IRISH carrier Ryanair says it wants to open five new bases in Spain and grow by 40% in the country by 2030.
CEO Eddie Wilson told reporters at a Madrid tourism event on Monday that Ryanair aimed to grow passenger traffic to Spain to 77 million people from the 55 million forecast for this year, but added the caveat that Spain needed to have competitive airport charges for that to happen.
Transport secretary Oscar Puente said last week that a 4.09% increase in tariffs by airport operator Aena from March would go ahead, pointing out that rates would still be below those of pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
“This 4% rise we think needs to be reversed, but also, we need to put in incentives in the regions of Spain, and that will drive tourist numbers 12 months in the year, not just to the beaches or the coast,” Eddie Wilson stated.
Ryanair’s expansion plans appear to be based on Aena slowing down proposed rises in airport fees and Wilson warned that if costs rise, then ‘it may be more attractive to operate at airports in other countries such as Italy, Greece or Morocco’.
“We want to grow in Spain, but to achieve this, we need to have competitive airport rates for this additional traffic,” said Wilson.
“Ryanair is going to take delivery of 400 new aircraft over the next few years. The question is how many are going to come to Spain. It’s really important for airports to be competitive,” Wilson commented.
He shared the stage with Aena president, Maurici Lucena who defended the airport tax hikes.
“Fares have fallen by 11% between 2015 and 2023, in a period in which inflation in Spain grew by 21%, so if a tax rise of 4.09% is approved, fares this year would still be below their 2019 level,” he said.
Lucena pointed out that extra revenue would be used to expand airports and pointed out that hubs at Barcelona and Madrid area close to capacity.
As for Ryanair, Eddie Wilson talked about a €5 billion investment to allocate 33 new aircraft to Spanish airports, open five new bases of operations and go from the current 730 operational routes to more than a thousand by the end of the decade.
In Wilson’s opinion, medium-sized airports, such as Murcia, Valladolid, Vigo, Santander or Cadiz, among others, are places that need tourism all year round and ‘only Ryanair can offer that volume in the next five years’.
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