Ryanair boss Michael OLeary has revealed his desire for the carrier to offer free tickets, but he needs the airports help to achieve it
Ryanair may have learned to show a little love to its customers, but one group of people still gets the more traditional Ryanair treatment. Onstage in jumper and jeans in front of a crowd of suits at the Airport Operators Association conference, chief executive Michael OLeary slouched grumpily in a seat and announced: Ive got far better things to do than to talk to a bunch of overcharging airports.
Nonetheless, OLeary outlined his airlines plans: to cut fares and fly ever more people. That was, he said, great news for all the bankers and robbers assembled in this room who will not be reducing their charges, and who will all be making out like highwaymen and bandits as they continue to see rising passenger numbers at their airports, rising retail sales and rising restaurant sales. All on the back of the poor stupid Irish who will be carrying all these people at even lower prices.
Bitter? Very. But after the tirades, OLeary shared a dream: I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years fares on Ryanair will be free; in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues of all the people who will be running through airports, and getting a share of the shopping and the retail revenues.
Could that dream ever become reality? Certainly, the tills have been flowing freely at Stansted airport, Ryanairs biggest UK base.
The departure lounge, completed a year ago, is testament to the possibilities. The short distance to the departure gates can only be negotiated via a meandering trail through the duty-free. A hard right at Jo Malone takes you straight into the arms of the Jack Daniels boutique, before sniffing the air through a chicane of Lancme and Este Lauder, into an oxbow bend through the fashion stores. Then its one last loop through the food and drink with millions stopping off at the third-most-lucrative Pret a Manger in Britain for the last decent sandwich before the airline trolley.
This retail spending is the prize OLeary covets. The airports, however, reckon that Ryanair already gets its share. The owner of Stansted, Manchester Airports Group, signed a 10-year deal with Ryanair soon after acquiring the airport for 1.5bn in 2013. In return for more passengers, Ryanair got lower charges. Alongside, the airport gave the terminal an 80m transformation, adding 50% more space in the departure lounge. And the airline loosened up its notoriously tight policy on carry-on bags to allow people to bring their shopping aboard.
Details of the deal arent public, but Stansteds accounts suggest its structure has made additional passengers in effect free of charge for the airline, if not better. Almost 80% of Stansteds passengers now fly with Ryanair, and the airports income from aeronautical charges fell from 148m to 141m this year, even as passenger numbers rose by 11% to 23.1million. But those 2 million more people passing through the doors kept shopping, with a higher average spending of 5.70 per person (including parking) meaning that Stansteds overall revenues still rose a healthy 5%.
Elsewhere, the degree is different, but the principle holds. Nick Dunn, the chief financial officer of Gatwick airport, says: Our overall charges reflect the money we make in retail and parking: inherently, there is already discount or cross-subsidy there for airlines.
Originally found athttp://www.theguardian.com/us