Ryanair cuts underlines Scotland’s second class treatment from Westminster claims MSP


By a Newsnet reporter 

SNP MSP Colin Keir is urging Ryanair to reconsider its plans to cut routes from Edinburgh Airport and says the company should be working to ensure the future of the airport is focused on expansion and not retraction.

Ryanair’s Chief Executive Michael O’Leary made the announcement yesterday that will see routes to Berlin and Tallinn axed and the planned routes to Malmo, Murcia and Ibiza scrapped.  The announcment comes after talks between Ryanair and BAA, which operates Edinburgh airport, broke down.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: “Ryanair regrets BAA Edinburgh Airport’s rejection of our proposals for a competitive cost base which would allow Ryanair to further grow our traffic and routes for summer 2012. Sadly, BAA Edinburgh seems to prefer higher costs, even if it means fewer passengers and jobs at Edinburgh.

“We hope even at this late stage that BAA Edinburgh will realise that the way to grow traffic and jobs is by working with Ryanair to lower passengers fares, not raise them.”

It is reported that the proposal would result in 300,000 fewer passengers and the potential loss of up to 300 jobs associated with the routes.

Mr O’Leary said this was a result of rising passenger fares – including the increasing costs of Air Passenger Duty.

However Jim O’Sullivan, managing director of Edinburgh Airport, said that Ryanair had made demands which the airport was unable to accept, saying: “We have tried extremely hard to negotiate with Ryanair but sadly on many issues have not been able to find common ground. For example, we cannot accept their wish to not pay the agreed air traffic control costs that all other airlines pay.”

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: “The Scottish Government regrets Ryanair’s decision to cut back its services out of Edinburgh Airport. We hope that the airline and the airport can reach a mutually acceptable agreement to maintain services and connectivity out of the airport.

“There is no shortage of interest by airlines wanting to develop connectivity from Scotland’s airports, as has been exampled by Emirates offering a double daily service to Dubai from June, Jet2’s continued expansion at Glasgow and Lufthansa’s and Azerbaijan’s growth at Aberdeen.”

Mr Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, whose constituency covers Edinburgh Airport, said:

“The future for Edinburgh Airport should be expansion not retraction. Ryanair should be working with the airport to ensure jobs and growth are at the heart of any proposals.

“This is a hammer blow to Edinburgh and I am urging Ryanair to reconsider. It is an extremely disappointing announcement at a time when companies should be encouraging development in the aviation industry.

“Edinburgh is an expanding Airport and I’d like to see Ryanair play a part in that expansion process. Edinburgh needs more direct flights to European and worldwide destinations.

“It’s particularly disappointing that the capital city will lose its only direct connection to Berlin – that’s bad news for consumers and businesses that depend on the service.

“I have written to the company urging it to find an alternative to this plan and seek reassurances about any potential job losses.

“But it also gives weight to Air Passenger Duty being devolved as the UK Government’s refusal to do this is extremely damaging to Scotland’s aviation industry.

“Recovery in the aviation sector is fragile and I fear this announcement will have a damaging effect both on the industry and, as a consequence on the Scottish economy, which is why I will continue to urge Ryanair to halt this plan.”

The news of the cuts to Ryanair services to Edinburgh airport came as the UK government announced that control of Air Passenger Duty (APD) is to be devolved to the Northern Irish Assembly in 2012.  The news led to complaints that Scottish air passengers were being subjected to second class treatment.

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said:

“This is good news for Northern Ireland, but Scotland must have equality of treatment from the Treasury. It only raises further questions about the Prime Minister’s supposed commitment to more powers for Scotland, beyond the current Scotland Bill, that he said were ‘on the table’. Devolution of air passenger duty was one of the Calman Commission’s recommendations so people will be asking why it cannot be devolved now?

“People in Scotland should not be treated like second class passengers by the UK Government. There is overwhelming evidence for the devolution of APD with all four of Scotland’s largest airports backing the call and Transport Scotland saying there is no good reason why passengers in Scotland should have to continue to travel in such numbers through other UK airports or should not benefit from levels of connectivity enjoyed in other parts of the UK.

“Devolution of APD would enable us to incentivise airlines to provide new direct international routes, providing Scotland’s passengers with enhanced options as they go about their business more freely and more effectively.  It would also provide a substantial boost to the Scottish economy and create jobs.

“This is a test for the UK Government in terms of the Prime Minister’s offer of more powers. They should allow Scotland to have control over flight taxes, just like Northern Ireland.”