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The airline has been characterised by its rapid expansion, a result of the deregulation of the aviation industry in Europe in 1997 and the success of its low-cost business model.
Ryanair's route network serves 34 countries in Europe, Africa (Morocco), and the Middle East (Israel).
Ryanair launched a new base of operation in Charleroi Airport in 2001.
In 1986, the company added a second route – flying Dublin–Luton in direct competition with the Aer Lingus / British Airways duopoly for the first time.
O'Leary returned from a visit to Southwest Airlines convinced that Ryanair could make huge inroads into the European air market, at that time dominated by national carriers, which were subsidised to various degrees by their parent countries.
He competed with the major airlines by providing a "no-frills", low-cost service.
After the rapidly growing airline went public in 1997, the money raised was used to expand the airline into a pan-European carrier.
Revenues have risen from €231 million in 1998, to €1,843 million in 2003 and €3,013 million in 2010.
By 1995, after the consistent pursuit of its low-cost business model, Ryanair celebrated its 10th birthday by carrying 2.25 million passengers.