Ryanair in talks with airports over plans to boost passenger numbers by one million
Northern Ireland Executive calls for cut in UK travel taxes
Ryanair said yesterday it is in talks with Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Knock and Shannon airports about its plans to boost passenger numbers by one million next year as a result of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s budget pledge.
Ryanair is in talks with five airports in the Republic about its plans to boost passenger numbers by one million next year as a result of the Government’s budget pledge to drop the €3 air travel tax from April.
The airline announced its plans as it emerged that the Northern Ireland Executive intends lobbying the UK government to drop its air travel taxes, which start at £13 sterling, amid fears the Republic’s move will drive more travellers south in search of cheaper flights.
Ryanair presented its proposals to increase passenger traffic through Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Knock and Shannon airports by one million in response to the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s decision to drop the air travel tax from April 1st next year.
It emerged yesterday that anyone who has booked flights for dates later than April 1st next is unlikely to get the tax back, as it applies when the flight is booked rather than to when the journey takes place.
While it has made no firm agreements covering extra flights or new routes with any airport, Ryanair’s deputy chief executive Michael Cawley said the discussions are likely to focus on “the distribution of that one million” rather than whether or not the plans would get the go-ahead in the first place.
The company plans to meet two of the airports involved today and one on Monday to discuss its proposals, while it spoke to two of them yesterday.
Mr Cawley predicted that the extra numbers will come from a mix of increasing the frequency of flights on existing services, adding new routes and reinstating some that were dropped in 2009 when the tax was introduced.
The airline said independent figures show that one job is created for every 1,000 passengers that pass through an airport, indicating that its plans would boost employment by 1,000. That figure would include about 200 Ryanair staff.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland, Ian Coulter, described the Government’s plans to drop the tax as “undoubtedly unhelpful to our local airports”, but added that it was unlikely to have a significant impact on the number of travellers using them.
The UK charges three rates of air travel taxes, starting at £13. The Northern Ireland Executive abolished the charge on long-haul flights last year to protect links with the US.
The North’s finance minister, Simon Hamilton, said that the executive has made it clear to the UK government that the tax is “unfair”, particularly because Northern residents can travel from Dublin, but he added that it cannot afford to axe the charge completely.
George Best Belfast City Airport said that it did not expect a “stampede” of passengers from the North travelling to Dublin, but believes that consumers are aware of the high rates of duty.