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Ryanair cuts Dublin flights in protest

Jan. 21, 2010, Dublin, Ireland - Ryanair, Ireland's major airline, announced Thursday it will slash its Dublin flights by 19 per cent this summer and cut 150 jobs in protest at airport fees and an Irish government passenger tax.


January 21, 2010
By The Associated Press

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary blamed government-regulated charges, rather than Ireland's recession, for a rapid fall over the past year in Irish traffic. The Dublin Airport Authority, however, dismissed Ryanair's figures as inaccurate and its rhetoric as bogus.

Ryanair said its Dublin flights would fall 19 per cent to below 500 per week starting in April, resulting in 2 million fewer passengers this year compared with 2009. The carrier, headquartered in Dublin, estimated this cutback would mean 2,000 lost jobs in airline support services but declined to provide details.

Analysts said Ryanair appeared to be applying a crude multiplier that presumes every 1,000 Ryanair passengers underpins one job.

Europe's most profitable airline has railed for years against the Dublin Airport Authority and its slow development of a second terminal at the capital's overcrowded airport. Ryanair, the airport's major tenant, has insisted it needs only Spartan facilities and blames the project — due to open in November — for a
government-approved 40 per cent rise in charges.

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O'Leary also blamed the government's C10 ($14) tax charged per passenger for frightening tourists away from Ireland.

But the airport's managers accused Ryanair of grossly distorting figures and misleading the public about its true economic reason — the recession — for pruning Dublin flights to business destinations.

The Dublin Airport Authority said it would increase charges 23 per cent this year to C9.32 ($13.11) per passenger, not 40 per cent, after years of no increases. It said the new fee levels would remain 25 per cent below European norms.

The authority contrasted this with Ryanair's own rapidly escalating regime of fees for checking bags, using credit and debit cards, and changing bookings.

"It seems odd that an airline that regularly charges passengers C10 ($14) each for the privilege of paying for a return flight by credit card should argue that this change will cause a seismic shift in travel patterns,'' the authority said in reference to its own imminent fee hike.

The authority said Ryanair was being "hugely short-sighted'' for criticizing the airport's expansion as excessive. It said the second terminal would make Dublin Airport comfortable for travellers "for many decades to come'' and would "help position Ireland to take full advantage of the upturn when it comes.''

Ryanair is increasingly redeploying its fleet of Boeing 787-400s away from the highly competitive British-Irish arena to lower-charge regional airports in continental Europe. New Ryanair bases opening this year include Faro in Portugal, Malaga in Spain, and Bari and Brindisi in Italy.

But analysts agree that these shifts represent aggressive moves to build new markets, with lower fees a bonus.

Reflecting that opportunism, Ryanair announced Thursday that — despite its claim of high fees driving airline business out of Dublin — it would introduce 37 new flights per week this summer linking Dublin to Mediterranean and Atlantic sun spots.

This move follows the collapse two months ago of Budget Travel, Ireland's largest package-holiday operator, which specialized in charter flights out of Ireland. Ryanair said it would more than double its Dublin flights to Barcelona, Spain, and open two new routes to the Canary Islands.

The Dublin Airport Authority said this move shows that Ryanair is lying about its reasons for cutting routes overall.

"A passenger pays the same charge at Dublin Airport whether they are flying to Malaga or to Manchester,'' it said. "Ryanair is making these changes to suit Ryanair's own financial position, as is always the case.''