Ryanair plans to significantly grow in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) over the coming decade with low cost carriers (LCCs) commanding over 50% of total seat capacity in four out of seven markets in the former Yugoslavia. “We want to focus very much on this region. We see that this is going to be a large part of our upcoming expansion. It’s pretty hard at this moment to say about the exact numbers, but we hope that the whole region is going to grow at least by 50%”, Ryanair’s Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, Alicja Wojcik-Golebiowska, said. While Poland has long been one of Ryanair’s key markets, Ms Wojcik-Golebiowska noted the company was now redoubling its focus on other countries in the region. Wizz Air has a dominant position in most of CEE, with a total 41.6% passenger share out of all the LCCs in the region.
Ryanair operates in five out of seven markets in the former Yugoslavia, the only exceptions being Slovenia and Kosovo. Wizz Air is the largest low cost carrier in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, with Ryanair having the upper hand in Croatia and Montenegro. In Macedonia, Wizz Air holds a 61.6% passenger share on the market and an 89.1% share amongst LCCs. In Bosnia its market share stands at 42.7% and 65.9% amongst LCCs, while in Serbia it has an overall 19.7% passenger share but 71.1% of the market when factoring only budget carriers. Within the CEE region, LCCs have an overall seat capacity share of under 50% only in Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro, where network carriers are still dominant.
Ryanair has significantly increased its presence in Croatia over the past few years with the opening of its base in Zagreb, as well as its seasonal base in Zadar. However, it faces greater headwinds on other markets. The airline recently announced it would discontinue three routes from Podgorica due to an increase in airport charges. Furthermore, it discontinued operations out of Tuzla in June over taxes and despite talks with Sarajevo Airport over the potential introduction of flights, so far, they have not materialised. Almost a decade ago, Ryanair announced it would launch flights to Skopje in a direct challenge to Wizz, however, these plans were scrapped for unspecified reasons. The airline has also stagnated in Serbia with its operations out of Niš, while it does not operate to Pristina where Wizz Air became the airport’s largest carrier by passengers handled last year. Despite talks between Ryanair and the Slovenian government, last held in late January of this year, it has not found a solution to enter the market, the only in the European Union it still does not serve.
Ryanair says it will “catch up” in the region. “We see that Central and Eastern Europe was a little bit left behind over the last years. So, we want to catch up in this region to catch it up with our most developed markets like Spain, Italy or Poland”, Ms Wojcik-Golebiowska, noted. She concluded, “We plan to do it with delivering more routes and better fares and more travelling choices for our passengers”.