Caroline Mclaughlin/LONDON


Ryanair expects to double its number of 737s within four years

Ryanair, Europe's largest low fare airline, is to launch six new routes to destinations in three countries. The routes are part of an expansion plan which will see the airline double its fleet within the next four years, according to chief executive Michael O'Leary.

The new routes are all based on London Stansted, UK, one of two hubs the Irish airline operates - the other is Dublin.

In Italy the new destinations are Genoa, Turin and Ancona, and in France Biarritz and Dinard. Ryanair also enters the German market for the first time with flights to Frankfurt Hahn. Fares will undercut competitors by around 75%, Ryanair claims.

The airline will reveal details of "at least two" further destinations once it has confirmed delivery of its new aircraft later this year. The Ryanair fleet consists of 21 130-seat Boeing 737-200s. Four years from now, however, O'Leary predicts that the fleet will have doubled to 20 737-200s and 25 737-800s. The first of the -800s on order is due for delivery next month. O'Leary says that the -200s will all be hushkitted by 2002. Six have been equipped with Nordam hushkits, which will be standard for Ryanair's -200 fleet.

This move is the latest in a European expansion for Ryanair, which until 1997 had served only Irish and UK routes.

The carrier launched services to Scandanavia in 1997 and operates to 33 destinations in 10 countries. O'Leary claims Ryanair has captured a 20%-40% market share on each of its European routes.

Source: Flight International