"Cornwall International Airport", as the airport outside Newquay calls itself, has seen passenger numbers nearly treble since 2002 to a predicted 330,000 for this year. Despite booming business, the airport's owners, Cornwall County Council, is to introduce a departure fee of £5 for each adult passenger from 29 October. But Ryanair, which started the turnaround in the airport's fortunes when it began a link from London Stansted, says it will halve its flights from London once the surcharge takes effect.
The new "Airport Development Fee" emulates similar charges levied at the Irish airports of Knock and Kerry. The charge is said to be needed to pay for better facilities, such as more comfortable arrivals and departure lounges and improved catering. The council maintains that research among existing passengers suggests that a £5 fee would be acceptable to most, and that flights operating to and from Newquay will still represent good value.
Ryanair calls the fee "ridiculous". Its deputy chief executive, Michael Cawley, says the airport is "part of a competitive, price-sensitive market" competing for flights with many existing and potential destinations.
The council hopes the fee will be added to fares at the time of booking, in the same way as Air Passenger Duty and many other charges. Yet Ryanair, which carries more passengers in and out of Stansted than any other, is not yet levying the fee. Many travellers have already booked to fly from the Cornish airport and face the prospect of having to pay the extra in cash when they arrive at the airport.
Concerns have been voiced that the move will prove disastrous both for the region and for the survival of the airport itself. Monarch Scheduled plans to fly from Newquay to Spain from November. The airline's managing director, Tim Jeans, calls the plan "ill-considered and frankly retrograde". He says the charge would have a detrimental impact upon incoming tourist traffic to Cornwall, as well as penalising Cornish residents.
Mr Jeans says that the Irish airports that already levy fees on departing travellers have lost passengers as a result of the charge. He suggests that Newquay could finance its expansion by other means such as parking fees and airport shopping.
At the time of going to press, Ryanair was still selling seats on its two existing daily departures each way on the route. But Michael Cawley, deputy chief executive, says it will cut at least six round-trips a week and may axe even more: "The benefits which incoming flights can deliver to regions such as Cornwall are incalculable and far exceed the derisory income."
ITALY'S MAIN no-frills airport is to close for a long weekend next month, causing disruption for thousands of travellers. Bergamo's Orio al Serio airport, north-east of Milan, has built up a network of no-frills flights to European destinations ranging from Liverpool to Tirana. The main airline, Ryanair, serves Bergamo from five UK airports.
Between 6 and 9 October, Bergamo airport will close for "extraordinary runway works". Many flights will be diverted to Brescia airport, about 60 miles east. A bus service, for which passengers must pay, will link the two during the closure.
The main Milan airports, Linate and Malpensa, are unaffected by the shutdown.Reuse content