Ryanair knocks Lufthansa off the top spot as Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers

Rebecca Smith
Ryanair announced it was opening a base at Frankfurt in November
Ryanair announced it was opening a base at Frankfurt in November (Source: Getty)

Aiming to become the "Amazon of travel" may seem a lofty ambition for Ryanair, but the airline has reason to feel confident at the moment.

It's just been confirmed that last year the airline was Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers. It announced last week it carried 117m passengers for 2016 (up 15 per cent) and today, Lufthansa reported a 1.8 per cent rise, which wasn't enough to see off the Irish airline, taking its annual total of passengers to 109.7m.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has declared he wants his airline to become the "Amazon of travel", with the airline launching package holidays at the end of last year.

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As for the German airline, it has been embroiled in a range of disputes with pilots and cabin crew staff over pay and conditions, as it seeks to cut costs to fend off competition from budget airlines, as well as long-haul carriers. Its pilots have walked out 15 times since the beginning of 2014.

But it's looking to woo passengers with today's announcement it will offer in-flight internet on selected flights within Europe, as it begins to roll out satellite Flynet technology across its fleet. Passengers on five aircraft it's being tested on will be offered free internet for the testing phase.

In the first three months of 2017, the number of Lufthansa aircraft with internet access will rise to 20, with plans to roll it out further from there. Customers will be able to choose between three different service packages, starting from €3 (£2.60) and up to €12, and pay by credit card or the likes of Paypal.

Read more: Ryanair passenger numbers have soared again

It has been a solid year for budget carriers across the board. Norwegian reported a 14 per cent rise in passenger numbers to 29m, while Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air was up 19 per cent to 23m.

Even easyJet, which had been buffeted more than some by strikes in France and tourist demand falling for certain places hit by attacks, posted a rise in passenger numbers of 6.6 per cent to 74.5m.

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