THE number of passengers flown by Ryanair on Scottish routes will double in three years thanks to cuts in oil prices and taxes, chief executive Michael O’Leary predicted at Edinburgh Airport today.
Travellers would further benefit from a promised halving of air passenger duty (APD), from the current minimum of £13 per person per flight for the shortest routes.
The forecast came as Mr O’Leary confirmed more flights on seven routes from Edinburgh from this autumn, including extending its Santander and Frankfurt Hahn links year-round.
More frequent flights will operate to Alicante, Krakow, Stansted, Malaga and Tenerife among Ryanair’s 18 routes from the capital this winter compared to 16 last winter.
It is operating 32 routes from the airport this summer, which is unchanged on 2014.
Glasgow will have eight Ryanair routes this winter, including a new link to Berlin which was announced in January.
This compares to seven last winter - when the airline launched flights there - and nine this summer.
However, Ryanair will further reduce its winter routes at Prestwick, from seven to six, but will add more flights to Alicante.
The Scotsman has revealed that there were as few as one Ryanair flight a day from the airport last winter - its lowest for more than 20 years.
Mr O’Leary said today he still hadn’t reached agreement with the airport’s Scottish Government owner over expansion, but said Ryanair remained committed to Prestwick because of the airline’s large maintenance base there.
He also expected a cut in APD to boost the number of flights and double passengers there.
Ryanair operates 16 routes from Prestwick this summer compared to 24 last year.
Mr O’Leary said Ryanair’s oil costs would be cut from $90 to $65-68 a barrel from next March, which would reduce average fares from 46 euros to less than 40 euros.
He said: “This kind of big savings will be passed on to passengers.”
Mr O’Leary said he hoped APD would be cut by the Scottish Government “relatively quickly” after the SNP’s predicted “success” in the general election.
Ministers plan to halve, then abolish, APD once they get control of the tax, which the Smith Commission recommended should be devolved to Scotland.
Mr O’Leary said: “We would have a very serious look at faster growth at all three Scottish airports - you would see significant growth.
“We would also divert more of our new aircraft deliveries from Boeing to Scotland if there was a cut in APD.
“There is vastly more growth available at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick - 3m more passengers over three years.”
Ryanair expects to carry 2m at Edinburgh, 1m at Glasgow and 550,000 at Prestwick this year.
However, it remains only the fourth largest airline in Scotland after EasyJet, with some 5.5m annual passengers, British Airways and Flybe.
Aviation analyst Laurie Price said: “This is fine in terms of Ryanair’s cost base and fares, but the other side of the equation is the market, incomes and employment.
“Reducing oil prices means less North Sea activity, growth and employment.
“Also, there is uncertainty about Scotland’s economy and employment post-election, and business worries about Scotland’s position in UK and as part of Europe.
“So Ryanair needs to look at the demand side of the equation as well, otherwise its growth in Scotland could be short-lived and it will deploy its aircraft elsewhere in Europe.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS