Ryanair listens to customers and promises to change its schedules
Ryanair wants fewer air travel taxes and lower landing fees in return for a greater choice of flights (and fares)
Ryanair and Kerry Airport are close to reaching an agreement to change the timings of flights between Kerry and Luton airport to suit the working needs of commuting emigrants based in Britain.
Other regional airports could be in line for similar route expansions from UK airports but the airline warned that the Irish government would have to reduce passenger fees and taxes at these locations before Ryanair would add extra services to existing routes.
Several London-based Kerry men and women who work in the capital and surrounding areas have been calling for a change in the airline’s schedule to allow them to work in the city from Monday to Friday and also enjoy the benefits of a full weekend at home.
As it stands they either have to take a Friday or Monday off work or spend a maximum of 24 hours in Kerry. The current flight leaves Luton at around 11am on a Friday and the corresponding return flight leaves Kerry at 12 noon.
Last week the budget airline announced it was adding extra flights to Kerry and other popular UK routes to cover the extra demand at Christmas. This is seen as the first step in having year round additional flights or better timings. The route is popular with British tourists holidaying in Kerry or local business owners coming to London for meetings. This is the first time that the voice of the commuting emigrant has been listened to.
Ryanair’s Head of Communication Stephen McNamara told the Irish World that preliminary discussions had already taken place between the management of the two companies.
He said: “The message has gotten through to the airport that the demand is there and the airport and ourselves are now able to reach an agreement to operate the route at the times that are requested by the emigrant community. I think we will be able to announce this soon but we don’t have the time frame as yet. The agreement will allow people to return home on a Friday night and go back to London Sunday afternoon.”
Definitive times or an actual date were not available at the time of going to press and while the news will be welcomed by Kerry people living the UK other airports on the Irish western seaboard will now seek to have similar changes made to routes in and out of Derry, Knock and Shannon.
Mr. McNamara added: “There is certainly an issue there in relation to access costs. We have said to the government that if they reduce the access costs then we will bring extra flights and services on popular routes. Some of the most popular routes are from UK to Ireland and the largest tourism market for Ireland is the UK market. If there were extra flights on we would certainly see more choice for emigrants but primarily we have been targeting increased tourism traffic. The emigrants could become a happy by-product of all of this and they will certainly see a benefit in reduced air fares at Irish airports.”
"It's much easier for us to take someone from Ireland to Spain or to France or to Italy than it is to take them here to the UK," he said. “We would sell a lot of seats in winter for £10 (€12.40), £12 or £15 one way but Air Passenger Duty accounts for the guts of a 100pc tax on that,” said O’Leary who believes a reduction in APD would increase traffic between Ireland and the UK and a result allow his firm to increase the number of flights.
A total of 9.7 million passengers travelled both ways on services between the UK and Ireland in 2011. That was up from 9.5 million in 2010, but down from 12.2 million in 2008 according to civil aviation authority. Last month the cross border Tourism Recovery Task Force said that Ireland had witnessed a 50 per cent reduction in the number of British visitors coming to the country by air or sea.
Meanwhile 19,000 Irish immigrants arrived in the UK in the last year according to latest figures published in September meaning a large percentage of any airlines future business will becoming from returning overseas workers..