A new month brings a very old and tired excuse to the arena of low cost air travel: someone is scaling down their operation at what is flatteringly called a “secondary airport”, and blaming it on something that is not the real reason for their actions. The airport is Hahn (which is not anywhere near Frankfurt am Main) and the carrier is, of course, Ryanair, the Millwall of air carriers (everybody hates us and we don’t care).
The Ryanair press release confirms that they are reducing their flight volume at Hahn by around 30% next summer, citing what they call the German Government’s EUR8 “tourist tax”. But there is no evidence put forward as to how this may impact on loadings or yield. Moreover, the Ryanair claim that countries like the Netherlands and Greece are taking an approach more to the carrier’s liking rings rather hollow when they don’t base any aircraft there.
Also, the UK charges Air Passenger Duty (APD) at a rate far higher than the German level, and it hasn’t stopped Ryanair maintaining nine bases here. The real reason for the reduction, I would suggest, is that Hahn is 120km from Frankfurt am Main, while that city’s primary airport is just 14km distant. Carriers like Air Berlin, Condor, and TUIFly all offer flights from the real Frankfurt airport.
And the real Frankfurt airport is linked in to the national motorway network, it’s on the city’s S-Bahn system, and there is a high speed rail link too. Punters are not stupid: if the cost and time of trekking to Hahn makes Ryanair no cheaper overall than a carrier operating out of the real Frankfurt airport, then the notoriety of Michael O’Leary’s finest may well do the rest.
On the one hand, Ryanair continue to push the ridiculous idea that distant secondary airports are somehow “near” major cities – the latest being Vatry in France, which the carrier has renamed “Paris Vatry”, despite it being over 170km away from the French capital – but then, with Barcelona, has yielded to reality and started flights from the city’s main airport.
And that latter action has given the game away: to keep on making money, Ryanair cannot stay away from primary airports: they’ve even started flights from Gatwick. Other low cost carriers are finding out that punters have done their sums and are seeing that distant secondary airports are little more than an operational convenience – convenient for Ryanair, but not for passengers.