Ryanair service cuts at Edinburgh show why APD must be devolved


By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has expressed regret at the announcement of further cuts to Ryanair services from Edinburgh Airport, and are calling for the Chancellor to devolve Air Passenger Duty to the Scottish Parliament to boost the aviation industry in Scotland.

Ryanair have announced that a further eight routes and 60 flights from Edinburgh are to close. This further blow to the airport comes after cuts to 15% of services from summer 2012 were announced in February.

The routes cut today include direct flights between Edinburgh and Bratislava, Bremen, Frankfurt, Fuerteventura, Gothenburg, Kaunas, Lodz and Poznan.  The airline claims that the decision puts up to 500 jobs at risk.

Speaking in Edinburgh on Thursday, Ryanair’s deputy chief executive Michael Cawley said:

“While Ryanair remains committed to Edinburgh Airport, the BAA Edinburgh monopoly cannot continue to ignore the competitive marketplace, where airports all over the UK and Europe have been reducing costs and lowering charges in return for traffic growth.  We hope there is a way to reverse these cuts to ensure further Ryanair growth at Edinburgh.”

Edinburgh Airport managing director Jim O’Sullivan expressed his disappointement at the decision, which he admitted was expected and said:

“We are disappointed that Ryanair has announced that it will reduce its services from Edinburgh. It was expected as we saw similar cuts in last year’s winter schedule.  The numbers quoted on any passenger and job impacts are speculative and we look forward to further negotiations with Ryanair once the sale of the airport is concluded.

Mr O’Sullivan added: “We have tried extremely hard to negotiate with Ryanair but sadly on many issues have not been able to find common ground.  We continue not to be able to accept their wish to not pay the agreed air traffic control costs that all other airlines pay.”

Edinburgh Airport is being sold by BAA after a ruling by the Competition Commission.  Final bids on the airport are due to be announced at the end of this month.

The SNP’s Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said that Ryanair’s decision highlighted the pressing need for control of Air Passenger Duty to be devolved to Holyrood.

The SNP will be putting forward amendments to the 2012 budget next week to halt a proposed rise in APD.  They will also call for the tax to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, as recommended by the Calman Commission.  The Chancellor has already announced APD will be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, where passengers benefited from a cut to the rate in November.

Mr MacNeil said:

“This, along with BA’s announcement of the potential loss of 1,200 jobs at BMI, underlines the necessity for Scotland to control the levers that give this sector the chance to compete on a global scale.

“Air connectivity is crucial to the Scottish economy.  This latest blow to Edinburgh Airport underlines the fragility of recovery in the aviation sector, and how damaging soaring levels of Air Passenger Duty are to the sector in Scotland.

“We need to do everything we can to allow the Scottish operators to compete – and we need the powers to make that happen. There is overwhelming evidence for the devolution of APD with all four of Scotland’s largest airports backing the call.

“Air passenger duty should be devolved so that we can incentivise airlines to provide new direct international routes, support jobs, help economic recovery and provide Scotland’s passengers with enhanced options.

“The SNP will be pressing the case to end the Chancellor’s budget air raid and allow Scotland control over flight taxes.”

Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, said:

“Ryanair’s decision is hugely disappointing for my constituency, Edinburgh and Scotland at large.  The future for Edinburgh Airport should be expansion not retraction, and Ryanair have an important part to play in that.

“I will be seeking reassurances from Ryanair about potential job losses, and only hope that the decision can be reversed in the future.”