Ryanair, the leading European low cost airline, has agreed a deal with Frankfurt-Hahn airport, its most important operating base in continental Europe, which will triple its presence at the German airport by 2012.
For the first time the Irish low cost carrier has agreed to participate directly in financing the expansion of one of its base airports and has committed itself to providing a €12.5m loan to fund 50 per cent of the capital expenditure on a new passenger terminal at the airport.
Ryanair said that it would increase the number of aircraft based at Hahn, a former US fighter base located 60 miles west of Frankfurt, from six at present to 18 by 2012.
It planned to add aircraft - 189-seat Boeing 737-800s - at the rate of two a year with the target of increasing its passenger volumes from 3m in 2005 to 8m by 2012 with the number of routes served from Hahn doubling from 27 to more than 50.
The group said that the planned rate of growth could allow Hahn to overtake its home base in Dublin to become its second largest in Europe after London Stansted, where it currently has 39 aircraft and a network of 86 routes.
The loan to part-finance the development of the passenger terminal at Hahn was a sign of its “commtment” to the expansion of the airport, but it was “not interested” in part ownership or the operation of the airport, said a Ryanair spokesman. The group also planned to establish a maintenance facility at Hahn.
The German airport is owned 65 per cent by Fraport, the operator of Frankfurt airport, and 17.5 per cent each by the states of Hesse and Rhineland Palatinate. It is planning investments of €185m between 2006 and 2011 including an extension of the runway and new taxiways and aircraft stands.
Ryanair accounts for the lion’s share of passenger volumes at Hahn, but the airport also has services from two other low cost carriers, Hungary’s Wizz Air and Iceland Express and is developing as a centre for air cargo.
Ryanair has the broadest presence across Europe of any airline with 15 bases in seven countries.
It has opened Cork in Ireland as a base this month and will add Nottingham East Midlands in March next year. It has five bases in the UK including Luton, Glasgow Prestwick and Liverpool and three bases in Ireland including Dublin and Shannon.
In continental Europe it has three bases in Italy at Rome Ciampino, Milan-Bergamo and Pisa as well as bases at Barcelona-Gerona in Spain, Stockholm-Skavsta in Sweden, Brussels-Charleroi in Belgium and Frankfurt-Hahn.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said earlier this month that the airline was planning to double both profits and passenger volumes by 2012. It has forecast that it will carry 35m passengers in the current financial year to the end of March rising to more than 70m in 2012 by which time it plans to have 30 bases across Europe.
By the end of March Ryanair will be operating a single type fleet of 107 Boeing 737-800s with firm orders on a further 127 aircraft for delivery during the next seven years.