Eight of the world's 10 fastest growing airlines are low-cost carriers, new research has revealed, with a little-known Indian operator leading the way.
The aviation website Routes Online compared overall capacity for the first half of 2018 with the same six months last year. These are the 10 major carriers that grew quickest.
2018 H1 (first half) capacity: 17,389,909 (+18.5%)
Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary wasn't always a low-cost carrier; the switch was made from regional to no-frills in 2014.
In recent years it has also been increasing its long-haul portfolio, with departures now going both east (Bangkok) and west (Seattle, New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Cancun in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Varadero and Havana in Cuba). Starting in November 2018 is a link with Barbados. Services to Dubai, Boston and Phuket were offered briefly but have since been scrapped.
Frugal fliers, take note: last year it was found to offer the cheapest in-flight food and drink of any major European budget airline, with beers available for an impressive $A4.50.
2018 H1 capacity: 34,581,200 (+18.8%)
IndiGo might just be the biggest airline you've never flown with. Founded as recently as 2005, it now has a fleet of 167 planes and carries 46m passengers a year, making it comfortably India's biggest carrier and the third largest low-cost airline outside of Europe and North America (just behind the AirAsia group, based in Malaysia, and Lion Air, from Indonesia).
Is it resting on its laurels? Not a bit of it. On top of that fleet of 167 (nearly all of which are Airbus A320s or Airbus A320neos, with room for 180 passengers) it has a whopping 437 aircraft on order. That includes 405 A320neos (it is already the largest operator of the model, introduced in 2016), 25 A321neoLRs, and 42 smaller ATR 72-600s, which have room for just 74 on board. The ATRs will help IndiGo take advantage of the Indian government's regional connectivity scheme, which will see the creation of up to 100 new airports in remote parts of the country over the next few years. The potential for growth in India, a country of 1.324 billion increasingly middle class people, is incalculable, so IndiGo could one day become a low-cost giant to rival the likes of Southwest and Ryanair.
Its route map, for the time being, is almost entirely limited to domestic destinations. You'll find Dibrugarh, Vadodara, Ranchi, Kozhikode, Indore, Dimapur, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Madurai, Agartala, Bagdogra, and many more rapidly-expanding Indian cities you've probably never heard of, but only a handful of international destinations, namely Kathmandu, Muscat, Doha, Singapore, Colombo, Bangkok, Dubai and Sharjah.
8. Sriwijaya Air
2018 H1 capacity: 7,417,310 (+19%)
Indonesia's third largest carrier was founded in 2003 and concerns itself almost exclusively with domestic routes; Colombo, Dili (Timor-Leste) and Penang (Malaysia) are the only international services.
It shares something in common with Ryanair: its entire fleet (36 aircraft at the last count) consists of Boeing 737s. However, while efforts have been made to modernise its fleet, Sriwijaya's 737s are far older (they include 10 that date back to the early Nineties).
The airline was in the news back in 2016 for all the wrong reasons. One of its planes landed at the wrong airport after pilots ignored their cockpit systems, which they thought were faulty, only to find that their own navigational skills were wrong. The flight had departed from the city of Medan, on the east coast of North Sumatra, and was scheduled to arrive in Minangkabau International Airport in Padang in West Sumatra. However, the plane's 96 passengers were forced to disembark at nearby Tabing Airport, a military airfield which hadn't been used by commercial aircraft since 2005.
2018 H1 capacity: 8,462,160 (+19.8%)
This low-cost airline, also from Indonesia, is two years older than Sriwijaya, and a little bigger (54 aircraft and counting).
It was involved in one of the strangest delays ever witnessed last September, when a flight from Kualanamu International Airport took off 90 minutes behind schedule after of a swarm of bees decided to land on one of the plane's wings.
Yet another Indonesian airline could soon make Routes Online's top 10: Lion Air. The budget operation, which flies predominantly in and around south-east Asia, is set to triple the size of its fleet. It has a remarkable 247 aircraft on order, to add to its current stock of 114.
