Ryanair and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan clashed on Friday over plans to restore Dublin-Kerry flights lost when Stobart Air folded last month.
Stobart's closure prompted the Government to seek bids from airlines interested in flying State-subsidised services between Dublin Airport and Kerry and Donegal, which the airline had operated before it ceased trading.
Mr Ryan announced on Friday that Ryanair would fly the Dublin-Kerry service from July 19th, but the carrier responed that this was “premature and inacurrate” as it had yet to conclude an agreement with Government.
Ryanair said that it had offered to operate a “non-subsidised” service on the Dublin-Kerry route and pointed out that the minister had issued the statement without consulting the airline.
Mr Ryan subsequently released letters showing that on Friday – July 9th – he accepted a Ryanair offer to fly the Dublin-Kerry service twice a-day with no subsidy from taxpayers.
A timeline with the letters states that Ryanair wanted to wait until Monday to announce the deal, while the minister wanted to issue a statement on Friday, and tell other bidders that agreement had been reached.
Ryanair maintained later on Friday evening that no agreement had been concluded. The airline pointed out that Mr Ryan’s letter said that the department would co-ordinate with Ryanair on media announcements, but said no such co-ordination took place.
The department released a letter dated July 8th from Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, the group's biggest subsidiary, offering to fly the Dublin-Kerry route twice a-day using 189-seat Boeing 737-800s.
Mr Wilson points out that the airline would do this with no subsidy, saving taxpayers €3.9 million. The airline would offer 378 seats each way with a minimum of 90 costing €80 or less.
The airline executive asks Mr Ryan to accept the offer by close of business on Friday to allow the service start on July 19th.
The minster’s letter of Friday July 9th states “I am pleased to accept Ryanair’s offer to establish this service from 19 July, 2021.”
He welcomes Ryanair’s committment to run the service on a low-cost basis, offer more seats than the number provided by Stobart and do it beyond the seven months set by the Government under the public service obligation tender.
Mr Ryan maintains that he told Mr Wilson at 12.30pm on Friday that the department would accept the airline’s offer and wrote formally doing so at around 2:55pm.
According to the department, Ryanair originally wrote on June 28th saying it wanted to formally apply to operate the double-daily Dublin-Kerry service for the next seven months with no public service funding.
Mr Ryan responed on July 6th asking Ryanair to commit in writing to meeting a number of requirements. Mr Wilson’s wrote on Thursday to confirming the airline would meet those terms.
Meanwhile, Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, confirmed that the department was in final contract talks with an un-named preferred bidder for the Dublin-Donegal service.