Ryanair Calls on Government to Scrap Air Passenger Duty

Ryanair calls on the incoming government to scrap air passenger duty “if it is serious about levelling up”. The low-cost airline has out-maneuvered many of its rivals by hanging on to staff and aircraft throughout the pandemic.

A senior boss at Ryanair has called on Liz Truss’ new Government to scrap what he describes as a “ridiculous” duty on air fares to boost regional airports.

Newcastle International Airport

Talking to Business Live on the announcement of a winter schedule from Ryanair’s newly established Newcastle International Airport base, commercial director Jason McGuinness said getting rid of air passenger duty (APD) could mean the difference between Newcastle – which currently supports two Ryanair aircraft – hosting four or five planes and Teesside International getting five to 10 routes.

He said: “It really, really does put UK regional airports at a significant disadvantage to their competitors. There are two reasons for that: one, a significant number of European airports do not have APD, which immediately puts the Newcastle management team on the back foot because they’re starting £13 behind, and the other thing is the aviation market across Europe: it’s roughly 20% where it was in summer 2019.

“You take Easyjet at the moment, they’re probably operating in the region of 20% less than what they were. BA, who knows given the number of cancellations, but, probably somewhere between 30-40% less. When you have a market that is 20% smaller, it means it’s more competitive from the airport side.

“Newcastle Airport is competing against Cork, it’s competing against Turin, it’s competing against Santiago in Spain. If the UK is truly serious about levelling up, the first thing it needs to do is fully abolish the APD tax.”

Earlier this year, the Government went some way to alleviating the APD burden, which has long been criticised by regional airport operators and airlines. The duty will be halved on domestic flights from April 2023 – a move Ryanair says is welcome but is not enough. Mr McGuinness went on to say that large scale expansion at Teesside would be unlikely without a change to APD

He added: “Without this tax, Ryanair could have, rather than two based aircraft, more like four or five based aircraft at Newcastle. That’s how big an impact this is. Rather than 15 routes this winter it probably would be in the region of 20-30 routes. This is how much this tax is putting particularly northern UK airports at a disadvantage.”

The announcement of six new winter routes from Newcastle – including Barcelona, Cork, Bergamo, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Riga – comes on the back of Ryanair’s investment in a new base at Newcastle comprising two Boeing 737-800s and supporting 60 direct jobs and an estimated 400 indirect jobs. The airline now flies a total of 15 routes from the airport – an expansion that means it will have doubled the number of North East passengers it carries from around 500,000 pre-Covid to nearly one million.

A HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling up regions around the UK by helping their economies to grow, and that’s why we have slashed domestic Air Passenger Duty in half to support our regional airports, which in particular rely heavily on domestic flights.

“In addition, throughout the pandemic we backed airports with measures including the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme, worth more than £160m, loan guarantees and the furlough scheme, and we will continue to stand by the sector throughout the current global economic challenges.”

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