Ryanair helps to fill BMI Baby gap by adding five new routes to its schedule
RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary jetted into East Midlands Airport to announce the addition of five routes to its summer schedule, which the airline claims will sustain 2,300 local jobs.
The airline is adding Spanish routes to Girona and Menorca, along with Marseilles, in France, Poznan, in Poland and Zadar, in Croatia, bringing the total number of Ryanair flights out of the Castle Donington airport to 40.
It reaffirms the Dublin-based carrier's status as the airport's largest airline.
Last year, the airport handled four million passengers. But thanks to Ryanair's announcement, airport bosses believe they will meet projections of carrying 4.2 million passengers this year.
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Ryanair said that the extra routes would sustain jobs.
The airline uses a formula devised by the Airports Council International that calculates for every 1,000 passengers it carries, one job in the region is either created or sustained.
As a result of its expanded services, the airline plans to carry 2.3 million passengers this year, something which Ryanair claims will create or support 2,300 jobs.
Ryanair directly employs 350 people at East Midlands Airport, which support the operations of its seven Boeing 737 aircraft based there.
The expansion plans, which will see the firm operate 326 flights a week from East Midlands, were made by Mr O'Leary, Ryanair's flamboyant chief executive.
He said: "I'm really pleased to announce these new routes. We have a great working relationship with East Midlands Airport and, for us, it is one of our fastest growing bases. It is a well-run and very efficient airport. It is also very proactive.
"An example of this is that some of the routes we have announced were actually suggested to us by the airport itself. They recognised a gap in the market and made us aware of it.
"When BMI Baby went last year it would've been easy for the airport to just roll over. But it knuckled down and Ryanair has taken up the slack – along with a few other airlines that I could not possibly mention!"
Mr O'Leary said that although BMI Baby represented competition, he was genuinely sorry to see it go.
BMI Baby folded after its parent company, International Airlines Group, failed to find a buyer for the Castle Donington-based business.
He said: "It's always nice to see your competitors struggle because the customers realise that we're so great – but you never want to see an airline go under. So, no, I wasn't rubbing my hands when BMI Baby went."
Tim McDermott, general manager of East Midlands Airport, said the airport was delighted with Ryanair's expansion. He said: "It was terrible to lose BMI Baby but we have worked hard to fill the gap it left behind. The reality is that this summer we will now be operating more routes than when BMI Baby was in existence."
Mr O'Leary added that Ryanair was contemplating further expansion at East Midlands later in the year.
He said: "We're already talking about expanding our winter schedule for 2013-14 and further growth for the summer of 2014. But we are rapidly running out of aircraft to meet our growth plans and we will be looking at ordering some more."
Although Mr O'Leary was happy to announce the extra routes, he was angered by a ruling made yesterday by the European Court of Justice, which ordered his airline to pay out compensation to passengers stranded because of the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland.
The court said that airlines face an obligation to provide care, even in "extraordinary circumstances" such as the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which left millions of passengers stranded because it was too dangerous to fly through the ash clouds.
The court gave its opinion after one Irish passenger was stranded in southern Portugal for a week during the crisis and demanded compensation of almost 1,130 euros (£970).
Ryanair said it paid out 26.1 million euros (£22 million) to stranded passengers but it refused many claims, citing their "excessive" cost. The court said passengers can claim "reasonable" costs.
Ryanair had argued the eruption of the volcano was so extraordinary that normal rules should not apply.
But the judges' ruling – now binding across the EU – said such events "constitute 'extraordinary circumstances' which do not release air carriers from their obligation to provide care".
Mr O'Leary said: "It's stupid. The UK Government decided to close UK air space so it should pay the compensation. Say you're stuck in traffic in your Toyota on the M25, you don't expect to get compensation from the car manufacturer for that.
"When they closed the air space, the travel insurance companies escaped liability by claiming it was an act of God. But this ruling now makes the airlines the insurer of last resort, even in the majority of cases, such air traffic control delays or national strikes in Europe, that are entirely beyond the airline's control."