Expatica news

Ryanair to stay at Charleroi for time being

9 April 2004

BRUSSELS – Low-cost airline Ryanair will not pull out of Belgium’s Charleroi airport, at least for the time being, Wallonia’s Economics Minister has confirmed.

Speaking after talks in Dublin with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, Kubla said the Irish airline had agreed to continue using Charleroi as one of its main hubs for a “transition period” of up to a year, Belgian news agency Belga reported.

During that time the company would pay no more to use Charleroi than it does at present, Kubla added.

But analysts say that the Walloon authorities will eventually have to start charging Ryanair more to use Charleroi or risk legal action from the European Commission.

In February the Commission ruled that Wallonia was paying Ryanair what amounted to illegal subsidies to fly in and out of the south Belgian airport.

Ryanair’s arch rival Virgin Express, which is based at Zaventem airport near Brussels, has already made it clear it will make a fuss if it feels the Irish airline and the Wallonian authorities are trying to get round the Commision ruling.

“If there is to be more horse trading, moving of subsidies from one activity to another to try to evade the EC ruling, then we will definitely sue the Walloon region,” Virgin Express Managing Director Neil Burrows said in a statement issued on Thursday evening.

Virgin Express says the Walloon authorities have already shown the lengths they will go to persuade Ryanair to keep using Charleroi. The airline is particularly critical of a recent decision by the Walloon parliament to overturn a local court ruling on nighttime aircraft noise that would have obliged Ryanair to re-schedule a number of its Charleroi flights.

“Last week we witnessed how the Walloon authorities once again changed the rules to help Ryanair, this time with regard to the night ban at Charleroi airport,” Burrows said in his statement.

Charleroi airport currently employs 700 people directly and a further 3,000 local jobs depend on it. Without Ryanair, many of these jobs would be threatened.

Last month Virgin Express announced it lost nearly EUR 20 million in 2003.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news