Passengers on low cost European airlines are set to carry 80 million passengers this year, compared to 47 million in 2003, Wolfgang Kurth, president of the European Low Fares Airline Association, claimed.
The rise meant low cost operators now had 18% of business on the intra-European routes.
Mr Kurth, chief executive of Hapag-Lloyd-Express, the no frills operator owned by TUI, the biggest tour operator in Europe, also predicted that the 40% growth rate in passenger volumeswould go on for two more years.
This growth would come from both new routes and from taking more market share from the full service carriers.
There are now around 65 low cost operators in the European market with newcomers entering the market as others collapsed.
But while he said there was likely to be consolidation in this sector, Mr Kurth doubted there would be the “bloodbath” predicted by Ryanair and easyJet because of price wars and over-capacity.
Austrian looks to expand
Austrian Airlines is looking to strengthen its position in Central and Eastern Europe by investing in other airlines including the Hungarian national carrier Malev, Balkan Air Bulgaria, Air Slovakia and the Serbian carrier JAT.
Since eight East European countries joined the EC in May, several low cost carriers have opened in the region while full service carriers like Austrian and CSA Czech Airlines are seeking to turn their respective hubs at Vienna and Prague in the major hubs of Eastern Europe.
Alitalia eyes Rome terminal
Alitalia is in talks with Aeroporti di Roma which runs Rome's airports about having its own terminal at Fiumicino, the city's largest airport.
Alitalia currently shares the airport's three terminals with other domestic and international operators.
Giancarlo Cimoli, chief executive of the carrier which is fighting off bankruptcy, says one dedicated terminal would save it money.