Gearing up for pan-European expansion, Eurowings (EW, Düsseldorf) is in talks with numerous airports and local authorities over plans for several potential bases outside of its core German-speaking markets, Chief Executive Jens Bischof said during a CAPA webinar.

"We have been able to identify [potential bases] in the Nordics, but also in Eastern Europe and South-Eastern Europe... We are already in very specific and very well-developed talks with airports, communities, of course, governments. We will [launch the bases] over the next, let's say, three to nine months, depending a little bit on how fast we will recover from COVID-19," he said.

While he did not identify any specific airports, he clarified that Eurowings hoped to transform into a pan-European low-cost carrier operating services beyond Germany. The Lufthansa Group's LCC already has bases outside its home market at Salzburg in Austria, Palma de Mallorca, and Pristina in Kosovo.

"I believe the current situation, the pandemic, will open up new opportunities... The presence of the Eurowings brand is not where it should be from my point of view. So, also in that regard, we're going to develop the brand much further," Bischof added.

He claimed that Eurowings has "quite successfully" defended the German market from rivals such as Ryanair, easyJet, and Wizz Air. Bischof stressed that the country would remain the carrier's most important market for the time to come, despite the growth plans. It will continue to focus on secondary airports rather than Frankfurt Int'l and Munich, which are better served by full-service parent Lufthansa. Bischof stressed that Eurowings would not be competing with start-up sister carrier EW Discover, which will operate long-haul leisure flights from the group's main hubs.

"It is clearly a separate playing field, with us being in [secondary cities in] Germany, and also elsewhere in Europe, focusing on short- and medium-haul, whereas EW Discover is focusing on leisure and long-haul out of Frankfurt and Munich... And even if there are some [overlapping] routes which may be from Frankfurt and Munich, that wouldn't bother us. If we fly, for example, from Mallorca to Munich, and EW Discover does it the other way around, we just have a nice compliment of the schedule. But of course, there are no plans whatsoever to develop EW Discover outside of Frankfurt and Munich," Bischof explained.

Eurowings will continue to operate a mix of business and leisure routes. However, Bischof underlined that in the near term, the leisure market would be the core focus due to its expected quicker post-COVID recovery.