Irish low-fares carrier Ryanair is set to choose a new continental European hub in February. Sinead Finn, Ryanair's sales director for Europe, told a press conference in Italy that the carrier was in talks with two continental airports.

Frankfurt Hahn, Stockholm Skavska, Paris Beauvais, Brussels South (Charleroi) and Brescia are seen as likely candidates by analysts. Of these, Hahn is seen as the favourite. "It has a big population base with a high propensity to fly," says John Mattimoe, analyst at Dublin-based Merrion Capital.

However, the German market has a high proportion of seat-only charter traffic, and flag carrier Lufthansa is unlikely to take such a move lying down. Indeed, this may be one of the reasons why it is understood to have considered a bid for Ryanair's competitor Go.

Skavska is seen as a possibility, but Brussels is viewed as a long shot, partly due to the presence of Virgin Express. Ryanair has recently appointed an Italian to its main board, although Finn says an Italian airport was not on the shortlist, although Brescia is in the running as a second continental hub.

Sources close to easyJet, meanwhile, pick out Spain as the most likely venue for its next continental hub. Madrid Barajas is seen as favourite, not withstanding its environmental limitations. Indeed, this may be one of the motives behind Iberia's interest in Go.

Source: Airline Business