27 February 2004
BRUSSELS – Both the company that runs Charleroi airport in the Belgian region of Wallonia and the region’s economics minister have reacted with surprise to the news that cut-price airline Ryanair is to end flights between Charleroi and London, the Belgian press reported on Friday.
According to La Libre Belgique, BSCA – the company that runs state-owned Charleroi airport – was taken completely by surprise by Ryanair’s terse announcement on Thursday that it would stop its service between Charleroi and London’s Stanstead airport on 29 April.
“We weren’t expecting this decision and we had thought we would be meeting with Ryanair to discuss things,” said one un-named BSCA employee cited in the newspaper.
Instead the first the BSCA heard about Ryanair’s decision was when it received a copy of the airline’s statement, the employee added.
Wallonia’s economics minister Serge Kubla was apparently caught equally unawares by the news.
Kubla was on holiday in Morocco when he was informed of Ryanair’s announcement and he immediately said he would try and persuade the low-cost airline to change its mind.
“I will do everything I can to meet with Ryanair and try and save the Charleroi-Stanstead route,” he said.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Ryanair said it had decided to scrap the London-Charleroi route as a direct result of the European Commissions ruling on February 3rd that it should pay back part of a multi-million handout it received from the Walloon authorities to encourage it to develop its activities at Charleroi.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the Commission’s decision would increase his company’s costs and make the route economically un-workable.
He also hinted that he may scrap other routes out of Charleroi if the airport authorities there did not pledge to absorb some of the extra costs the Commission decision could land his company with.
O’Leary has said he will challenge the Commission ruling at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.
Kubla originally said Wallonia would back Ryanair’s legal action but other Walloon politicians have since urged caution, suggesting such a move could backfire.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news