A common cause in the failure of all three airlines was the difficulty they had competing in the intra-European market with low-cost carriers (LCCs) and ultralow-cost carriers (ULCCs) such as Ryanair, Easy Jet, Wizz and Norwegian, Wober said. ULCCs, most notably Ryanair, are especially important in Europe, accounting for 28% of capacity, according to figures presented at an August aviation conference by the U. Former Italian flag carrier Alitalia still was managed with significant influence from the Italian government and also had to deal with powerful unions that made cost reductions difficult.
Air Berlin, which had been Europe's 10th-largest airline, had tried to reinvent itself as an LCC after the rise of airlines such as Ryanair and Easy Jet but couldn't keep its costs low enough, especially while operating a mixed fleet of short- and long-haul aircraft.
But Air Berlin and Alitalia each accounted for only 2% or so of European airline capacity, Wober said, while Monarch accounted for less than 1%. The demise of Air Berlin, Alitalia and Monarch will push an ongoing trend toward the stronger airlines getting stronger."I think those five will continue to grow share, but I don't think they'll get from around 45% to 75% or 80% in a few years," Wober said.
Wober said the top five European airline groups -- IAG, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Easy Jet and Air France-KLM -- account for approximately 45% of seats as compared with the more than 80% of seats that the top six U. Ashley Raiteri, chief information officer for Air Help, an app that helps passengers claim EU-mandated compensation on delayed and canceled European flights, said that the point-to-point operating models of many smaller European airlines should help them survive."I don't see the EU carrier space turning into the U. space, because there is not a hub-and-spoke system like there is in the U. In contrast to airlines that rely more heavily on hub airports, point-to-point airlines can more nimbly adjust their route networks to fit changing marketplaces, Raiteri said.
The collapse of the carriers will result in some consolidation of the European airline market, especially if major players Lufthansa and Easy Jet buy up portions of Air Berlin or Alitalia.
For others that reside in areas predominantly served by one major carrier, such as Delta in Minneapolis-St. C., a merger may provide more destinations to fly to without connecting at another airport hundreds of miles out of their way.
Airlines and industry analysts point out that the vast majority of travelers are merely looking to get from point A to point B, and have little interest in route networks, pricing structures, or fleet integration.
That is, of course, only until it was leapfrogged in passenger-miles flown by United Airlines, which completed its .2 billion merger with Continental Airlines this May.
In September, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced that it would acquire Orlando-based Air Tran Airways, combining the two largest low-cost carriers (LCCs) in the country, bringing its total destinations served to 72 and cementing its position as the largest airline by number of domestic passengers carried.
Humphreys said that rules requiring an airline to be majority-owned by nationals of its base country also make consolidation tougher in Europe, with its large number of countries, than those same rules do in the U. While majority EU ownership suffices for merging airlines that fly only within the European market, those that fly outside the EU must develop complicated ownership structures.