APD removal would drive 'double digit growth' in NI says Ryanair
ONE of the senior management of budget airline Ryanair believes it could report "double digit growth" at its Northern Ireland airports if the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax was removed.
Speaking to The Irish News, chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs said the travel tax, which adds on average £13 to a Ryanair fare, is "prohibiting growth" in the north and re-iterated calls for its removal.
"The travel tax being a third of every (Ryanair) fare on average is something that is prohibiting growth for us and every other airline. I think every other airline and all the airports will be on the same page saying this isn't good for jobs and it isn't good for tourism in Northern Ireland."
"Where travel tax has been removed and it has been removed in countries like Ireland and the Netherlands, we've gone to double digit growth. We're very happy with our business here, we've a good relationship with the airports, we've grown significantly, but we absolutely could grow significantly further if we saw the travel tax removed. Putting a number on that, that could be double digit growth for Ryanair in Northern Ireland subject to the travel tax being removed," he said.
Mr Jacobs was speaking as Ryanair launched its 2018 winter schedule, which includes a new Belfast route to Manchester and the return of winter flights from Belfast to London, which will help deliver 1.1 million customers through Ryanair's two airports in Northern Ireland this year. Of the 1.1 million total 955,000 are set to go through Belfast on 13 routes, with the remaining 145,000 passengers travelling on the two Derry routes to Glasgow and Liverpool. There is also speculation that the new Manchester route could necessitate Ryanair basing a third aircraft in Belfast, but this has not been confirmed.
"It's marginally up on last year, flat versus last year. We'd like to do more, it's been a rapid growth for us in Belfast - from zero to 950,000 is very, very strong. We'd love to do more and we would do more if it weren't for the travel tax (APD)," he said.
In the same interview Mr Jacobs warned it remains a realistic possibility that flights to Europe could be grounded from next year as a result of Brexit and outlined a "doomsday scenario" where Ryanair removes its aircraft from Belfast, Derry and other regional airports around the UK. Already the budget airline has scaled back growth in the UK by half in the two years since the EU referendum vote.
"We remain concerned at the uncertainty which surrounds the terms of the UK's departure from the EU in March 2019. While we continue to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU Open Skies agreement, we caution that should the UK leave, there may not be sufficient time, or goodwill on both sides, to negotiate a timely replacement bilateral which could result in a disruption of flights between the UK and Europe for a period of time from April 2019 onwards, and/or the cancellation of flights and routes, and the movement of our based aircraft to continental Europe."