Ryanair ponders Slovak hub

SOME of the more than 170 planes the low-cost airline Ryanair will acquire through a landmark multi-billion-dollar deal with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing might be based in Slovakia if the Irish carrier’s plan to open a hub in Bratislava works out. The airline also wants to double the number of passengers transported from Bratislava to reach 2 million or 2.5 million passengers annually, according to Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, who estimated that two to three planes would need to be stationed in Bratislava. Currently, 1.4 million passengers fly from Bratislava Airport annually. According to the Ryanair CEO, the Ryanair hub in Bratislava could open between 2014 and 2015.

SOME of the more than 170 planes the low-cost airline Ryanair will acquire through a landmark multi-billion-dollar deal with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing might be based in Slovakia if the Irish carrier’s plan to open a hub in Bratislava works out. The airline also wants to double the number of passengers transported from Bratislava to reach 2 million or 2.5 million passengers annually, according to Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, who estimated that two to three planes would need to be stationed in Bratislava. Currently, 1.4 million passengers fly from Bratislava Airport annually. According to the Ryanair CEO, the Ryanair hub in Bratislava could open between 2014 and 2015.

Yet O’Leary, who met the management of Bratislava’s M. R. Štefánik Airport (BTS) on April 10, said that in order to boost the number of passengers from Bratislava the airline would need a forthcoming attitude from the local airport in the form of low fees, the SITA newswire reported.

“We fought a little bit with the previous management over the prices, but I think this time we will manage it [to reach a deal],” O’Leary said, as quoted by SITA.

Ryanair negotiated with the airport several years ago, but the two sides failed to strike a deal, according to SITA.

While the current executive director of the airport, Ivan Trhlík, assumes that the intention of Ryanair to extend its activities in Bratislava might work out this time, he has also suggested, as quoted by the Czech newswire ČTK, that the management does not plan to offer a further discount from the fees charged to the airline.

Trhlík has also said that the airport has not yet received any requests or proposals from Ryanair, but he assumes that these should be standard conditions based on the previous contracts, SITA reported. Trhlík, a nominee of the ruling Smer party, suggested that the negotiations with Ryanair, which should start next week, might last for several months.

“Mr O’Leary is an experienced businessman who, when he says something, then he stands behind it [the statement],” said Trhlík, adding that a founder and owner of an airline has never made such explicit statements before, SITA reported.

Bratislava Airport depends on Ryanair as its dominant scheduled carrier; Slovakia does not have its own national airline. Trhlík has said that the management wants to “maximally diversify this risk”, and the airport is in negotiation with other airlines, he added, according to SITA.

However, the Sme daily reported that people close to the previous minister of transport, Ján Figeľ, said on condition of anonymity that Ryanair’s conditions would have meant losses for the state.

Ryanair wants to carry 800,000 people from Bratislava this year, and will have 16 lines operational in the summer season, O'Leary told a press conference on April 10, as reported by the TASR newswire. A renewed line to Trapani in Sicily will be introduced, along with Alghero in Sardinia, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, and city destinations such as Paris, Edinburgh and Bristol, said O’Leary, according to TASR.

Last year Ryanair transported 875,000 passengers, which was a year-on-year drop of 134,000 or 13.3 percent, SITA wrote.

Sme reported that Ryanair is also considering opening a regular flight between Košice and London, with O’Leary saying that his company “is waiting for a good effort and will see”.

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Source: SME