Ryanair to begin Tirana with 17 routes and 96 flights from first week; big competition with Wizz Air
The Western Balkans is an underserved region for Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline. It is only the tenth largest carrier, with Albania a key missing part of its network. This changes in W23, when Ryanair will finally begin serving Tirana, its third airport in the region. Launching the Albanian capital is seemingly partly because of the inexhaustible rise of Wizz Air, with considerable competition between the two ULCCs.
Ryanair to begin Tirana; Wizz Air grows again
Launching on 31 October, Ryanair will start 16 of its 17 routes on that first day, with all operational within the first two days. Routes will be served using non-based aircraft. According to Ryanair’s website, it has 96 departing flights in the first week, which, when writing, is not scheduled to vary in W23. The ULCC will have nearly a fifth of Tirana’s weekly departures in November.
Ryanair revealed Tirana on 9 June. It came a day after Wizz Air announced a further 10 new and returning routes from the airport, along with higher frequencies on 12 existing routes.
The pair’s coming routes are as follows, with weekly flights shown in brackets. Examining Cirium schedules tells that it is the first time that 10 of the airports have been served from Albania, at least in 20 years. They are shown with an *.
- 29 October: Wizz Air, Bucharest (5-weekly)*
- 31 October: Ryanair, Bologna (daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Brussels CRL (6)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Bucharest (3)*
- 31 October: Ryanair, Catania (daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Edinburgh (2)*
- 31 October: Ryanair, Krakow (3); served briefly by LOT Polish in 2021
- 31 October: Ryanair, London STN (2-daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Manchester (3)*
- 31 October: Ryanair, Milan BGY (2-daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Paris BVA (5-weekly)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Pisa (daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Prague (2)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Rome CIA (9)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Stockholm ARN (2)*
- 31 October: Ryanair, Venice TSF (daily)
- 31 October: Ryanair, Warsaw WMI (3)*
- 1 November: Ryanair, Weeze (2)*
- 18 December: Wizz Air, Edinburgh (3-weekly)*
- 18 December: Wizz Air, Krakow (5-weekly); served briefly by LOT Polish in 2021
- 18 December: Wizz Air, Prague (4-weekly); served by Wizz Air in 2020/21
- 18 December: Wizz Air, Sofia (3-weekly)
- 19 December: Wizz Air, Liverpool (3-weekly); served by Wizz Air in 2021/22
- 21 December: Wizz Air, Birmingham (2-weekly)*
- 25 March 2024: Wizz Air, Chania (3-weekly)*
- 25 March 2024: Wizz Air, Malta (2-weekly)*
- 25 March 2024: Wizz Air, Palermo (3-weekly)*
Ryanair to compete directly with Wizz Air on 11 routes
Analysis of Ryanair’s network shows that it will compete directly with Wizz Air on 11 of its 17 routes: Bologna, Brussels CRL, Bucharest, Catania, Edinburgh, Krakow, Milan BGY, Paris BVA, Pisa, Prague and Venice TSF. Some places, such as Edinburgh and Krakow, have not had Tirana flights before – now they have two ULCCs. The remaining six routes face indirect competition:
- London STN: Wizz Air serves LTN
- Manchester: Wizz Air serves Liverpool
- Rome CIA: Wizz Air serves FCO
- Stockholm ARN: Wizz Air serves NYO
- Warsaw WMI: Wizz Air serves WAW
- Weeze: Wizz Air serves Dortmund and Cologne
Ryanair’s generally high frequencies and overlap with its fellow ULCC indicates the extent to which its Tirana entry appears competitive rather than opportunistic. Indeed, winter is the low season, and many routes will now have record high – and surely unsustainably high – frequencies. For example, when all airlines are considered, Tirana-London has 58 weekly flights in January, up just 11 flights a week in 2019, 15 last year, and 23 in 2023.
The following figure shows the pair’s direct or indirect competition when Ryanair begins, excluding new routes that Wizz Air will launch later. Some 11 routes qualify. Ryanair has 72 weekly flights on them, while Wizz Air has 96. However, Wizz Air’s frequencies rise by more than two thirds to 161 weekly in January, with Ryanair’s presently to remain unchanged. The market is hotting up in more ways than one.
Tirana’s huge growth continues
Tirana has grown astonishingly recently, primarily because of Wizz Air. The airport ended 2022 with 5.20 million passengers – a year still impacted by coronavirus – up by 55.7% versus 2019. Europe’s fastest growing airport, Tirana’s traffic development is in stark contrast to most others. And now by attracting Ryanair, along with Wizz Air’s additional growth, it will now expand even quicker. But will it come at the expense of its wider airline portfolio?