Ryanair has announced a 40% cutback in capacity to its Stansted services this winter, with the number of operational aircraft dropping from 40 to 24.
The low-cost carrier says this represents a 30% reduction in the number of weekly flights and a loss of 2.5m passengers at the Essex airport between October 2009 and March 2010.
The airline’s outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary cited Stansted’s high passenger fees as the main reason for the reduction, as well as the increase in airport passenger duty from £10 to £11 in November despite the current aviation downturn.
He said: “Sadly UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Ryanair continues to grow traffic rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them.
“Ryanair’s 40% capacity cutback at London Stansted shows just how much Gordon Brown’s £10 tourist tax and the BAA Monopoly’s high airport charges are damaging London and UK tourism and the British economy generally.”
“In recent months the Belgian, Dutch, Greek and Spanish governments have all scrapped tourist taxes and/or reduced airport charges to zero in order to stimulate tourism. These cutbacks underline the urgent need to break-up the high cost BAA Airport Monopoly, and scrap Gordon Brown’s £10 tourist tax which has caused UK traffic to collapse.”
Last winter, Ryanair also cut its Stansted fleet to 28 planes from 36 in the summer.
Stansted Airport’s managing director, Stewart Wingate, said: “It is common practice for [Ryanair] to reduce frequency to various destinations during the winter season as they have done in previous years.vHowever, it should be noted that Ryanair recently announced it will launch a new service to Oslo from Stansted this October.”
Ryanair said it would switch the 16 aircraft it was withdrawing from Stansted to other European bases.
The airline also confirmed it had been in talks with European safety regulators about proposals to allow passengers to stand on its flights.