I'm not in countdown mode for my Nordic adventure quite yet, but I have been very busy of late—with the cryptically aforementioned Project K as well as a huge backlog of other obligations.
1. Two local faves made it into Monocle's July/August issue: Café Select, which I raved about here back in January, and the nearby McNally Jackson Bookstore.
2. European readers—or anyone intending to spend any time in Europe soon—ought to get online immediately to try to nab some very cheap Air Berlin flights. How cheap? Fares begin at €29 for one-way flights throughout much of Europe; at €149 for one-way flights to destinations in North America; and at €199 for one-way fares to destinations as far-flung as Bangkok and Windhoek. These fares have been released in celebration of the airline's thirtieth birthday. Best of all, they include all taxes and charges. This promotion is on through tomorrow.
Air Berlin, in partnership with Niki, just announced its city tour pass, a great summer air pass for travelers aged 18-27. For €199, participants get five air passes for air travel between 34 destinations across Europe and beyond. Pass holders don't have to follow a direct path, either; participants can fly from, say, Düsseldorf to Helsinki and then from St. Peterburg to Berlin.
The 34 cities covered by the pass include destinations as far afield as Tel Aviv, Moscow, Barcelona, Manchester, and Oslo.
The pass is good for travel throughout July and August. The €199 includes taxes and charges. There are only 3000 air passes available—time is of the essence, kids.
Ryanair's May was no great shakes, either way. In May 2009, the airline's passenger totals jumped 9 percent, from 5.06 million to 5.51 million, while their load factor increased slightly, from 80 to 81 percent. These figures stand against May 2008 numbers.
Air Berlin's comparable statistics are on the surface a bit more worrying. The airline flew 2.51 million passengers in May, against May 2008's 2.72 million. That's a drop of 7.7 percent. In Air Berlin's press release, the airline points out that capacity was also reduced in May 2009 by 3.1 percent, which accounts for some but not all of this drop. Load factor fell 3.8 percent, from 80.8 percent in May 2008 to 77.0 percent in May 2009.
What's most noteworthy here is the fact that Air Berlin is filling more than three of every four seats, while Ryanair is filling more than four of every five, in the midst of bad economic times.
In other LCC news, Paris Beauvais airport—a big hub for Ryanair—is closed May 3 through May 9.
Air Berlin has announced a new Berlin-Tel Aviv route, with starting roundtrip fares as low as €198. There are plenty of these low promotional fares available throughout September and October, though they appear to have largely disappeared for August travel.
The German airline joins several other European low-cost carriers, including Jet2 and TUIfly, in offering flights between various European cities and Tel Aviv.
Today Air Berlin announced six new summer destinations: Jersey, Krakow, Oslo, Rijeka, Split, and Venice. Jersey and Venice will be served nonstop from Düsseldorf. Krakow and Oslo will be reached nonstop from Berlin-Tegel, and Rijeka and Split will be served from Nürnberg.
It's certainly nice to see some new destinations from a European low-cost carrier, especially after the route reductions of the last year or so.
The Air Berlin summer schedule begins on May 1 and stretches through the close of October.
Both airlines continue to weather the storm, with differing results.
In February, Ryanair's load factor jumped three percent, to 78 percent from last February's 75 percent, while their passenger tally jumped 7 percent to 4.13 million. As in previous months, the airline's extreme sale mode is working, at least in statistical terms—whether they're making money is another question.
February saw Air Berlin struggling on the negative side of the ledger. The German airline's load factor fell from 72.5 percent last February to 70.8 percent, a slide of 1.7 percent. The number of passengers flown fell a more remarkable 8.5 percent, to 1.71 million, though the airline points out that capacity in February was down 6.3 percent against last February.
The upshot for passengers? There's more room to relax and spread out on Ryanair and Air Berlin flights than there used to be. I'm just trying to find the silver lining, that's all.
Less Than a Shoestring asked me to compare Porter and Air Berlin. What an interesting request! The airlines are quite different in terms of model yet both stand above their competitors in terms of the on-board experience they offer.
Porter operates almost exclusively along a point-to-point model, with almost all routes running either to or from Toronto City Centre airport. The point-to-point approach, interestingly, is more associated with low-cost carriers than it is with traditional carriers. Porter is not a low-cost airline, however, but rather a business airline with a fare structure that enables budget travelers to book flights relatively cheaply. A regional airline, Porter operates Bombardier Q400 turboprops that can only fly short-haul distances. Porter has a beautiful, compelling, carefully conceptualized brand.
Air Berlin, by way of contrast, bills itself as a low-cost carrier yet departs significantly from the low-cost carrier model. It sells connecting flights and provides snacks, drinks, and newspapers free of charge on board. Other departures from the low-cost carrier model include assigned seating and a frequent flyer program. The airline flies to around 80 destinations in Europe and beyond out of one major base and several big hubs in Germany and Spain. Its brand went through a major rework last year, though the livery associated with the rebranding has not yet been imposed universally. Air Berlin also operates codeshare agreements with several other airlines, a decision that further weakens brand stability.
Most importantly for budget travelers, both airlines offer inexpensive advance fares, and both provide an experience in the skies well above average.
I neglected to compare SkyEurope's September stats to those of Ryanair and Air Berlin on Tuesday. Sorry.
The Slovak LCC filled 78 percent of its seats in September, down a striking 6.4 percent from last September's 84.4 percent load factor. That's quite a drop. Compare SkyEurope's 78 percent load factor to Ryanair's 84 percent and Air Berlin's 82.5 percent. SkyEurope's passengers carried sum rose a very modest 1.5 percent. Compare this to Air Berlin's 3.1 percent drop and Ryanair's astounding 20 percent spike in the number of passengers flown.
The one constant here is faltering load factors. And I have a feeling things aren't about to get better.
In September, Air Berlin saw a modest drop in load factor to 82.5 percent from last September's 84.2 percent. The German airline carried 2.85 million passengers in September, down from last September's 2.95 million. These are the sorts of numbers one might expect to see as Germany and other European countries confront a financially insecure terrain. It will be interesting to see how Air Berlin weathers October.
Ryanair also witnessed faltering load factor in September, from 85 percent last September to 84 percent. The airline boosted their passenger numbers significantly, however, with a 20 percent increase. 5.23 million passengers flew Ryanair in September; the comparable number for September 2007 was 4.35 million. Again, October should be a telling month.