Ryanair to quit Brussels Airport as CEO Michael O’Leary warns of ‘extremely challenging winter’

The airline boss blamed a new ‘crazy and discriminatory’ flight tax and increased airport charges

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 09 September 2022 08:33 BST
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary (AFP/Getty Images)

Ryanair plans to withdraw its planes from an airport in Brussels amid a row over higher charges and a new flight tax.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary announced the move at a press conference in the Belgian capital on Wednesday.

He said that a planned hike in rates at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, as well as an introduction of a flight tax, will see Ryanair move its two planes from the airport from the end of this month until at least March 2023.

Mr O’Leary said Zaventem’s charges are between four and five times the amount charged by Charleroi Airport, which is Brussels’ other major hub, located south of the city.

In April, the Belgian federal government introduced a flight tax from €2 to €10 (£1.70 to £8.70) depending on the destination.

Mr O’Leary insisted that Ryanair will not return to Zaventem until the airport reduces its charges and the “crazy and discriminatory” flight tax is scrapped – meaning the airline will axe hundreds of its flights until at least spring.

He said, as reported by Belgian newspaper De Standaard: “This winter is going to be extremely challenging, with higher fuel costs, so an increase in airport charges like in Zaventem is not sustainable.”

Mr O’Leary said that Ryanair plans to move its 80 staff based in Zaventem to Charleroi – where the airline has 15 planes – or other airports in neighbouring countries “at less cost”.

At least 60 cabin crew members and 10 pilots work for Ryanair from Brussels Airport, according to Belgian broadcaster VRT.

Hans Elsen, of trade union ACV Puls, had told VRT: “Ryanair is working according to a blackmail model.

“Last week, the company announced that it does not agree with the federal flight tax ... Ryanair is fundamentally opposed to this type of tax because it calls into question its business model.”

Mr Elsen added: “The company is throwing 75 families into uncertainty, they have lost their jobs here, we can look for a solution.

“As most of them live around Brussels, Charleroi would still be feasible, but if we have to look further, then it becomes more difficult.

“Ryanair wants to make a political statement today, but that is at the expense of those who work there.”

Last week, Ryanair said it would also close its base at Athens airport from the end of October until the end of March.

Ryanair said blamed the airport operator’s “dysfunctional” charging scheme, while reports suggest that the airline made the decision because of competition from other low-cost airlines.

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