LONDON — Local Scottish media has reported that Ryanair will be downsizing on their Aberdeen operations. The carrier returned to Aberdeen in February 2017, after a five-year absence with flights taking off twice per week to Malaga and Alicante.
The carrier also started flights to Faro as well as Malta from Aberdeen. Ryanair and Aberdeen Airport bosses emphasized to passengers in the north-east Scottish catchment area to “use them or lose them” to establish the level of demand for low-cost flights out of Aberdeen. However, this has not worked well in favor of both the carrier and more importantly the airport who have more route closures scheduled over the course of this year.
Ryanair has cited that moves to reduce air passenger duty tax (APD) in Scotland would have paved the way for more routes from Aberdeen and other Scottish Airports. The APD tax accounts for a third of Ryanair’s total fares on flights out of Scotland, meaning that their fares cannot be as low as the likes of England or Wales, who do not have this motion in effect.
Therefore, based on such reasoning, the airline has said that the last scheduled flight from Aberdeen to Malaga will depart the Granite City on October 25.
The carrier said in a statement: “This route will not operate in winter 2018, however, we will continue to operate twice-weekly flights from Aberdeen to Alicante all year round. We will continue to monitor the performance of all routes across our network as we plan our 2019 schedules.”
This is yet another blow to the airport, which has just completed the second phase of their £20 million transformation project. Icelandair is another carrier that axed flights between Aberdeen and Keflavik due to commercial reasons, on top of Lufthansa who also scrapped Aberdeen services from Frankfurt. On the regional front, Loganair also closed flights from Aberdeen to Durham-Tees Valley, so both internationally and domestically, it is not looking very bright for the airport at this moment in time.
The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK says that over 250,000 people used the airport in April, which was 2% more than a year ago and at the start represented a sustained recovery in the airport’s economics after the last recession in the UK. Aberdeen’s Carol Benzie tried to benefit the growth in numbers, regardless of the route withdrawals: “We are delighted to see passenger figures continuing to recover, with particularly good growth in our domestic routes. Looking ahead to the summer, the leisure routes are reporting strong load factors.”
For Ryanair, downsizing in Scotland is not a new thing. Glasgow Airport saw a significant withdrawal in operations in February 2018, seeing 300 jobs axed as a result of BREXIT uncertainty and hiked up taxes. The carrier reduced their Glasgow operations from 23 to a staggering three routes, keeping the Dublin, Wroclaw, and Krakow routes, with one aircraft and five routes moving to Edinburgh instead due to more steady growth out of that airport compared to Glasgow respectively.
All-in-all, it is not just bad news for Aberdeen, but it is another hit to the Scottish aviation sector. With all of these route withdrawals occurring over the course of this year and last year, it is going to be interesting to see how the market will recover from this.
Looking at the bigger picture of the Heathrow expansion, if route demand carries on like this, then the respective Government may choose to assign capacity to English regional airports instead of Scottish regional airports, which would be even more of a bigger blow to the likes of Aberdeen, Dundee, and many more Scottish airports.