Thursday, April 25, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: The difference that Ryanair can make

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PLANS LOW COST CARRIER RYANAIR has to provide flight transfer connections for rival airlines’ long haul services could have a profound positive effect on growing arrival numbers out of Europe through Gatwick and Manchester to Barbados.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary has confirmed he is in talks with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Air, among others, about feeding into their flights.

It could help open up many more parts of Europe and Ireland to Barbados where currently neither the long haul carriers operate at all nor where British Airways does not have flights.

This could start as early as November, after the near 30 per cent stake that Ryanair had in the Irish airline Aer Lingus, was sold to the parent company British Airways IAG. O’Leary said “the advantage for them is that they would get much cheaper short haul feed than they would with anybody else, but what they have to get themselves mentally over is that they would have to take responsibility for missed connections”.

He predicted that low cost airlines, including Ryanair, “could feed up to half of their passengers into long haul services within a decade”. What cannot be ignored are the stated 82 million passengers that Ryanair carried in the last year declared, 2013, according to their website. Ryanair’s main operating base in the United Kingdom is currently London’s third airport, Stansted, where the carrier operates to around 100 of the 150 total destinations served.

Earlier this year there was some discussion of the airline acquiring between 30 and 50 aircraft to operate long haul transatlantic routes, followed by a spate of denials that this was a plan set in stone.

Maybe the smart compromise would be for Norwegian Air to partner with Ryanair to collectively launch longer distance routes from Stansted. Some of us would recall that we once had an airline that flew from Stansted to Barbados and St Lucia and that was at a time before the massive expansion of the airport.

I used to regularly leave our office in Essex, drive to Stansted Airport, park my car and walk to the check-in, all in the space of 45 minutes. What I find especially appealing about Stansted is that it serves many of the smaller European airports without forcing travellers to connect through one of the massive hubs.

It is also an easy airport to access, especially for those who live north of London and who can avoid what is sometimes referred to as the largest car park in Europe, the M25 London orbital highway, where delays and traffic congestion and all the anxiety that brings, is often frequent.

Staying with the topic of airlift, it has been incredibly encouraging to read the widespread support in the social media of the limited series charter flights from Glasgow non-stop to Barbados this winter, thereby giving our Scottish visitors a limited alternative to otherwise expensive connecting flights via Manchester or Gatwick and/or overnight hotel expenses. I really hope that our tourism planners can persuade the operator Thomas Cook to extend the service, at least up until Easter.

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