Airports should continue offering airlines discounts into next winter to restore pre-pandemic services, Ryanair executive Eddie Wilson argued on Thursday.
Ryanair will fly 900 times a week across 120 destinations from Dublin this summer in what the airline says will be its biggest ever schedule from the Irish airport, lured by discounts of up to €80 million available to all carriers.
Speaking after the carrier and State airport company DAA announced the plan, Mr Wilson stressed that the incentives should continue into the winter if airports wanted to restore pre-Covid traffic.
“There is a summer sale on airport charges, that has to continue into the winter,” he said.
Ryanair is adding 22 new routes from Dublin over its pre-pandemic summer 2019 schedule. The carrier will fly to destinations in Spain, Portugal, Italy, including Sardinia and Sicily, Greece, Croatia and France.
Mr Wilson, chief executive of the group’s biggest subsidiary, Ryanair DAC, noted that Ryanair’s 120 routes from Dublin outnumber the 117 short-haul services that all airlines fly from London Heathrow.
He confirmed that the airline is boosting its Dublin presence on the back of a scheme funded by €90 million in Government aid to allow airports offer airlines incentives to restore routes and passenger numbers.
DAA chief executive Dalton Philips said the company's share of that would be €80 million. About €70 million of this will go to Dublin, while the balance will be spent in Cork Airport.
Mr Philips explained that DAA would use the cash to offer discounts on its charges to all airlines, based on the rate at which they restore passenger numbers to pre-Covid levels.
Carriers that restore more than half their 2019 traffic to Dublin will get 50 per cent of their airport charges back, while those that bring in more than 70 per cent will 100 per cent refunds.
“It’s a very aggressive scheme, designed for both long haul and short haul,” Mr Philips said. “But you have got to earn it, if you are not flying, you won’t earn it.”
Ryanair is in the process of taking delivery of 67new Boeing 737 Max jets that are part of an overall order of 210.
The airline’s summer schedule will make it Dublin Airport’s biggest carrier. The company will base 33 aircraft there.
In total, 52 airlines will operate to and from Dublin this year, serving more than 200 routes against 190 destinations in 2019.
The Government-appointed Aviation Task Force, whose members included DAA and Ryanair, recommended the introduction of the Traffic Recovery Support Scheme when it reported in July 2020.
“After two years of stop-start ineffective travel restrictions, the DAA have finally been given the tools to incentivise travel with its Traffic Recovery Support Scheme,” Mr Wilson said.