Europe Where Low Cost And Legacy Airlines Go Head to Head

Europe along with United States and Asia is among the richest aviation markets. Some of the largest and most influential airlines call Europe home, along with Airbus the biggest airplane manufacturer. Let’s take a closer look at Europe’s airline landscape and its peculiarities.

Which Type of Airlines Operate in Europe?

As in every other part of the world there are 3 types of airlines making up the European civil aviation landscape:

  • Full Service Airlines
  • Low Cost Carriers
  • Charter Airlines

Full service airlines in Europe often overlap with each country’s flag carrier. This is a peculiarity of the European market as it isn’t that common to have more than 1 full service airline per country as in the case in the US. However there are some rare exceptions where there is more than 1 full service carrier.

Low Cost Carriers, work and operate the same way they do in the United States. They offer bare fares charging travellers for every additional service or product they offer at the airport or in the air. These airlines has grown exponentially over the past 3 decades. They often offer flights on routes which wouldn’t be profitable for full service airlines, so to speak they fill the gaps.

Charter airlines in Europe are often owned and operated by large tour operators. That is the case of TUI in northern Europe or Neos in Italy.

Which are the Airlines and how do they operate in Europe?

Which Are Europe’s Largest Airline Groups?

Europe is home to three major groups in the civil aviation industry:

Air France-KLM was born from the merger of the flag carriers of France and the Netherlands. IAG on the other hand is controlled by British Airways and Iberia, respectively flag carriers of UK and Spain. On the other hand the Lufthansa group is by far the one that controls the largest number of airlines among which is also a significant number of flag carriers.

Each of these 3 airline groups positioned itself as the leading European force of the 3 major worldwide airline alliances:

Air France-KLM Group Air France-KLM GroupAriana Afgan Logo Skyteam
IAG Logo IAG GroupOneworld Logo Oneworld
Lufthansa Logo Lufthansa GroupStar Alliance Logo Star Alliance
A British Airways Airbus A350-900 among the airlines in Europe

Which Are Europe’s Low Cost Carriers?

There are 3 dominating European airlines followed by a smaller one which is not as big:

  • Ryanair
  • Easyjet
  • Wizzair

A level below these big 3 airlines sits the smaller fourth budget airline of the European landscape:

  • Vueling

Ryanair was the trailblazer, introducing on a wide scale the low cost travel model into Europe. The airline has its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, however it has bases spread out across the continent.

Easyjet was the second airline to make it big in the European aviation market using the LCC model. Their base is in the UK, however them too operate bases all over Europe, with one of the largest ones outside of the UK being Milan Malpensa.

Then there’s Wizzair. The Hungarian low cost airline was the last carrier to invite itself to the party. Wizzair was quite smart in gaining an advantage over the competition during Covid 19 when they heavily expanded their fleet anticipating a strong recovery. Thanks to this high risk high reward strategy they have now become one of the main figures in European civil aviation.

Then there’s Vueling, the smallest of the lot. Actually Vueling is the a low cost carrier controlled by the IAG group.

All you need to know aboutt European Airlines

Which Airports Do Europe’s Flag Carriers Use as Hubs?

CountryAirlinePrimary HubSecondary Hub
AustriaAustrian Airlines Logo AustrianVienna Schwechat (VIE)
BelgiumBrussels Airlines Logo Brussels AirlinesBrussells (BRU)
BulgariaBulgaria Air Logo Bulgaria AirSofia (SOF)
CroatiaCroatia Airlines Logo Croatia AirlinesZagreb (ZAG)
Denmark SASCopenhagen (CPH)
EstoniaNordicaTallin (TLL)
FinlandFinnair Logo FinnairHelsinki (HEL)
FranceAir France Logo Air FranceParis (CDG)
GermanyLufthansa Logo LufthansaFrankfurt (FRA)Munich (MUC)
GreeceAegean Logo AegeanAthens (ATH)Thessaloniki (SKG)
IrelandAer Lingus Logo Aer LingusDublin (DUB)
IcelandIcelandair Logo IcelandairReykjavik (KEF)
ItalyITA Airways Logo ITA AirwaysRome Fiumicino (FCO)Milan Linate (LIN)
LatviaAir Baltic Logo Air BalticRiga (RIX)
LuxembourgLuxair LuxairLuxembourg (LUX)
MaltaAir Malta Logo Air MaltaMalta (MLA)
Norway SASOslo (OSL)
NetherlandsKLM Logo KLMAmsterdam Schiphol (AMS)
PolandLOT Logo LOTWarsaw (WAW)
PortugalTAP Portugal Logo TAP PortugalLisbon (LIS)
UKBritish Airways Logo British AirwaysLondon Heathrow (LHR)London Gatwick (LGW)
RomaniaTAROM Logo TAROMBucharest (OTP)
SpainIberia Logo IberiaMadrid Barajas (MAD)
Sweden SASStockholm Arlanda (ARN)
SwitzerlandSWISS International Logo SWISSZurich (ZRH)

set aside a few exceptions where primary and secondary hubs have an equal importance, such as in Lufthansa’s case with Munich and Frankfurt, the majority of Europe’s flag carriers have a single hub. Among the largest airports in Europe are:

  • Amsterdam Schiphol
  • Francoforte
  • Monaco di Baviera
  • Parigi Charles de Gaulle
  • Londra Gatwick
  • Londra Heathrow
  • Roma Fiumicino
  • Madrid Barajas
  • Milano Malpensa