Outlook There is a certain hypocrisy in Michael O'Leary blaming higher taxes and fees for his decision to cut Ryanair's capacity at Stansted this winter. If anyone knows about making a few bob from extra charges, it's this budget airline, and at least the Chancellor's plan to raise air passenger duty from £10 to £11 hasn't been obscured in a swath of small print.
Mr O'Leary complains that BAA's monopolistic control of London's airports enables it to charge too much for Ryanair's use of Stansted, yet the Competition Commission, a Government agency after all, is doing its best to tackle such practices, having in effect ordered the break-up of the operator.
Moreover, one might argue that the economic power of Ryanair itself is something competition watchdogs might want to have a think about. These capacity reductions represent the airline's latest attempt to use its muscle to threaten airports that don't give in to its every demand. Ryanair has just announced cuts to flights from Dublin and Shannon, having had a run-in with its home government over tax, and has also fallen out with several small airports on the Continent for financial reasons.
Is Mr O'Leary really suggesting a £1 duty increase will result in a collapse in demand, or that Stansted's fees are so high that the airport is not economic? Stripping out the costs of Ryanair's disastrous adventure with Aer Lingus, this remains a very profitable airline, particularly given the dramatic collapse in fuel prices we have seen over the past year.
Ryanair and its pugnacious boss got where they are today partly by naked aggression. Fair enough if that's how they want to do business, but let's not pretend this episode is anything other than the latest instance of the airline's bully-boy behaviour.Reuse content