28/10/2008

Tax Hit On 'Budget Airline' At Shannon May Boost NI

The Irish Government's controversial airport tax has led budget airline, Ryanair, to cut its passenger numbers through Shannon Airport from two million to a mere 750,000 - and to rekindle interest in expanding services at Northern Ireland airports.

Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary, said the customer cuts were brought on by the €10 departure tax announced in the Irish Budget, and would "doom" the mid-west airport.

He said while Ryanair was to account for 60% of Shannon's traffic this year, next year it would cut the number of aircraft based there from four to one, with the loss of 100 Ryanair jobs.

The news comes following an announcement by Mr O'Leary that the airline will close its base at Valencia in Spain, which according to Ryanair, was in response to a refusal of the Comunitat Valenciana to subsidise the Airline's promotions.

According to a Ryanair spokesman, the new base was established in Valencia in August 2007 and had increased its passenger traffic by over 25% this year to an expected annual outcome of 1.5m passengers out of a total of 6m at the airport.

Ryanair's Deputy Chief Executive, Michael Cawley, said at te time: "This is a very black day for the airport of Valencia and the city and region which it serves.

Ryanair had begun to transform this once overlooked region of Spanish tourism into a powerhouse of growth and development."

In counterpoint, Ryanair is looking forward to the possibility of developing its flights from Geroge Best Belfast City Airport, should a proposed runway extension get the go-ahead, and is planning expansion at City Of Derry Airport, where a runway extension is already underway.

At present, Ryanair planes are unable to take off from Belfast with a full passenger load as the existing faciility isn't long enough to allow their existing planes to be fully booked.

(DW)(BMcC)

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