Ryanair Plans New Base In City

Budget airline Ryanair "remains committed'' to Prestwick Airport but is moving a number of routes to a new base at Glasgow.

A new route between Glasgow and London Stansted will operate from October, while flights to Dublin, Derry, Riga in Latvia and Warsaw, Wroclaw and Bydgoszcz in Poland, which currently operate from Prestwick, are moving to Glasgow as part of the airline's winter schedule.

Ryanair has been the only firm to operate passenger flights out of Prestwick since Whizz Air moved to Glasgow at the start of last year.

The Scottish Government took Prestwick Airport into public hands late last year when its former owner Infratil earmarked it for closure. At the time, it was said the airport supports 1,400 local jobs, is worth £60 million to the Scottish economy and was considered too important to close by Scottish ministers.

Ryanair said today that it remains committed to the Ayrshire airport, where it has an engineering base, and is in discussions with the Scottish Government to "explore growth opportunities''.

The airline also announced today that flights between Glasgow and Stansted and Glasgow and Dublin, as well as a new route between Edinburgh and London Stansted, will operate three times each day from October 26.

The firm said its winter schedule sees an expansion in Scotland and will serve three million passengers.

The Ryanair flights from Prestwick this winter will be to the Spanish destinations of Alicante, Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Malaga and Tenerife.

There will also be 16 winter routes from Edinburgh.

Some jobs could be moved from Prestwick to Glasgow airport to maintain aircraft, while new roles will be created in line with an increase in passenger numbers, but no figures were given.

Ryanair head of corporate travel Lesley Kane said: "This is not about Ryanair pulling air passenger traffic out of Prestwick and closing the airport down, this is about us spreading across two airports where we see huge business opportunities in Glasgow.''

At a press conference in Glasgow today, the airline said customer demand was behind the creation of a Glasgow base.

Kate Sherry, deputy director of route development, said: "We've seen significant demand from passengers for low-fare connections on business routes, which is primarily the reason for our new routes to London from Glasgow and Edinburgh and to Dublin as well.

"Five routes have come across from Prestwick but they are flights only once or twice a week, while routes to London and Dublin will be three times every day. There will be overall growth of 500,000 passengers across Scotland.''

She added: "We're committed to Prestwick, we have seven routes there this winter. We're committed to ongoing operations at Prestwick and we also have an engineering base there that employs up to 300 people.

"We can understand that there has been worry and anxiety from people around Prestwick. We've had some talks with the Scottish Government and we continue talking with them, so we're very committed to the airport and to our base and engineering facility there, and we will continue talking to the Government as we plan our schedules for summer 2015 and beyond.''

A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed the airline's announcement and said Prestwick's success is "not predicated on passenger traffic alone''.

He said: "Whilst the number of routes from Glasgow Prestwick Airport is fewer than offered last winter, Ryanair has assured us of its continuing commitment to the airport and of its intention to actively consider growth options in the future.

"These service changes are part of the normal revision process that airlines undertake to optimise their business. Ryanair has previously advised that changes to their schedule are due to a combination of factors, including a reduction in their aircraft fleet numbers.

"With the introduction of new aircraft in 2015, there is an opportunity for the team at the airport to make a strong business case for their use on Prestwick routes. We look forward to working with Ryanair, and other airlines, to improve the destinations on offer from Prestwick in the future.

"Glasgow Prestwick is a non-typical airport, where success is not predicated on passenger traffic or any one business area alone. There are opportunities to capitalise on its other assets and related businesses, such as freight, maintenance, repair and overhaul, fixed-base operations and property. We are looking to make steady improvements across all of the airport's business activities.

"We are confident there is a place for Glasgow Prestwick Airport in the evolving and increasingly competitive Scottish aviation market as an airport serving Ayrshire and other parts of the west of Scotland, and are committed to making it the success we know it can be.''

Ryanair also repeated calls for Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is reserved to Westminster, to be scrapped.

The rate of the tax depends on a passenger's final destination, with four bands based on the distance between London and the capital city of the destination country, ranging from #13 to #184.

Scotland's main airports have called on the UK Government to ditch the tax, saying the charge could lead to a drop in both passengers and tourism spending.

The majority of MSPs believe the Scottish Parliament should have control over the aviation tax.

Ms Sherry said: "We would urge Scotland to follow the example of Ireland, where Ryanair has launched 21 new routes and will deliver 1.2 million new customers this year, in response to the Irish Government's welcome decision to scrap APD.

"Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Scotland cannot unlock its full potential until APD is repealed.''

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