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Tuesday 18 August 2009

How Tired is your Pilot? – 4

Some time ago, there was a dispute over handling charges between the management of Manchester Airport and Ryanair (The World’s Least Favourite Airline). At the time, the carrier’s only route into Manchester was from Dublin. The press release featured the usual bluster, and there was a cut of one service a day.

So when Ryanair recently followed EasyJet in bringing new routes to Manchester, I did wonder if the Millwall of air carriers (everybody hates us and we don’t care) had now made friends with the north west’s largest airport. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Yesterday, in a superb example of corporate mardy strop throwing, Ryanair announced that it was pulling all its flights – except for the Dublin ones – out of Manchester from the end of September. The airport had refused to lower its handling charges any further. Ryanair claims that more flights had been offered in exchange for lower charges, but why an airport of that size should start losing money merely for the dubious privilege of hosting a carrier of such temporary commitment is not clear.

The claims of “up to 600 job losses” have been disputed by the airport, whose spokesman pointed out that charges which were as low as three quid a passenger were hardly onerous. What is most likely to be behind Ryanair’s decision is that the carrier is not making as much out of its Manchester flights as had been expected. Also, when other carriers serving the same airport offer flights that go to Barcelona (not Girona), Frankfurt Main (not Hahn), and Milan (Malpensa, not Bergamo), and also offer less expensive fares at quiet times, the Ryanair model (which is based on what is convenient for that carrier first and foremost) is exposed as cheap and nasty.

Meanwhile, other low cost carriers, such as EasyJet, BMIBaby, Jet2 and of course the charter boys (who often offer seat only deals) continue to fly from Manchester. Expect them to offer more flights in the near future, especially Jet2, who have had Ryanair parking their tanks on the Leeds Bradford lawn.

That’s an airport I’ll have a look at later.

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