7% last year.

Thanks to an overall increase in passenger traffic by 9%, Lufthansa are now 0.2% larger than Air France-KLM in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK). Last year, the airline operated more than 1.2 million flights with an average load factor of 81%.

lufthansa rebranding
Some lamented the loss of the ‘oldest airline logo in the world’

Although some were unhappy with the change to their livery, it seems like a good time for the airline to revamp its image and to set themselves up for an equally fantastic 2019.

Changes at Europe’s biggest airline

Don’t think that because Lufthansa have snatched the crown from Air France-KLM that they’ll be resting on their laurels now. They won’t. They’ve got big plans for 2019 and beyond, which will undoubtedly see even more growth as the years roll on.

Notably, they are the launch customer for the new 777X, an aircraft which we can confidently say the entire aviation world is waiting eagerly to check out. With it, they’re developing a new business class product which looks simply amazing.

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Lufthansa 777x business class.

Over the course of 2018, Lufthansa witnessed unprecedented demand for their First Class product. As such, we’ve already speculated that perhaps a new First Class cabin will be installed on their 777X.

They’ve launched a number of new routes for 2019, including to Austin, TX and Bangkok, as well as expanding many existing routes. They’ve ordered 27 new aircraft from the A320 family, some of which will be used to replace aging models, but others will be used to increase capacity even further.

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An A320 sporting the new livery

Whether you’re a keen customer of Lufthansa or are yet to enjoy the benefits of their flights, there’s never been a better time to take to the skies with the German carrier. Right now, and until the end of March, you can get five times the miles between select destinations in Europe, the US and Canada.

Do you think Lufthansa can hold onto the crown for 2019, or will Air France-KLM snag the top spot back again this year?