Stansted expansion is not reversal of Brexit vow, insists Ryanair
Ryanair has insisted it's not reversing a vow to slash investment in the UK if Brexit was passed, despite announcing a significant expansion of its services out of London's Stansted Airport yesterday.
Before June's Brexit referendum, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary insisted that the airline would shun investment in the UK on the back of a "leave" result. He repeated that following the vote.
He campaigned heavily in the UK for voters to come out in favour of remaining in the European Union.
But yesterday Ryanair said that it had struck an agreement with Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to add nine new routes from the airport - the airline's biggest base - to destinations including Strasbourg, Nimes, Copenhagen and Naples. It will also boost flight frequencies on 13 routes.
The deal will see Ryanair increase its passenger traffic at Stansted from 13 million in 2013 to 20 million this year.
Mr O'Leary previously said that Ryanair - whose fleet is rapidly expanding - would shift investment from the UK to other European cities in the event of a vote to leave the EU.
He pledged that none of the 50 aircraft it was getting delivered in the current year would be based in Britain.
"Let me put it simply, if Britain isn't a member of the EU these investments, these jobs will be going to other countries," he said in May at Stansted when the airline opened a new training facility there.
Now it's likely that one or two more jets will be based at Stansted, and others could be based at Glasgow and other UK cities.
Ryanair will expand its UK capacity by 7pc this year, compared to a 15pc increase in 2016.
Mr O'Leary said last year that he expects the fallout from Brexit to impact Ryanair's profits for as long as four years.
Ryanair chief commercial officer David O'Brien insisted that the airline wasn't reversing its decision not to invest in the UK.
"Brexit hasn't happened," he said yesterday. "And if we're to wait around until some clear thinking emerges, we wouldn't do anything."
He described the airline's approach as "prudent".
He confirmed that connectivity agreements have been agreed with Norwegian Air Shuttle and IAG-owned Aer Lingus and that they were only being held up by final "technicalities".
Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said in November that he expected Ryanair and Aer Lingus to be sharing revenue on transfer passengers from this year. It would be a landmark agreement and has been well over a year in the making.
Ryanair has also been examining the viability of linking up with flights operated by other carriers, most likely long-haul operators.
Stansted Airport has suffered no impact as yet from the Brexit decision, according to MAG divisional chief Andrew Cowan, who was speaking at the Ryanair announcement yesterday. The airport, north of London, handled 24.3 million passengers in 2016, most of them flying with Ryanair. (Additional reporting by Bloomberg)