Ryanair accused of 'financial blackmail' in airport subsidy row
Ryanair has been accused of "financial blackmail" by the chamber of commerce that operates a regional French airport after the airline sought an increase in subsidies it receives from the region.
Ryanair has been receiving €1.4m a year in subsidies for operating services to and from the city of Pau in southwest France, about 50km from the Spanish border and the Pyrenees.
It is understood that Ryanair told the local chamber that it wanted an additional €100,000 per annum to retain services from Pau's airport to destinations such as London Stansted, Brussels Charleroi and Paris Beauvais.
The airline has been flying to Pau since 2003 and last year is understood to have carried 120,000 passengers in and out of the city's airport.
But the local chamber of commerce said yesterday that it would not yield to Ryanair, with a chamber official describing the carrier's demands as "intolerable".
The current deal that Ryanair has with the chamber expires in April. The chamber has claimed that if Ryanair decided to pull out of the airport, overall passenger numbers there would not be significantly impacted.
A Ryanair spokesman declined to confirm yesterday whether the airline had sought the increase in financial support, but claimed that losses incurred by the airport had been partially due to its decision to back routes inaugurated by other airlines that had failed to live up to expectations.
The spokesman said that no decision had yet been made on whether or not the airline would axe its services to Pau.
The spat came as Ryanair also said yesterday that it intended to row back on a decision to expand services at Barcelona's Girona Airport after a newly-elected local government said it would not adhere to a deal struck between its predecessor and the airline.
According to the airline, it had inked a five-year extension deal last December that would result in up to 10 aircraft being based at the airport.
Ryanair claimed yesterday that the new government of Catalonia, which came into power soon after the extension was agreed, has refused to honour the terms of the deal.
The airline will not now base the additional aircraft at Girona, where it accounts for almost all of the 4.8 million annual passenger traffic.