* Says cut due to airport charges, facility problems
* Comes months after base set up after Malev collapse
* Airport operator says no surprise in fee increase
By Gergely Szakacs
BUDAPEST, Nov 22 Ryanair will cut the
number of routes it operates from Budapest by a third next year,
the budget airline said on Thursday, as it seeks to wrestle
favourable conditions from the airport operator.
The move, which the airline said could still be reversed,
comes months after Ryanair set up a base at Budapest following
the collapse of Hungary's national airline Malev.
Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said the cuts would be made
after airport operator Hochtief raised its user
He criticised what he called an "even crazier" decision by
the Hungarian aviation authority to raise air traffic control
charges by 20 percent next year.
"The strange logic of Budapest (airport) and Hochtief seems
to be, 'we have less traffic so we charge the existing traffic
more'. That recipe is doomed to failure," O'Leary told reporters
at a news conference in the Hungarian capital.
A Hochtief spokesman said there was nothing surprising about
the price increase by the company running the facility, Budapest
Airport Zrt, in which it has a 49.7 percent stake.
"It is very surprising Ryanair is addressing Hochtief, as we
do not own the majority. We own 49 percent," Hochtief spokesman
Christian Gerhardus said. "Budapest took the decision to raise
the prices like every other normal company. That's it."
He said a reduction in the number of flights offered by
Ryanair was expected as part of the winter flight schedule and
that such cuts are not unusual for low-cost airlines.
O'Leary said Budapest Airport had not provided the efficient
facilities agreed upon in February. He took special issue with
tents recently set up for boarding passengers on the tarmac.
"It is important that it is not just costs. We have also
facilities problems with the airport, not least of which is the
new tented village, (which is) somewhat reminiscent of a U.N.
refugee camp at the airport," O'Leary said.
"If you fix all this crap we'll go back to growing, but if
you don't fix this crap, then we are going to cut traffic and
you'll be the loser," he said.
Financial problems among flag carriers in Europe offer a
major growth opportunity for Ryanair. The airline moved into
Budapest in February with five aircraft based there now.
It plans to cut that to three and close 10 of the 30 routes
operated from Budapest from Jan. 10.
The airline said this would result in a 40 percent fall in
Ryanair's passenger traffic at the airport to 1.2 million per
year and would lead to the loss of 800 local jobs.
Ryanair has previously cut routes from other airports where
it has wanted lower airport charges but the company is not
considering pulling out of Hungary altogether, O'Leary said.
Ryanair said its flights from Budapest would drop by 110 to
less than 170 per week as it would also be cutting the frequency
of its flights on nine of the 20 remaining routes.