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Alitalia and the great European airline shakeout Add to ...

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For air travellers, Europe is a dream come true. At last count, the continent was home to more than 200 airlines, including two enormous low-cost wonders, easyJet and Ryanair, that will, at times, charge you more for baggage fees than the ticket itself.

For airline investors, Europe generally is a nightmare. The intense competition ensures that overall European airline profitability has been dismal. For the most part, the big “legacy” airlines lose money, not so the low-cost airlines. The worst-hit airlines are the ones shedding domestic traffic to high-speed rail and international traffic to easyJet and its clones. The shakeout has only begun. More than a few brand-name airlines will have to close, merge or seek partnerships with the powerful new kids on the runway – the Asian carriers.

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