Ryanair looking at move to major European airports

RYANAIR is looking at opening routes to all major European airports bar the top three as slowing growth prompts the region’s topdiscount carrier to modify a strategy based on flying only to less-costly terminals.

Flying to larger airports, while raising costs, would boost average ticket prices by luring more business travellers.

Big-city airports are also keener to talk to Ryanair after the recession, chief executive Michael O’Leary said.

“Almost any airport that we don’t fly to is talking to us across Europe,” he said. “Increasingly in the future there’s going to be a spread of bigger airports, as well as secondary ones.”

Ryanair has avoided some of Europe’s top airports, often routing passengers to terminals 25 miles or more from the cities they serve, such as Brussels Charleroi, Glasgow Prestwick and Milan Bergamo.

Mr O’Leary’s plan, which heightens competition with British Airways and EasyJet, rules out only London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt am Main as targets because of the need to turn planes around in 25 minutes.

Ryanair last year boosted passenger numbers 11% to 73.5 million. Even if the Irish carrier were to revive a deal to buy as many as 200 aircraft from Boeing, the growth rate is likely to slow to 5% or lower, in part because it would be expanding from a much bigger base, the executive said yesterday after Ryanair’s annual shareholders meeting.

As expansion slackens at Ryanair, the company will switch focus from slashing fares to a “value and service proposition” which will take more account of quality and customer satisfaction, Mr O’Leary said.

“At the moment it’s all about price, price, price, but as you slow down the growth rate you’re doing less discounting to fill seats,” he said. “Your focus is more on ‘most-on-time airline in Europe,’ the fewest bags lost, brand-new aircraft, all-leather seating – the carey-sharey stuff.”

Flights to more central airports such as Barcelona El Prat, located six miles from the city, where Ryanair began flying this month, should also help boost ticket receipts as the company exhausts options for raising “ancillary revenue” by charging for everything from snacks to checking baggage.

Costlier airports are also becoming viable as Ryanair reduces its use of facilities such as check-in desks in response to customers registering for flights electronically and carrying hand luggage, O’Leary said. That has cut entry expenses and kept ticket prices lower.

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