Ryanair axes one in seven budget flights from Stansted due to soaring fuel costs and airport fees

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18 Jul 2008 12:00 AM by morerosado Star rating. 6927 posts Send private message

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DAILY MAIL INFO  17th July 2008

Ryanair has announced cuts to its schedule which could signal an end to the cheap winter break for many.

The budget airline is to axe one in seven of its winter flights from Stansted Airport, following rising fuel surcharges and fears over the economy. 

Other airlines have already issued their own warnings.

Earlier this week, British Airways announced significant cuts to its winter services.

And bmi British Midland has said it expects fewer passengers.

Ryanair's announcement would have a knock-on effect, an industry expert warned.

Lee Hayhurst, of the Travel Trade Gazette, said: 'The expectation in the industry is that it is the second family holiday  -  in winter  -  where the pinch will be felt.'

Ryanair said its cuts will lead to 900 job losses at Stansted, including 150 of its staff.

Its weekly flights will be cut from more than 1,850 to just under 1,600 this winter.

The airline believes it will carry 900,000 fewer passengers.

It will reduce the number of planes based at Stansted from 36 to 28.

The airline does not impose fuel surcharges on passengers. But the economics of running a low- cost airline mean flights must be full to make a profit, particularly when the cost of fuel is rising and cutting into profit margins.

If planes are far from full, they do not make enough money and are candidates for the axe. By contrast, British Airways passes on the cost of rising fuel costs in the form of fuel surcharges. 

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said Stansted was adding to the problem by charging high fees. 'These winter schedule cutbacks, which are significantly greater than those of last winter, show just how damaging the BAA airport monopoly has become.'

But BAA, the aiport operator that owns Stansted, said: 'The aviation industry like many others is coping with the challenges of a global economic downturn. Everyone is feeling the pinch.' 

British Airways has already warned that passengers face 'inevitable' fare rises, extra fuel charges and fewer flights with up to one in 20 cut this winter. Bosses said the airline was 'up to our necks in perhaps the biggest crisis the aviation industry has ever known'. 

Last night, a spokesman said: 'Fewer people taking winter breaks is an element. Overall it is a tight economic climate. There will be some nervousness in the market for both leisure and business travellers. Rising costs such as fuel have to be passed on.' 

Those who do fly face higher fares. British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh warned passengers that ticket price rises of up to 4 per cent were 'absolutely inevitable'. The airline plans to axe more than 6,000 flights over the six months from October to March. It has about 275,000 flights a year. 

Bosses at bmi British Midland have also signalled they may be forced to cut flights. It was criticised by Gordon Brown this week after allegedly planning to fly empty planes this winter to keep valuable slots at Heathrow. 

Bmi's deputy chief executive Tim Bye said: 'We have to keep them flying to preserve our slots. What might have been a marginal service in most winters will become even worse, partly because of the price of fuel and partly because of the drop-off in demand that the general economic cycle will bring.'

One airline insider said: 'Everyone will be cutting flights to survive.'

About 15million of us take a winter break  -  about a third of the 46million annual holidaymakers, The Association of British Travel Agents said.


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