Ryanair is to add ten new routes from Scotland next summer – and said ministers’ plans to cut air passenger duty would accelerate its growth.
The new links from March will bring the Irish airline’s Scottish total to 75, including its biggest yet networks from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Half of the routes are new for Scotland, including Edinburgh to Porto in Portugal and Vigo in north-west Spain.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary, an arch critic of the Brexit vote, said the number of these new routes had not been reduced by the referendum.
However, he said no additional aircraft would be based in Scotland next summer, which would have increased flight frequencies, including earlier and later flights.
Edinburgh’s route total will go up by five to 38, with its other new ones to Barcelona Girona, Ibiza and Milan. Ryanair’s annual passenger numbers there are forecast to increase by 8 per cent to 2.5 million.
Glasgow will have four new routes, bringing its total to 20. Palanga in Lithuania, Valencia and Zadar in Croatia are new for Scotland, plus Lisbon.
Prestwick will have a 17th route, to Barcelona Girona.
Ryanair’s passenger total is expected to rise by 18 per cent overall across the west coast airports, to 1.25m at Glasgow and 750,000 at Prestwick.
Mr O’Leary said: “I’m reluctant to base any more aircraft in the UK until we see what Brexit is going to look like.” He said a major question mark remained over whether foreign airlines like Dublin-based Ryanair would be permitted to continue to fly between the UK and Europe.
However, he added that “business is booming like never before” and there was potential for attracting more Europeans to visit Scotland because of the current weakness of the pound.
Mr O’Leary said he was confident the Scottish Conservatives would support the minority Scottish Government’s plans to halve air passenger duty (APD) in 2018.
He said there was a “compelling case” for scrapping APD.
He repeated his prediction it would double Ryanair traffic in Scotland within three years of being scrapped.
He said: “APD is a real disincentive for price-sensitive traffic to come here.”
Colin Howden, director of transport campaigners Transform Scotland, said: “This announcement further undermines the case for slashing APD. Ryanair seems to be having no trouble providing new routes without the Scottish Government handing over a massive tax cut.
“The overall impact will be to worsen Scotland’s tourism deficit.”