Ryanair launches 18 routes in U-turn

RYANAIR has announced 18 new routes from Dublin to other parts of Europe turning Dublin Airport into its 16th European base.

The decision represents a U-turn by Ryanair and poses a serious challenge for Aer Lingus plans to open new routes to Europe out of Dublin in 2006, according to an airline analyst.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary decked out in full Santa regalia, said: “We don’t have a principle that isn’t overturnable,” when asked if this was a complete change of position.

Previously Ryanair had refused to open new services out of Dublin on the grounds of excessive costs.

It was also annoyed at the failure of Aer Rianta to expand the airport to cater for the huge increase in passengers over recent years.

The group is adding five new Boeings to its fleet bringing the total number of planes operating from Dublin to 15.

When he got down to business after eating “humble pie” before Aer Rianta’s press officer, Vincent Wall, over his change of heart, Mr O’Leary stressed his airline would be cooperating fully with DAA in the building of Pier D and in the upgrade of the airport.

But Mr O’Leary stressed it will carry on its fight with the State for its failure to give the building of the second terminal to a private consortium.

It is also taking legal action against the regulator who has allowed a 23% hike in airport charges.

NCB stockbrokers said the announcement represented “a reversal of Ryanair’s previously stated position in relation to expansion from Dublin”.

Analyst John Sheehan said the move was driven by the clear demand opportunity as well as Air Lingus’s stated plan for further capacity growth.

NCB will not be changing forecasts for the current financial year but have tipped the share again as worth buying. Ryanair was up 10 cent to €8 in Dublin yesterday.

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