Ryanair is set to embark on yet another significant expansion in Vienna through its daughter company Lauda. Last month it announced it would base four additional aircraft in Vienna, and ever since then, it has been announcing new routes from there. Most of these appear to be targeting lucrative holiday routes operated by Star Alliance members, and predominately Austrian Airlines.
Austrian Airlines is the primary target
Some new routes are to destinations that are not served from Vienna yet, like Shannon. But most of the new routes will match the services already offered by Austrian Airlines, almost exclusively to coastal Mediterranean destinations. This is not a coincidence.
If Lauda is to capture some of Austrian’s market share out of Vienna, it needs to target routes where there is sufficient point-to-point demand. In contrast, Austrian Airlines’ services to continental European destinations are made viable because they carry transfer passengers. This does not make them attractive for a point-to-point LCC airline like Lauda. This is why so few of Lauda’s new routes are to continental European cities.
Italy has long been a focus market for Lufthansa Group. Flights from Italian airports to Vienna are operated by Eurowings and Austrian Airlines itself. Lauda is set to disrupt this by launching flights to Brindisi, Lamezia Terme, Catania, Palermo, Alghero and Milan Malpensa.
Taking Alghero as an example, it is clear Lauda has decided to enter a direct battle with Lufthansa Group. Lauda’s services between this Italian city and Vienna will run on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are also the days when Eurowings flies this route. On both days Lauda’s flight departs within three hours of the Eurowings one.
In Brindisi, Lauda has recognized a gap in the market and has scheduled five weekly flights against Austrian’s single weekly departure. In Lamezia Terme, Lauda will be flying twice weekly against Austrian’s two weekly. Austrian flies both these flights on Saturdays, and Lauda has scheduled one of its two flights for that day too. Also in Catania, Lauda will be present three times weekly against Austrian’s four weekly.
In Greece, Lauda will launch flights to Kefalonia and Skiathos. In Kefalonia, it has scheduled two weekly services against Austrian’s one weekly, in Skiathos two weekly against Austrian’s two weekly.
On its two Greek routes, Lauda will also compete against Star Alliance member Aegean Airlines with its successful hub model in Athens. Aegean and Austrian codeshare on a number of services and passengers can purchase return tickets to mainland Greece and Greek islands from Vienna in a variety of combinations that involve direct and connecting flights.
Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austrian has for many years been a dominant presence. Sarajevo International Airport has two daily flights to Vienna with Austrian Airlines. Lauda is now set to disrupt the market between Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina by launching flights between Vienna and Banja Luka. Services will run twice weekly.
Banja Luka is an obvious choice for a LCC like Lauda. Its fees are significantly lower than Sarajevo’s. In fact, the taxes and surcharges paid by airlines at Sarajevo are collected by the government to subsidize other airports in the country like Banja Luka.
Banja Luka is also the northernmost airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and at the very edge of the country’s border with Croatia. It is just 2-3 hours’ drive away from Zagreb, which is another catchment area that Lauda is targeting.
Presently, air travel between continental Austria and the entire area of Slovenia, continental Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is very strongly dominated by Star Alliance airlines. These are not just Croatia Airlines and Austrian Airlines, but also Lufthansa and Eurowings.
Slovenian passengers wishing to reach Vienna by air will use Zagreb Airport in Croatia, which is served by Austrian Airlines and Croatia Airlines several times daily under a codeshare agreement. Citizens of Bosnia do the same: they either drive to Zagreb or to Sarajevo from where they can fly Austrian Airlines to Vienna. Lauda is set to disrupt this.
Lauda is also launching flights from Vienna to Zadar in Croatia next summer. Eurowings currently flies the route seasonally, but next summer it will transfer this service to Austrian Airlines itself.
Austrian’s daily flight between Zadar and Vienna is code-shared by its Star Alliance partner Croatia Airlines and also sold by Lufthansa. This route has never had competition before until Lauda decided to break the monopoly.
Lastly, Lauda will be launching flights to the Croatian town of Dubrovnik too. Austrian Airlines has been flying once to twice daily to Dubrovnik with Airbus A320 family aircraft for years. Next summer, its monopolistic 10-weekly schedule will for the first time face competition, with Lauda’s two weekly flights being priced at far lower prices.
With all these developments, Lufthansa Group is surely regretting its decision not to bid for Lauda. Ryanair’s involvement with Lauda appears to have caused considerable upset for Austrian Airlines.