2018 H1 capacity: 10,272,500 (+20.7%)
Founded in 2007, Vietjet is growing fast, and now offers flights to 17 domestic and five international destinations from its hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Future routes, recently announced, include Brisbane and Tokyo.
It hasn't been all smooth sailing, however. In 2012 it was fined for allowing bikini-clad beauty pageant contestants to dance on board one of its plane without permission. Two years later it was roundly derided on social media for hosting a photo shoot featuring lingerie models pretending to be cabin crew.
In June 2014, meanwhile, two crew members were suspended after a flight bound for the tourist hub of Da Lat landed at another airport around 120 km away.
5. Wizz Air
2018 H1 capacity: 17,153,256 (+21.5%)
Wizz Air has a strong presence in Britain, offering flights from nine UK airports to all manner of weird and wonderful cities.
From Luton, for example, there's Kharkiv, Kutaisi, Varna, Lublin and Palanga (to name but a few), from Birmingham there's Cluj and Poznan (among others), from Doncaster/Sheffield you've got Gdansk and Debrecen, and from Liverpool there's Katowice and Iasi. We could go on.
Punctuality doesn't appear to be its strongest suit. According to Civil Aviation Authority data, it was the tardiest major airline operating in the UK last year, with flights waylaid by 23 minutes on average.
For years Wizz Air was the only European airline to charge for hand luggage, with a fee of €10 fee for larger carry-on bags (up to 55cm x 40cm x 20cm). However, it scrapped that policy in 2017. Passengers can now travel with two items of hand luggage (one large, one small) if they pay between €5 and €12 for "Wizz Priority". If they don't, they can travel with just one bag – and if it doesn't fit under the seat in front, it goes in the hold (free of charge).
4. Avianca Brasil
2018 H1 capacity: 7,512,495 (+21.6%)
The sister airline of venerable Colombian airline Avianca (founded in 1919), Avianca Brasil was formed in 2002 and has just a handful of international routes (to Santiago, Bogota, New York and Miami). All that extra capacity is going into domestic services.
3. Spring Airlines
2018 H1 capacity: 10,930,320 (+23.2%)
Despite the name, Shanghai-based Spring Airlines operates year-round services to 100 destinations. Like the majority of the world's fastest growing airlines it is largely domestic, but does find time to touch down at runways in Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. It also flies to Jeju in South Korea, one half of the world's busiest flight route (the other half is Seoul).
It made headlines in 2013 when it suggested making flight attendants dress up as maids - not something that went down well on social media - and was further criticised in 2015 after expressing its desire to offer cut-price tickets to passengers willing to stand. "For a lower price, passengers should be able to get on a plane like catching a bus," said the airline's president Wang Zhenghua, at the time.
2. Frontier Airlines
2018 H1 capacity: 11,322,970 (+23.3%)
Denver-based Frontier is one of America's self-proclaimed "ultra-low-cost" carriers. Which means it charges for everything, including hand luggage, demanding between $30 (£23) and $60 (£46) per flight for a single carry-on bag. Other "ultra-low-cost" airlines, such as Spirit, Flair, Allegiant and Swoop, do likewise.
Frontier is also a member of the dreaded "28 club", offering as little as 28 inches of legroom, the stingiest allowance in the sky. The others are Thomas Cook Airlines, TAP Portugal, Tui Airways, Spirit Airlines (US), Spring Airlines (China), Thai Airways, Iberia (Spain) and LATAM Brasil.
2018 H1 capacity: 7,293,240 (+30.7%)
What an unimaginative name for an airline. The fastest growing carrier on the list is also the smallest. GoAir's H1 capacity of nearly 7.3m was way up on the same period last year, when it was 5.57m.
It is another relatively new low-cost operation (founded in 2005) that's hoping to take advantage of the boom in air travel likely to grip India over the coming years. It has bases in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Kochi, and flies to a further 20 cities, with more on the way (including its first international routes, Male and Phuket, launching in October).
The Telegraph, London