UK travel ‘shambles’ threatens recovery of Liverpool and Manchester airports
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Budget carrier Ryanair has called on the Government to sort its ‘shambolic’ travel traffic light system, and either abolish or suspend Air Passenger Duty (APD) to ensure airports like Liverpool and Manchester can recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief operating officer Jason McGuinness made a flying stop in the region to announce 10 new routes for each of the region’s airports covering the summer and winter schedules, but he also warned that the UK, and its Liverpool and Manchester bases could be left behind as the rest of Europe emerges from the huge impact the pandemic had on the travel industry.
He said Ryanair has opened 13 bases across Europe over the past year as it plans its recovery. The carrier has grown from carrying one million passengers in April, to nine million in July and it expects to carry in excess of nine million next month.
“We have been very busy and we are still very confident on the medium-term outlook,” he told TheBusinessDesk.com.
Italy has been a hotbed of activity for the airline as it plots its recovery, he revealed: “We are the largest airline in Italy. Our schedule there this summer is larger than pre-pandemic. We have well over 100 Italian domestic routes and 600 routes in total in Italy. We have added 40 Italian domestic routes over the last 12 months.”
But he warned unless UK passengers can travel with the same ease as their European counterparts, the market risks being left behind: “We are working very closely with our colleagues in Liverpool and Manchester, but the traffic light system and APD is putting them in an uncompetitive position to airports in Europe.”
He said: “The traffic light system is an utter shambles and is creating confusion.
“No one knows what the traffic light system is and we then had the extraordinary position last Friday where we got a new colour on it, Amber-plus.” He joked: “We’re expecting Amber-minus this Friday.”
He added: “The vaccine roll-out has been a success but what we’re saying is fully vaccinated people should be able to travel into Europe.
“We all have different views on the EU (European Union), but what the EU did do on July 1st is they introduced the digital covid search which enables the people of the EU to travel into Europe that have been fully vaccinated, without restrictions, and that’s what we should be doing in the UK as well, for fully vaccinated people.”
On APD he said: “There will be less capacity over Europe in the next few years, mainly due to failures, such as Monarch, Thomas Cook and Flybe.
“European airports have realised that and Ryanair is the only one that will be delivering growth, but UK airports are in the unfortunate position where a departure tax of £13 puts them in a wholly uncompetitive position to their EU counterparts, so it is hampering the recovery.
“What we have said is that UK APD should be abolished, or suspended for a number of years, to enable the recovery of aviation. It needs to be suspended to allow airports like Liverpool and Manchester to really recover.”
Ryanair is in the process of taking delivery of 210 new planes, with 15 already in operation, and Mr McGuinness said the carrier expects to be back to pre-pandemic passenger levels by 2022, but he hinted that the UK market might still be hampered in its recovery even then: “I can’t tell you where that capacity will be.
“Liverpool and Manchester are very important to Ryanair. We have four aircraft based in Liverpool and 12 in Manchester and we employ more than 500 staff between the two airports. The issue is growth and how many of the new 210 aircraft will be allocated to both airports.”
The airline today released details of its recovery plans, including 20 new routes spread evenly between Liverpool and Manchester.
At Liverpool John Lennon Airport it will add Rome (Italy), Kosice (Slovakia), Kaunas (Lithuania), Zadar (Croatia) and Kos (Greece) to its summer 2021 schedule, and Arlanda (Sweden), Milan Bergamo (Italy), Paris Beauvais (France), Sibiu (Romania) and Tallin (Estonia) to the airport’s winter 2021 programme.
Paul Winfield, Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s director of aviation development, said “These new routes demonstrate Ryanair’s commitment to Liverpool and to passengers from across the North West and North Wales, who can take advantage of the convenience of flying from Liverpool to a growing range of destinations over the coming months, as we continue to recover from the covid pandemic.
“We’re delighted to see that Ryanair are capitalising on the opportunities available from Liverpool and further growing their business here. These destinations give travellers the opportunity to travel from Liverpool to a mix of great destinations for leisure and perhaps to see friends and family that they may not have seen for months due to previous travel restrictions and a lack of direct flights.”
In Manchester, Ryanair’s summer 2021 schedule will be boosted with flights to Santorini (Greece), Knock (Ireland), Bucharest (Romania) and Verona (Italy), while the winter 2021 programme will include Kaunas (Lithuania), Paphos (Cyprus), Poznan (Poland), Suceava (Romania), Zagreb (Croatia) and Salzburg (Austria).