Ryanair to cull winter flights

Michael O’Leary’s airline, Ryanair, is to make sweeping cuts to its winter services at a number of UK airports, including Prestwick and Edinburgh in Scotland, and Stansted Airport in Essex. The move, announced earlier this month, means that 9 of 32 destinations from Edinburgh, and 3 of 15 from Prestwick, will not be available during winter 2011.

Given that Michael O’Leary is a vocal critic of the Air Passenger Duty, it should come as no surprise that Ryanair has cited the tax as the impetus for the winter flight cull. “UK airports continue to suffer from high tourist taxes, which continue to make Scottish destinations uncompetitive”, explained Lesley Kane, sales chief at Ryanair.

Edinburgh Airport stands to lose flights to Berlin in Germany, Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, Marrakech in Morocco, Tallinn in Estonia, and Turin in Italy. The flights are not presently offered by any other airline at Edinburgh, forcing passengers to travel to Glasgow Airport for routes to Berlin, Turin, and Malta, to Manchester for flights to Marrakech, and to Luton or East Midlands Airport for a trip to Tallinn.

Bosses at the Turnhouse hub were unfazed, however, stating “…we’re confident that we will continue to add routes and mirror the growth from this year."

At Prestwick Airport, O’Leary’s axe will fall on routes to Girona in Spain, Salzburg in Austria, and to London Stansted. The cull marks the second time in as many years that Ryanair has reduced its winter programme at Prestwick, which will no doubt have officials pondering the airport’s overreliance on the blue and yellow airline.

Ryanair, one of just two ‘true’ airlines at Prestwick, will provide 12 of the total 16 routes available at the Scottish airport this winter. The remaining four destinations are offered by WizzAir, and package holiday companies, Atlantic Holidays and Holidays4U. Curiously, Iain Cochrane, boss at the Ayrshire hub, was “delighted” with Ryanair’s winter schedule, despite the loss of three routes.

O’Leary plans to ground 80 Ryanair planes in winter 2011, in a bid to offset the costs incurred from the rising price of oil.

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