Government denies Ryanair claim
The Government has denied claims by Ryanair that an offer the airline made which could save the State millions of euro on flights during Ireland’s presidency of the European Union next year was ignored.
The airline said in a statement earlier the Government had not even responded to a proposal it made in September to lower the cost of presidency-related air travel by as much as €3.5 million through a combination of fixed-price tickets between Dublin and Brussels Charleroi, an extended credit facility and free flight changes.
Under the proposal, diplomats would be able to avail of set fares of €49.99. The airline also promised a dedicated “presidency” helpline, more than 30 days “credit” to the State, free flight changes and assistance desks at the airports. Baggage charges would apply as normal.
The airline said if it flew just 1,000 officials over the six months of the Irish presidency, the Government would save over €3.5million. All told there will be in excess of 15,000 official flights taken between Ireland and Brussels between now and the end of June. The EU presidency will cost the State €60 million, almost half the cost of the last Irish presidency in 2004.
Ryanair said “despite the offer being sent to Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton on September 20th, Ryanair has yet to receive any reply or acceptance”. It said it appeared as if "this Government is all talk about savings, but there is no follow-up or action".
However, Government sources rubbished the claim and said it was “incredibly price-sensitive and doing all we can to minimise costs”.
Correspondence seen by The Irish Times showed there was contact between the airline and two junior Ministers in connection with the offer.
Ryanair deputy chief executive Michael Cawley wrote to Ms Creighton with the original offer and she responded saying the issue of flights was being handled by the National Procurement Service under Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes.
Mr Cawley then wrote to Mr Hayes who responded on November 7th, suggesting "an urgent meeting" between the airline and CWT - the travel management company which has the contract of managing travel during the presidency.
When asked to explain its initial statement, Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said he considered Ms Creighton's letter as “nothing more than a 'PFO' which kicked the can down the road” and he said Ryanair had not received a second letter.
"Maybe it got lost in the post and maybe the Government should have saved themselves the stamp money and emailed us the letter instead."