Irish low-cost pioneer Ryanair moved into the airline mainstream Wednesday, announcing plans for 10 new routes from Brussels airport to a raft of holiday destinations.
"Ryanair is delighted to announce Brussels Zaventem as our second base in Belgium in addition to Brussels Charleroi," Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary told a press conference.
Daily flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Ibiza, Lisbon, Malag, Palma, Porto, Rome, Valencia and Venice "are ideal for business passengers or families ... who can also enjoy Ryanair’s recently announced customer service improvements," O'Leary said.
Fares, he said, would be well below those of traditional full-service carriers.
Famous for its relentless cost-cutting, Ryanair has up to now operated from Charleroi in Belgium's southwest to avoid the higher charges at the main Zaventem airport in Brussels.
A key part of the airline's business model is to fly from secondary airports if possible so as to avoid the higher charges at hubs nearer to major cities.
The drawback is that passengers often face long journey times to their airport and extra cost to get there.
In the face of relentless competition and the need to fill its fast growing fleet of aircraft, Ryanair has recently softened its aggressive stance, putting a new-found focus on business passengers and relaxing some of its notoriously tough penalty charges.
"We are actively listening to and responding to our customers," O'Leary said, highlighting some of the changes which analysts say Ryanair has made in response to a strong performance by great rival Easyjet.
The new flights will begin in February, aiming to carry 1.5 million passengers in the first year, Ryanair said, adding it would create 1,500 jobs at Zaventem.
On Tuesday, Ryanair announced a major increase in the domestic flights it offers in Italy, including launching a hub at Rome's Fiumicino Airport, and offered to work closely with struggling Alitalia.
Ryanair said it would continue to develop domestic and international flights from Ciampino, the mostly international airport.