Budget carrier Ryanair has announced it is slashing the number of flights it will operate from Stansted airport this winter.
The no-frills Irish airline, which employs hundreds of workers in Birmingham, is reducing the number of weekly flights at the Essex airport by 30 per cent between October 2009 and March 2010.
This amounts to a 40 per cent reduction in capacity as Ryanair will cut the number of aircraft at Stansted from 40 this summer to 24 in winter 2009-10.
Ryanair blamed the cutback on the fact that Stansted is one of its two most expensive bases (Dublin is the other) and that airport operator BAA had rejected the airline’s calls for “deep cuts in these high passenger fees this winter”.
Ryanair, which now expects to carry 2.5 million fewer passengers at Stansted this winter, also pointed to the Government increase in the Air Passenger Duty (APD) airport departure tax from November this year.
The airline said that in recent months the Belgian, Dutch, Greek and Spanish governments had all scrapped tourist taxes and/or reduced airport charges to zero to stimulate tourism.
It said it would now switch the 16 aircraft it was withdrawing from Stansted to other European bases.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Sadly UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Ryanair continues to grow traffic rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them.
“Ryanair’s 40 per cent capacity cutback at London Stansted shows just how much Gordon Brown’s £10 tourist tax and the BAA monopoly’s high airport charges are damaging London and UK tourism and the British economy generally.”
Stansted managing director Stewart Wingate said: “Last winter Ryanair reduced its aircraft fleet here to 28. This year it will be 24.
‘‘It is common practice for it to reduce frequency to various destinations during the winter season as it has done in previous years. We have factored this potential outcome into our latest passenger forecasts.”