Ryanair to scrap all Northern Ireland flights, blaming passenger taxes and lack of Covid supports

UK government levies €15.20 on airlines for passengers travelling up to 3,200km on single journey

Ryanair: the airline will withdraw its Northern Ireland flights by the end of October. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

Ryanair: the airline will withdraw its Northern Ireland flights by the end of October. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

 

Ryanair is partly blaming UK passenger taxes for its decision to pull out of Northern Ireland this year.

The Irish carrier confirmed on Tuesday that it would stop flying from both of Belfast’s airports this year, while it has already ended operations from Derry.

Ryanair blamed the “the UK government’s refusal to suspend or reduce” air passenger duty (APD) along with the lack of Covid recovery incentives for the move.

The British government levies £13 (€15.20) for a return trip of up to 3,200km (2,000 miles) and £82 for a return flights at distances longer than this, with higher rates for premium class travellers. APD is only charged on each departing passenger. The UK government increased the longer-haul charge this year in the face of criticism from the aviation industry.

Airlines operating in the North are subject to these charges, in contrast to the Republic, which axed passenger tax in 2013.

Derry City Airport joined forces with the two Belfast gateways, now facing the loss of Ryanair services, in 2018 to demand that the British government follow the Irish example.

They calculated that the cost was driving more than one million passengers south of the Border every year.

Ryanair and other carriers with UK-based operations have been lobbying the British government to cut or end APD.

Aircraft to be ‘reallocated’

The airline confirmed that it would cease flights from Belfast International Airport and Belfast City Airport from the end of its summer schedule in October.

“These aircraft will be reallocated to lower-cost airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe for the winter schedule, which starts in November,” Ryanair added.

Ryanair currently flies to Alicante, Cracow, Gdansk, Malaga, Milan and Warsaw from Belfast International Airport, and to Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Ibiza, Majorca, Malaga, Milan and Valencia from Belfast City Airport.

A Belfast International spokesman dubbed Ryanair’s decision to end all Northern Ireland operations from October as “disappointing”.

“It has been a difficult period for aviation and a time when consumers need some stability and faith in the Northern Ireland air transport network,” he said.

The spokesman noted that Belfast International had expected the announcement, so was in talks with existing and new airlines to step into the routes that Ryanair was dropping.

“To this end we hope to be able to make announcements regarding fresh route development in the near future.”

Ryanair announced late last year that it would cease flights from Derry, citing APD among other issues.

It returned to Belfast City Airport for the first time in 11 years in June with flights to Italy, Portugal and Spain. However, these services were only available for summer.

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