Skip to content

Business & Economy

Ryanair boss urges Government to axe passenger duty as Irish carrier unveils ‘record’ Newcastle winter flights

A budget airline will double North East passenger numbers to more than one million after launching fresh flights – but says further growth will remain stymied until the Government scraps a costly levy.

Ryanair has introduced six new winter routes at Newcastle International Airport to destinations including Barcelona and Milan.

The Irish carrier says the “record” move – which comes after it opened a 60-job, two-aircraft base at the site – represents “very good news for the North East”.

But Jason McGuinness, the firm’s director of commercial, says the picture would be brighter still if the Government axed the controversial air passenger duty (APD) – which applies a £13 charge to EU flights and services to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – revealing it is stopping the airline from running more planes and routes from the region.

“To put it into context, without APD at Newcastle, rather than two aircraft, I think we could have had anywhere between three and five.

“And rather than 19 routes over the summer, it could have been closer to between 30 and 40.

The Government previously committed to slashing the number by half for domestic routes, which will come into effect next year.

However, Jason says the move doesn’t extend far enough, arguing that until APD is fully abolished, the airline – and the aviation bases it serves, which include Newcastle and Teesside International Airport – will remain somewhat hamstrung.

He told North East Times Magazine: “Regional airports are currently at a significant disadvantage to their European counterparts because of the £13 tax.

“European capacity is probably somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent lower than where it was prior to the pandemic, and airports are competing for that.

“But bases like Newcastle and Teesside have, in some ways, one hand tied behind their backs because of APD – it isn’t a level playing field.

“If the new Government is serious about levelling-up, one of the first things it should do is abolish APD.

“That is how big an impact this tax is having on regional airports.”

The warning came as Ryanair unveiled its Newcastle winter 2022 schedule, which covers 15 routes and includes six new trips to destinations including Riga, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, and which Jason says will push the carrier’s passenger numbers at the site from 500,000 to one million.

He says: “It’s a big vote of confidence in Newcastle, and the North East as a whole.

“And in some ways, this is a bigger announcement than opening a summer base.

“It’s one thing to launch a base during summer, but it’s another to keep both aircraft during the winter while increasing the number of routes.”

He adds: “There are some choppy waters ahead.

“There is a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis and a war in Ukraine, and it would be remiss of us not to be a little cautious heading into the winter.

“But we do so on the back of a strong recovery, and with past experience of recessionary periods.

“We know people become much more price sensitive and look for reliability – and that is what we deliver.”