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Ryanair plans 2,500 Spanish flights a week in bet on travel recovery

MADRID (Reuters) - Ryanair is planning 2,500 flights a week to, from, and across Spain this summer as it bets on a surge in demand for holidays even as infections rise across much of Europe.

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Marketing director Dara Brady told a news conference on Wednesday that Europe’s biggest low cost airline planned to operate 582 routes in, out of, and across Spain, including 48 new ones, in a sign of the expected surge in demand for trips.

Spain was the world’s second-most visited country before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re seeing an increase in capacity versus what we would’ve seen last year (without the pandemic). Our domestic Spanish schedule is around 20% bigger than in previous years, and certainly bigger than last year,” he said.

Although Ryanair has cut its overall passenger numbers forecast for this fiscal year to 26-30 million, it expects a pick up in the pace of Europe’s vaccination campaign to allow for a “decent” summer.

At a separate news conference, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said bookings from Germany and the United Kingdom had surged, and predicted Britons - likely to be Europe’s most-vaccinated group come the summer - would holiday abroad.

Brady also said Ryanair would not appeal against a European Court of Justice decision that backed Spanish state aid worth 53 million euros ($63 million) to small airline Plus Ultra, and would instead focus on its appeal against Spain’s larger aid package for Air Europa, which it considers discriminatory.

Asked about Germany’s recent request that airlines arrange COVID-19 tests for German tourists returning from Spain’s Balearic Islands, Brady said Ryanair would comply with all government regulations but that it shouldn’t be airlines’ responsibility to organise tests.

Spain on Wednesday said it would allow some travellers from Britain from March 30, although Britain’s own ban on non-essential international travel makes any immediate revival of tourism unlikely.

($1 = 0.8454 euros)

Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Inti Landauro, editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Potter

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