Ryanair cuts winter flights from Stansted

Ryanair says "damaging" airport departure tax means it's cutting back winter capacity by 17% at Stansted, its main UK base.

In total they'll carry 2 million fewer passengers than last winter and most of the carriers' UK airports will be affected, except Edinburgh and Leeds-Bradford.

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said: "Sadly, UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Ryanair continues to grow rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them."

"Ryanair's capacity cutbacks show just how much the UK's tourist tax and (airport operator) BAA's high airport charges are damaging UK tourism and the British economy generally."

"Independent capacity analysis shows that growth has returned to the Belgian, Dutch and Spanish markets after their governments scrapped tourist taxes and/or reduced airport charges."

"Today's cutbacks underline the urgent need to break up the high-cost BAA" airport monopoly (as recommended by the Competition Commission) and to scrap the damaging £11 tourist tax which has caused UK traffic to collapse over the past
two years."

A Stansted Airport spokesperson has responded, saying: "Reductions to flying schedules during the winter season are widely anticipated and quite normal in the airline industry. Ryanair has always made it clear it will not operate low demand routes during off peak periods. However, we don't recognise many of the numbers put forward by Ryanair, and that often bare little or no relation to the reality of the situation."

"Careful consideration should be given to some of the 'facts' quoted as they often lack true like-for-like comparisons. During winter 2009/10, 5.80 million Ryanair passengers passed through Stansted, just 5% down compared to the previous winter - nowhere near as dramatic as the headlines announced by Ryanair last year, and quite understandable given the difficulties all sectors of the world economy are experiencing."

"Our focus at the airport is to continue delivering excellent customer service and improving facilities for our airline partners and the millions of valued passengers who enjoy using Stansted every year."