An extraordinary board meeting took place on Wednesday morning at Ryanair Belgium and the company decided to leave its Zaventem base this winter, starting on October 29 and until March. The Irish company is canceling two planes that were normally based at Brussels Airport for the winter season, but other Ryanair planes based elsewhere in Europe will continue to fly through the airport. About 80 staff members are affected.
At a press conference held in downtown Brussels just after the board meeting, Ryanair group CEO Michael O’Leary said the decision represented a loss of $200 million in investment. He took direct aim at the increase in airport fares charged by Brussels Airport, which would not encourage the recovery of air traffic and which makes other European airports, including Charleroi, much more competitive.
Ryanair is working according to a blackmail model.Hans Elsen, Secretary of the Christian trade union
O’Leary said he was disappointed to have to announce the elimination of aircraft based at Brussels Airport. He also mentioned the tax put in place by the federal government on airline tickets (from 2 to 10 euros).
“We have no other solution following the price increase at Brussels Airport,” he said, blaming the decision of the Belgian government to introduce new taxes on some flights while exempting long-haul and transit flights from the ecotax.
“Ryanair is working according to a blackmail model,” Hans Elsen of the trade union told Belgian news outlet VRT. “Ryanair is fundamentally opposed to this type of tax because it calls into question its business model. The company wants to send a signal to the Federal Government that it does not agree.”
There will be an impact on the Ryanair staff based in Zaventem. Seventeen pilots, forty four stewards and stewardesses as well as engineers and support staff will have to be relocated to other European bases of the Irish company or to Charleroi. The unions have been told that the Zaventem base should reopen in March, but Michael O’Leary explained that this would depend on future negotiations with the airport.
Ryanair represents only 8% of total passenger traffic at Brussels Airport. The increase in fares is meant to take into account the sharp rise in energy prices.Brussels Airport
While the Irish airline will no longer have any aircraft based at Zaventem this winter, Ryanair flights will continue to be operated to and from the airport by aircraft and crews based elsewhere than in Belgium. This was already the case for about 60% of the airline’s daily flights through Brussels Airport this summer. This means that 12 routes via Zaventem will remain active this winter.
Brussels Airport, which reacted in a press release this afternoon, believes that this decision will have little impact on travelers. “Ryanair represents only 8% of total passenger traffic at Brussels Airport. Ryanair operates some 30 flights per day, 10 of which are flights with a crew stationed in Belgium,” said the airport in the press release.
These 10 flights, in fact 5 rotations to 5 destinations, will no longer be operated as of October 29th. Only Pisa and Amman are not served by other airlines, but Brussels Airport expects others to offer services to these destinations.
The airport has stated that its new airport tariffs are currently being analyzed by the economic regulator and would only be valid from April 2023 until 2027. “This proposal includes an increase in fares to take into account the sharp rise in energy prices and very high inflation, which has a strong impact on the cost of airport operations,” said Brussels Airport.
Ryanair has been very critical about the legal action by 48 Belgian pilots seeking the restoration of their salaries, which were reduced by 20% since the coronavirus health crisis broke out. According to Ryanair, the Belgian pilots had accepted a plan which provided for their salaries to be restored with indexation included and now they are asking to have their salaries restored with inflation on top. “They signed this agreement. We look forward to going to court”, the company stated.