Saturday 18 November 2017

Ryanair in threat to cut flights if Belgian airport imposes €3 travel tax

Ryanair is in a fresh row with pilots
Ryanair is in a fresh row with pilots
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair has threatened to slash services at Belgium's Charleroi Airport after the local Walloon government voted to impose a €3 travel tax.

Central government approval is still needed to implement the tax on all tickets for flights from the region, but the plan is to introduce it on January 1.

In response, Ryanair will cut services by 17pc, resulting in one million fewer passengers.

The airline claims it would result in 1,000 job losses.

Ryanair is the biggest airline operator in the southern Wallonia region and the single biggest operator at Charleroi.

Last year, Ryanair carried 5.35 million, or 82pc, of the 6.51m passengers who used Charleroi. The airline is on target to carry six million passengers this year.

Airport manager Jean-Jacques Cloquet said his reaction was one of "incomprehension" that the Walloon government would introduce the tax when the negative impact of such levies on passenger traffic is so evident in other countries that have brought them in. He hopes the central government will block the tax.

"For me, it's not a good decision," he said. "It's a decision that could do a lot of damage to the Charleroi region."

Andre Antoine, the Wallonia Budget Minister, has dismissed Ryanair's protests. He said the airline has made substantial profits, and that adding a €3 levy to ticket prices will not overly damage it.

Small increases to Ryanair's ticket prices can have significant impacts due to its low-fare structure.

The airline said that imposing the levy would make Wallonia uncompetitive and result in passengers switching to other, cheaper airports.

"Studies have demonstrated the damage caused to traffic and jobs by passenger taxes, especially in Germany, Ireland and the UK," said a spokesman.

He added that Ryanair is calling for the plans to be scrapped.

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