The Ryanair Group: From One Airline To Five

Three years ago, Ryanair was a single Irish airline operating flights across Europe. However, an awful lot has changed in those three years, with five airlines now falling under the Ryanair Group umbrella, even including some Airbus A320 family aircraft. Simple Flying decided to look into how one airline became five.

Ryanair, Boeing 737 MAX, Liveries
Since 2018 Ryanair has diversified its operations. Photo: Ryanair

Excluding the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ryanair carries more international passengers than any other airline. In 2019 the airline carried 149 million passengers on its 2,500+ daily flights across 40 countries. While every Ryanair group flight operates under a Ryanair flight number, the Irish LCC is increasingly diversifying its operations across its group airlines.

Five group airlines

Today there are five airlines in the Ryanair Group. The first is the original Ryanair airline, which remains the principal member of the group. In November 2018, the first subsidiary popped up in the form of the Polish Ryanair Sun. In March 2019, the airline’s only UK-registered aircraft began operating flights for Ryanair UK.

August 2019 saw the creation of the airline’s largest subsidiary to date. Known as Malta Air, the airline has bases across Europe and has slowly taken market share from Ryanair. Finally, following a complete purchase of the airline, Laudamotion began operating Ryanair flights in late 2019, according to schedule data from aviation data experts Cirium.

Ryanair, Subsidiaries, Malta Air
Ryanair began to add subsidiaries with Ryanair Sun (renamed Buzz) in 2018. Data: Cirium (click to enlarge)

What does the data show?

Excluding the impact of the pandemic, the addition of the new subsidiaries had naturally meant that the number of flights being operated by Ryanair began to fall. However, at the same time, the airline was operating more flights year on year.

Interestingly, the market share of Ryanair Sun (now called Buzz) and Malta Air began to grow steadily. There was a brief exception during the height of the first wave of COVID-19 in Europe when all of the airline’s few flights were operated by the main Ryanair airline.

Ryanair, Subsidiaries, Malta Air
Malta Air was the largest Ryanair group airline in April. Data: Cirium (click to enlarge)

For much of 2021, the UK and Ireland have had fairly strict travel policies. This was true as most of Europe was starting to relax its travel restrictions. This allowed the European Malta Air subsidiary to flourish. In April 2021, Malta Air actually operated more flights than Ryanair, at 3,906 to 3,480.

Ryanair Sun Buzz

So let’s take a look at the airline’s different subsidiaries in order, starting with Ryanair Sun, the first to begin operating flights. Ryanair Sun initially began operating charter flights in April 2018. In mid-to-late 2018, Ryanair announced that it would be closing its Polish bases and transferring operations to Ryanair Sun.

In March 2019, Ryanair revealed that Ryanair Sun was getting a rebrand and ditching the Ryanair name. The airline now operates as Buzz, while all active aircraft still wears the old Ryanair livery. The airline purchased the Buzz brand in 2003 for around €20 million.

Ryanair Buzz Boeing 737 MAX Getty
Ryanair Sun was rebranded as Buzz, with a giant bee on the tail. Photo: Getty Images

According to data from ch-aviation.com, the airline today has a fleet of 48 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The fleet has an average age of 4.3 years, containing 8,694 seats. It is expected to take a tranche of the airline group’s 210 strong 737 MAX order. The airline has bases in Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Czechia, and Austria. Its primary base is Warsaw’s Modlin Airport.

Ryanair UK

With the uncertainty of Brexit weighing on Ryanair’s mind, the airline decided to establish a presence in the UK just in case it was necessary to continue operations once the big day came. The airline group founded Ryanair UK in 2017, with the airline’s first aircraft, G-RUKA, joining the UK aircraft register on December 20th, 2018.

Ryanair, Subsidiaries, Malta Air
Ryanair UK was launched to mitigate any potential problems of Brexit. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Today, the airline has just two Boeing 737-800s, with a second, G-RUKB, being transferred from Buzz on March 10th. The two aircraft have an average age of 6.8 years and are based out of the airline’s base at London Stansted Airport, which also acts as the central Ryanair hub.

Malta Air

Malta Air was founded in 2019 through an agreement between the Maltese government and Ryanair. Initially, ten aircraft were to join the Malta Air fleet, based out of Malta’s Luqa International Airport. The airline has flourished in the two years since. Today, the airline has 120 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with its first Boeing 737 MAX 200 arriving earlier this week.

All in all, the airline’s fleet has an average age of 4.8 years and a total capacity of 22,680 passengers. The airline has bases in Itlay, Germany, France, and Malta, including at major European hubs, such as Frankfurt Airport.

Malta Air, Ryanair, Boeing 737 MAX
Malta Air has taken delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Luka Cvetkovic – @euro_spotter

Lauda Europe

Lauda Europe, founded as Laudamotion, commenced flights in March 2018 when Ryanair revealed it would acquire 24.9% of the airline, before later growing it to 75%. The investment marked a departure from Ryanair’s typical model, as it meant the airline would have some Airbus A320 family aircraft under its care.

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In January 2019, Simple Flying reported that Ryanair had taken over 100% of the airline. There had been plans to add bases. However, the pandemic got in the way. According to data from ch-aviation.com, the Lauda Ryanair purchases went out of business last year to be replaced with Lauda Europe, which was founded last year. The airline has 29 A320-200 aircraft, with an average age of 14.4 years and a capacity of 5,220. Lauda Europe shares its main base with Malta Air.

Ryanair, Subsidiaries, Malta Air
Laudamotion is the only part of Ryanair to operate Airbus aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

How does the fleet break down?

Ryanair still operates most of the fleet, accounting for 56% of the fleet with 257 aircraft. This includes five Boeing 737 MAX jets and a single Boeing 737-700. Of course, the majority of its subsidiaries’ fleets also contain aircraft in the Ryanair colors. This is set to change moving forwards. As you can see from the first picture in this article, the subsidiaries’ liveries are finally making it onto brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft being delivered.

How many of Ryanair’s subsidiaries have you flown on? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!

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