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Ryanair welcomes you to Paris-Disney (113km from Disney)

It's closer to the Belgian border than to the Eiffel Tower, and nearer the battlefields of Verdun than the pleasure grounds of Disneyland Paris.

But the awkward location of a former fighter base in eastern France has not deterred Ryanair naming it "Paris-Vatry-Disney".

Europe's biggest no-frills airline has just launched services from the ex-military airfield in the heart of the Champagne region. Rather than promoting the airport's proximity to the celebrated caves of Epernay, Reims and Troyes, Ryanair describes it as the ideal gateway to both the French capital and Disneyland Paris.

The airport at Vatry is 150km from the centre of Paris, and 113km from le Royaume Magique -- the Magic Kingdom.

At present the only air links to the airport are from Marseille, Porto and Stockholm (or more precisely Skavsta, 97km from the Swedish capital).

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "We are generating very significant demand on our three Vatry routes."

If the airport proves a lucrative destination for his airline, services from Ireland and Britain may follow.

Mr O'Leary said: "I have myself driven from Vatry to Paris in just over an hour."

His airline has had plenty of experience re-interpreting European geography for marketing purposes.

Ryanair was the launch customer for Frankfurt Hahn, an ex-US Air Force base in the far west of Germany that is closer to Luxembourg than to Europe's financial hub.

Low-cost airlines are attracted to so-called "secondary airports" by the absence of congestion, minimising the time aircraft spend on the ground and maximising efficiency.

Imaginative

An equally appealing lure is the prospect of much lower airport charges.

Indeed, Ryanair has proved adroit at attracting subsidies, often in the form of "marketing support" for serving near-moribund airports such as Charleroi in Belgium ("Brussels South") and Memmingen in southern Germany ("Munich West").

Over the years, Ryanair's imaginative naming of airports has incensed rival airlines.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, has described Ryanair as using "tertiary airports" and derided it as flying "from nowhere to nowhere".

In 1999, British Airways took legal action against Ryanair over an ad in which Ryanair compared fares on a range of European routes.

One example involved BA's fare from Heathrow to Barcelona, which Ryanair contrasted unfavourably with its price from Stansted to Perpignan, 210km north of the Catalan capital and in a different country. The British High Court threw out the case.

The new 'Paris' airport is Ryanair's most extreme geographic surprise yet. But trade association IATA, endorses the airport's claim in its City Code Directory.

Irish Independent