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Ryanair, Discount Rivals to Plateau at 30 Million Monthly Seats

Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc and other European discount will offer more than 30 million seats for the first time this month, extending growth that’s seen them boost capacity by 14 percent a year over the past decade.

Low-cost carriers have added more than 20 million seats to their market share in 10 years, versus an increase of 2.8 just million seats at their full-service rivals, according to a report published today by flight schedule data provider OAG.

The trend has driven former flag-carriers including Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG to revamp short-haul operations in a bid to stave off no-frills peers, OAG Executive Vice President John Grant said in London. Still, in mature markets like Europe and the U.S., the rapid capacity growth of the low-cost sectors appears to have plateaued, he added.

“The complete polarization of legacy versus low-cost is beginning to merge into a hybrid situation, with the legacy airlines frequently using the more sophisticated product offering of some of the low-cost carriers,” Grant said.

While the U.K. is Europe’s biggest market for discount airlines, with more than 8.8 million international seats as of this month, the low-cost model’s greatest penetration has been in Spain, where it accounts for 51 percent of domestic capacity and 54 percent of the market for foreign flights, OAG said.

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