Ryanair launches Palma base, cuts Alicante services

Ryanair is to open its 49th EU base at Palma Airport in March 2012 with four based aircraft operating 47 routes, 17 of which are new, but the airline will implement a 50% cutback in its summer 2012 schedule at Alicante, which follows a 50% cut in Ryanair’s winter 2011/12 services.

From Palma, the 17 new routes will link the airport to Aarhus, Cork, Gothenburg, Haugesund, Kaunas, Krakow, Maastricht, Malaga, Magdeburg, Marseille, Oslo, Paris Beauvais, Poznan, Santander, Santiago, Stockholm, and Tampere.

In Palma, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary noted that the airline’s expected traffic of 2.8 million passengers a year will sustain up to 2,800 jobs at Palma Airport and in the tourism industry on the island of Mallorca.

At Alicante, Ryanair blamed the cuts directly on “the AENA Alicante airport monopoly”, which from April 2011, it says, “compelled Ryanair to use unnecessary airbridges, and pay some €2 million per annum in avoidable airbridge fees at Alicante”. As a result of these 2012 cutbacks, Ryanair’s says annual traffic at Alicante will fall from 3.5 million in 2010/11 to 2 million in 2011/12, with the loss of six based aircraft, 18 routes and1,500 jobs. “These cuts will reduce AENA Alicante’s revenues by some €30 million a year solely because of its attempt to impose €2 million in unnecessary airbridge fees on Ryanair,” the airline says.

Ryanair has dismissed AENA’s claims about the airbridge issue by stating:
“AENA have claimed that airbridge use is a ‘safety issue’. This is untrue when the majority of flights boarding at most Spanish and other EU airports operate without airbridges with absolute safety. Even very large airports such as London Stansted and Gatwick permit walk on/walk off boarding with no use of airbridges.

“AENA have claimed that half of Alicante’s flights can board using walk on/walk off procedures, with the other half using airbridges. This claim clearly disproves AENA’s false claim that airbridge use is a safety issue.

“AENA have also claimed that Ryanair’s cutbacks were ‘planned anyway’. Again this claim is untrue. Ryanair’s route and traffic cuts at Alicante are the direct result of AENA’s decision to force Ryanair to use and pay for unnecessary airbridges. Ryanair has confirmed that if this compulsory airbridge use is withdrawn, then these Alicante flight, traffic and jobs cuts will be reversed.”

Michael O’Leary commented, “Ryanair is the only airline capable of growing traffic rapidly at Alicante, and without us no one else seems willing to grow or use and pay for these unnecessary airbridges either. AENA Alicante are now proving that inefficient airbridges and higher fees will result in the airport suffering route, traffic and job cuts. We call again on AENA to reverse this abusive decision to force Ryanair and other airlines to use and pay for unnecessary airbridges at Alicante.

“In the meantime Ryanair looks forward to successfully appealing Alicante’s decision to impose expensive and unnecessary airbridges, which will be heard in the Spanish Commercial Courts in early February. If Ryanair’s appeal is successful, then these Alicante cuts will be reversed in time for Summer 2012.”

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