Monday 24 July 2017

O'Leary 'happy' if State rejects Ryanair tax plan


John Mulligan

John Mulligan

RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary said he'd be happy if the Government rejects a plan to significantly boost passenger traffic at Irish airports beginning this winter because he doesn't want to be flying a lot of people around who've bought cut-price tickets.

Mr O'Leary made the comment yesterday as Ryanair reported a relatively flat net profit of €139m for the first quarter of its financial year.

The figure was up just 1pc, and was in line with analyst expectations. The flat out-turn came as revenue surged 29pc to €1.15bn in the three months to the end of June.

Ryanair plans to ground about 80 of its nearly 300-strong aircraft fleet this winter due to lower demand.

Transport minister Leo Varadkar has said he'll scrap the remaining €3 travel tax introduced by the previous Government only if airlines -- primarily Ryanair and Aer Lingus -- deliver plans to boost traffic at Ireland's airports by opening new routes or expanding existing ones.

"Really, I wouldn't be disappointed if the Irish Government doesn't take up our offer or can't reach a decision quickly, because, frankly, with oil at $110 or $115 a barrel I don't want to be flying a lot of passengers around even at the Irish airports at very low fares in winter," said Mr O'Leary.

Mr O'Leary previously said that if the Government did accept his plan, Ryanair would fly an additional five million passengers into Ireland over the next five years. In return, Mr O'Leary wants the travel tax eliminated and landing charges drastically cut.

He said if the plan was approved it would probably see Ryanair use about 10 of the aircraft it would have otherwise grounded to launch additional routes and flights.

Tourist numbers

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that his department and external advisers were currently assessing a number of airline plans, including Ryanair's, to assess their potential impact on tourism numbers.

"I will, following full consideration of the discussions with the airlines and consultation with my cabinet colleagues, decide shortly on how best to proceed," he added.

Yesterday, Mr O'Leary said that the reduction of the travel tax to €3 had already benefited Ryanair.

"We are benefiting slightly this summer due to the fact the travel tax has gone down," he said.

However, he maintained that the yields Ryanair was generating out of Ireland were still not high enough to pay increased airport charges.

He also said that Ryanair would launch a major legal action later this week against Stansted Airport, owned by BAA, amid allegations regarding the airport's charges.

Mr O'Leary also said he would visit China in November for his first face-to-face meeting with executives of manufacturer Comac, as the carrier advances plans to eventually buy aircraft from the company as an alternative to Boeing.

Irish Independent

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