Hundreds of jobs are at risk and thousands of passengers stand to be affected after Ryanair announced the closure of its base at Glasgow Airport.
The decision means that the number of routes operated by the airline will fall from 23 to just three, causing around 300 job losses and a potential drop of 500,000 passengers per year.
Ryanair insisted that the blame ultimately lay with the Scottish Government for failing to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) with a cheaper alternative tax fast enough.
READ MORE: 300 jobs ‘at risk’ as Ryanair set to close base at Glasgow Airport
Under the plans, this winter Ryanair will only fly to Dublin, Krakow and Wroclaw from Glasgow. Its summer schedule will be delivered as promised.
The 20 routes being scrapped are
Five of the airline’s old Glasgow routes will move to Edinburgh Airport instead, with the Scottish capital gaining a total of 11 new Ryanair destinations supporting 700 jobs.
The new routes being operated from Edinburgh are Berlin, Derry, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Lisbon, Memmingen, Stockholm Skavsta, Riga, Seville, Sofia and Tallinn. Ryanair’s chief commercial officer David O’Brien said the airline could no longer “bear the burden” of APD, which starts at about £13 per person for short-haul trips to Europe.
He said the decision “should not come as a surprise” to the Scottish Government given its failure to deliver cuts to the levy.
“[It] suddenly has disappeared into the ether and quite frankly we don’t have any more patience,” he added.
“There are other markets in the UK and Europe which offer a more compelling proposition.”
READ MORE: Ryanair trains more pilots in Scotland to ease staff crisis
Ministers had planned to replace APD with a cheaper alternative called Air Departure Tax (ADT) from April this year, as part of efforts to encourage airlines to invest in Scotland.
But the plans have been delayed by a legal wrangle with the EU, which under state aid rules must give its approval for exemptions to continue to apply to Highlands and Islands airports.
A spokesman for Glasgow Airport said it was “bitterly disappointed” at Ryanair’s decision, which it said would damage the economies of both the city and Scotland as a whole.
“We have been left in no doubt it is also a consequence of the Scottish Government’s inability to introduce its proposed 50 per cent cut in Air Departure Tax,” he added.
“Despite clear and repeated warnings from both airports and airlines about the potential impact of this policy not being implemented, we are now faced with a stark scenario that includes the loss of 20 services and a significant number of jobs.”
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “This news from Ryanair is clearly very disappointing for Glasgow Airport and the staff who will be affected.
“The Scottish Government continues to be committed to reducing ADT by 50 per cent by the end of this Parliament and we want to get on and deliver this.
“But this has been deferred until the issues raised in relation to the H&I exemption have been resolved to ensure that the devolved powers are not compromised.”