by Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, March 28, 2018
Love it or hate it, Ryanair is here to stay. And not just for British and Irish fliers. The polarising low-cost airline is taking over Europe.
Indeed, the UK isn’t even Ryanair’s biggest market. It operates more flights annually, as it has done since 2014, from Italy. The quirks of travelling with the Irish carrier - yellow interiors, no seat pockets, on-time jingle - are just as well known to residents of Sicily as they are to those departing from Stansted.
What’s more, Italy’s biggest airline isn’t Alitalia, the country’s flag carrier, or even newly founded Air Italy. By a very long way, it’s Ryanair. Dublin’s finest flew 36.3m people from an Italian airport last year, up from 32.6m in 2016, an increase of 11.2 per cent. Alitalia managed only 21.8m.
In Spain, too, it’s number one, carrying upwards of 34m passengers annually, putting it well ahead of the likes of Iberia, Air Europa and Vueling.
In fact, OAG, the aviation analyst, reports that Ryanair is now the biggest airline in seven European countries: Ireland, Spain, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. It takes second spot in five more (Portugal, Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic and Latvia) and third spot in a further six (UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Montenegro).
Which countries have yet to be conquered by Ryanair? Which nationalities are less au fait with those scratchcards and cheese-and-ham paninis? Among those places where it hasn’t cracked the podium - yet - are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria, Croatia and Russia.
It isn’t the only airline from the British Isles to have made big gains across the Channel. EasyJet is also vanquishing its European rivals. It recently became the biggest airline in the German capital after managing to snap up the slots left behind by the failure of Air Berlin. Take that, Lufthansa.
It is also number one in Geneva (step aside, Swiss), number two in Paris and Amsterdam, and number three in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.
Britain and Ireland might not have invented the modern low-cost model - that questionable honour goes to, arguably, Southwest Airlines - but they’ve certainly mastered it better than the rest of Europe.