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Ryanair to cut back winter capacity by 16pc in the UK

RYANAIR is expecting to cut its UK winter capacity by 16 per cent, marking the largest cut it has made to its winter traffic.

The Irish low budget airline blamed the government’s air passenger duty (APD) for damaging UK tourism and forcing it to make the cut.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said yesterday the airline will loose roughly 2m passengers between the November to March winter flying schedule as a result, with the cuts likely to mean 2,500 jobs will be lost at Stansted airport.

“Today’s cutbacks underline the urgent need to break-up the high cost BAA airport monopoly and scrap the damaging £11 tourist tax which has caused UK traffic to collapse over the past two years,” said O’Leary.

Ryanair’s cutbacks will see the airline’s winter capacity at Stansted fall by 17 per cent, while Luton will see a 16 per cent decrease in the number of scheduled flights during the period.

O’Leary, who has long been an advocate of cutting back on taxes and access charges, said the move will see Ryanair transfer the London based aircraft to lower cost European bases which have already lowered passenger charges and have little to no “tourist taxes”.

Moving two aircraft out of Stansted alone would save Ryanair roughly £10m, according to the chief executive.

“Independent capacity analysis shows that growth has returned to the Belgian, Dutch and Spanish markets after their governments scrapped tourist taxes or reduced airport charges, in some cases to zero, in order to stimulate tourism and jobs,” he said.

The APD came into effect in 1994 and charges every passenger exiting the UK between £11 and £110 depending on the destination of the flight.

Chancellor George Osborne said during last week’s emergency Budget that the government is currently reviewing plans to implement a “per plane” tax, moving away from the APD model.