Ryanair to cut flights in airport rumpus

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Ryanair will cut the number of routes it operates from Budapest by a third next year, the budget airline said yesterday, as it seeks to wrestle favourable conditions from the airport operator.

The move, which the airline said could still be reversed, comes months after Ryanair set up a base at Budapest following the collapse of Hungary’s national airline Malev

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said the cuts would be made after airport operator Hochtief raised its user charges.

He criticised what he called an “even crazier” decision by the Hungarian aviation authority to raise air traffic control charges by 20 per cent next year.

“The strange logic of Budapest (airport) and Hochtief seems to be, ‘we have less traffic so we charge the existing traffic more’. That recipe is doomed to failure,” Mr O’Leary said.

A Hochtief spokesman said there was nothing surprising about the price increase by the company running the facility, Budapest Airport Zrt, in which it has a 49.7 per cent stake.

“It is very surprising Ryanair is addressing Hochtief, as we do not own the majority. We own 49 per cent,” Hochtief spokesman Christian Gerhardus said. “Budapest took the decision to raise the prices like every other normal company. That’s it.”

He said a reduction in the number of flights offered by Ryanair was expected as part of the winter flight schedule and that such cuts are not unusual for low-cost airlines.

Mr O’Leary said Budapest Airport had not provided the efficient facilities agreed upon in February.