RYANAIR is shedding almost two-thirds of its capacity at Shannon this winter and cutting flights at Cork by 17% and by 15% at Dublin.
The airline is also planning to hang on to its near 30% stake in Aer Lingus, adding that the Government will likely ask it to rescue the airline eventually.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said unless somebody comes along and makes a “very generous offer” for the Aer Lingus shares, “we have every intention of holding on to them”.
Earlier this week Ryanair lost a legal challenge to a 2007 veto by EU regulators against an attempt to buy Aer Lingus. Mr O’Leary said he believes it is inevitable that the Government will eventually ask him to rescue Aer Lingus.
“We are the only people who are willing to rescue it. Nobody else wants it. Aer Lingus has no long-term strategy,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said he isn’t worried about his unpopularity with the Government, adding that it will be gone in the next 12 to 18 months. He also said that the airline has no immediate plans to make another offer for Aer Lingus.
“If the Government were to accept an offer from Ryanair... we’d have no difficulty getting that through the European Commission,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that he would lower fares and increase jobs at the airline.
Ryanair said the cutbacks at Irish airports were caused by the Government’s air passenger tax as well as increased airport costs. It will cut its Dublin base to 12 aircraft from 14 this winter and said it will operate less than 850 weekly flights from the airport compared with 1,000 last winter.
The airline said it will switch aircraft at Irish airports to other EU countries where they can avail of reduced airport charges.
Mr O’Leary said the final figure for the cost from disruption caused by the ash cloud could come in just below €50 million.
Ryanair also called on the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to transfer its new Terminal Two to NAMA.
Mr O’Leary said T2 “was the single most reckless, expensive and unnecessary property development of the entire Celtic Tiger years”.
“T2 is the most perfect example of Ireland’s recent property bubble. It is badly designed, badly located, massively oversized and effectively bankrupt.”
The DAA hit back at Ryanair’s moves saying it is the airline’s own business model and the wider economic position that has contributed to its decision to withdraw some services.
“These decisions are not related to passenger charges at Dublin Airport, which is one of Europe’s most competitively priced large airports,” a spokesman said.
The DAA also said T2 is a “key element of strategic national infrastructure that will be used by passengers for the next half century”.
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