Ryanair has had a bumpy season in Belgium, scattered with strikes, threats and lawsuits. After a few strikes from pilots displeased with their wages and working conditions, the airline threatened to completely quit Belgium. Most recently, it stopped operations at Brussels Airport Zaventem for the upcoming winter, so it seemed the threats were coming true.
In spite of all these, and the lawsuit Belgian pilots started against Ryanair, the airline extended its contract with the Brussels South Charleroi Airport until 2028. The negotiations were held during the pandemic, and now the parties have finally signed the extension, newspaper L’Echo reported. Charleroi CEO Philippe Verdonck confirmed the news, but has not offered any comments, while Belga reported that Wizzair also extended its contract, but that has not yet been confirmed.
We do not receive subsidies from anywhere. From no one. All we do is negotiate fares.Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO
Talking about the extension in an interview with L’Echo and De Tijd, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary diffused suspicions that receiving any subsidies from the Walloon region was the reason for extending the contract at Charleroi while stopping operations at Zaventem. The reason is simply economical, the different charges the airports apply make a 189-seat plane €5,400 cheaper at Brussels South than at Zaventem, according to calculations from L’Echo.
“Look at the supermarkets. You don’t also say that Aldi and Lidl are subsidised by their suppliers, do you? They have simply negotiated bigger discounts from their suppliers in the interest of their customers”, O’Leary exemplified.
The Ryanair CEO seems happy with the conditions at Charleroi. After announcing the withdrawal from Zaventem, he said “Brussels Airport is simply a very poorly managed airport and its director understands nothing about aviation”. But he was also considering quitting Charleroi, saying they “will go where there is growth and where we can facilitate our low-cost model”, which, it turns out, is still Brussels South.